Information (and Tips) for Cruising with Children

cruise towel animal

Cruising is a nice experience with children. One of the great advantages is that there are activities geared toward them, their interests and energy levels, etc.. which gives parents a little time to themselves. But before you load those little tikes in the car and head to the terminal, there are a few things you should know.


  • Cruise fare is based on ‘passengers’. There is no child rate.  The 1st and 2nd passengers in a cabin will pay the higher fare. The 3rd and 4th will pay a lower fare, but the age of the passengers is not a factor. (some cruise lines divide the total by 3 or 4 just to make the number look better’… ha!)
  • Gratuities work the same way. They are assessed per passenger. You might even want to consider adding a little to the tips when the children come along.  As most moms know, cleaning up after children is MORE work, not less.  🙂
  • In booking cabins, be advised that cruise lines generally require at least one adult who is a legal parent or guardian per stateroom….  Some cruise lines say that ‘guardian’ must be 21….others require minimum age 16.  Read the fine print or ask.  🙂

Age Restrictions:

Cruise lines set their own policy about how young a passenger can be to cruise on their line.  If you wish to cruise with a child under 1 yr of age consult the cruise line website or make a phone call before booking.  If you can’t find this information anywhere else on the website, it WILL be in the passage contract…if you’re willing to read LOTS of fine print to find it.  Of course, a phone call is the quickest/easiest way.  🙂

Typically every stateroom must have at least 1 passenger over the age of 21. In the case of family groups, this age MIGHT be 16….or the requirement could be met with adjoining staterooms….parents in 1 room, teens in an adjoining room.  Again, this is a cruise line specific policy, so read websites or make phone calls to find out YOUR cruiseline’s policy.

Children & Passports:

Photo Credit: Robmadeo on FLickr CC Lic.

This topic can get really complicated.  The best way to make it ‘easy’ is to just say:  Children need a passport for travel outside of the country.   Now, within the official guidelines, there are lots of ‘if’s’….’except’s’….’this scenario’ and ‘that scenario’.  Honestly though, Make It Easy On Yourself…get the children a passport.  🙂   Children’s passports cost a little less, but they are only valid for 5 years (adult passports last 10 yrs).   You pay less, you get less.

Now, I’ll try to address this subject with all the ‘if’s’ etc… but be advised, your BEST information will come directly from the government website US State Dept:;   Passports for Minors Under 16  or  Applicants Age 16 and 17.  For round trip cruises departing from a US port and going to Mexico, Canada or the Caribbean, children 15 and under are only required to have proof of citizenship (birth certificate).  A passport is not required…though it IS highly recommended –  Travel these days can be such a delicate situation….and if there was a need for medical transport or boarding an aircraft in a foreign country for any reason, a passport would be necessary.

For cruises departing from ports outside the US (and the same would apply to non-US Citizens when leaving THEIR country) that passport would be required to board the flight to get to the port and enter the country to begin with…  Obviously, a passport would be required to board the ship there as well.


NOTE:  For cruises within US and Caribbean, passports much be valid for 90 days from the END of the cruise.  For travel to other countries, the time may be  6 months.  Yes, they SAY passports last for 5 yrs children;  10 yrs adults, but in reality they last 4 1/2 and 9 1/2 yrs respectively  Find the requirements for your country of travel at

Applying for a Passport for Children

Consult the State Dept website –   Passports for Minors Under 16  or Applicants Age 16 and 17 for forms, required documentation, and procedures to apply for a passport for a minor under 18.  There are restrictions and hoops to jump through  (all in an effort to stop child abductions, sex trafficking etc…) but it’s certainly ‘doable’.

APPLICANTS UNDER AGE 15:  For those 15 and under, application will require permission from BOTH parents.  You will need proof of parentage (birth certificate) and permission from both parents listed.  The simplest way is for both parents to accompany the child when making application, however, if that is not possible, the website gives several other options. or links above give all the details.

APPLICANTS AGE 16 & 17:  For these ‘almost adults’, the restrictions are a little less.  Only ONE parent must be shown to be aware of application being made…but there ARE rights in place for the other parent should they wish to block it.  (again…in an effort to stop child abductions/sex trafficking, etc…)    Find all this information out at or at the links above.

In unique situations where parent(s) are deceased, unavailable or uninvolved, et al. the website offers special provisions.  All of this information is available on the website.   Don’t be intimidated by these ‘hoops’…but DO allow enough time for the process to work out…  Don’t wait until the last minute.



  • Make sure your children (toddlers included) know their middle name.  They may be asked, as part of the customs process, and will need to be able to answer for themselves. (based on itinerary)  Practice this a few times before you arrive at the terminal.
  • THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT!!  If a minor (17 and under) is traveling with only ONE parent….or without parents (i.e. with grandparents, or  family/friends) they will need special documentation (notarized letter of authorization)  from the non-traveling parent(s) in order to be allowed boarding.  In the case of a deceased parent, a death certificate will meet this requirement. This same documentation is required if a child has a different last name than the responsible legal adult.  This rule is taken VERY seriously.  There are NO exceptions!!  I’ve read more than one ‘tragic’ story of grandparents showing up at the terminal with the grandkids…or a divorced parent planning a big cruise for the kids in the summer, only to be denied boarding at the terminal.  Do Your Research And Come Prepared With Necessary Documentation!!!
  • Prepare the kids for the long lines and waits – or better yet, show up later –  Most our-cruise-2014-004passengers arrive at the terminal early to get on board as soon as possible.  If you arrive 2 1/2-3 hrs before sailing time, chances are you won’t deal with the huge crowds…much easier with children.  However, Don’t cut it too close!  ha!!


Medical needs:   When a child is separated from his or her parents, receiving  medical care can be complicated.  If children are traveling with a grandparent or other family members, they need a medical proxy/notarized letter from the non-traveling parent(s) authorizing emergency care. (Don’t forget dental care on this as well)  The letter should grant permission for care, and include the full name of the accompanying adult who will be making medical decisions, along with any allergies or health issues, health insurance information and social security number.


  • Requirements/Restrictions:
    • Children Should be Healthy: Standards across the industry require that children be free of fever, discharge from nose/eyes, etc… to participate.  Reasons for this are ‘common sense’.   🙂
    • Counselors MAY not be allowed to administer medication/medical treatment or in some cases, change diapers/deal with potty training ‘accidents’.  This MAY also include inhalers. (policies vary by cruise line)   If your child requires medical care/medication, he/she either needs to know how to do this for him/herself or a knowledgeable adult needs to be with them in the children’s areas. Some cruise lines will feed the children; others require parents to pick their child up at mealtime. You will be briefed on all the cruise-specific policies when you bring your child the first time…. or you MAY be able to find that information on the website prior to your cruise.
    • There are Rules here too.  There are rules in the children’s/teen programs. They are NOT a ‘free-for-all”. Children are NOT allowed to be disruptive, disrespectful, unruly or destructive. If a child cannot handle these boundaries, you may be asked to remove the child from the activities/location.
  • Tipping the Staff in the Children’s Area:  These staff members are paid more than the wait staff, et al. throughout the ship. ‘To tip or not to tip’ is a personal preference. Keep in mind the ages of your children, how often they are utilizing the children’s activities and whether or not you have made special requests of childcare staff.
  • Sign In/Sign Out Privileges:  Some cruise lines allow parents to give children as young as age 9 the privilege of signing THEMSELVES in and out of the programs.  This is necessary for some of the activities, but you DO have the option to allow it for those situations but NOT at any other time. Before making a decision on this, PLEASE CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING:
    • Cruise ships are like ‘mini-cities’.  Just as there are ‘nice’ people and ‘naughty’ people in our hometowns, there are ‘nice’ people and ‘naughty’ people on cruise ships. The cruise lines do not perform background checks on passengers and the ship is full of long corridors and cabins with doors that lock…   Also, because cruise lines cater to families with children it could be a perfect haven for those who wish to bring harm to children. There’s no need to travel in fear…just use wisdom and discretion as you set the requirements or restrictions for your children.   NOTE:  You can give your child in/out privileges ONLY during certain activities (i.e. the scavenger hunt)   so they can participate in those activities while not having sign in/sign out privileges throughout the entire cruise.  🙂
    • BEFORE I leave this topic:  This is NOT about whether your child is ‘old enough’, ‘mature enough’ or ‘trustworthy’ (so many parents use that as their reasoning.,..)  It’s about whether or not you trust the 3000+ other passengers (and staff) on that ship.   🙂
  • If you have a child who is shy or ‘slow to warm up to other kids’, encourage them to attend the opening session in the children’s program (or go early in the cruise)  so they can form friendships when everyone else is ‘new’ to the situation. If you wait too long, the other kids will have formed their friendships and it will be harder for your child to find his/her place….kind of like being the new kid in school mid-year.
  • If you want to be assured of family time, you can always require the kids spend a pre-determined amount of time (or certain times) with the family.  On the other hand, if you have a child who tends to cling to Mom and Dad, you could require them to spend certain times (or a certain amount of time) in the children’s programs.  You know your child better than anyone, right?  🙂  Make policies accordingly. But…Discuss it all BEFORE Boarding Day  🙂
Picture of P and O Royal Princess cruise ship - Free Pictures -

Photo Credit: CC Lic.

And Then There’s This:

  • Dining rooms have children’s menus.   🙂  A diligent waiter will offer it before you ask…but if they don’t….  That being said, children are not required to order from the children’s menu.  They can request smaller portions of items on the adult menu if they wish.  By the same token, finicky eater adults can order from that children’s menu  🙂
  • Be diligent with the hand washing… If your children are old enough to try to limit what they touch (hand rails, elevator buttons, etc…) that’s the best way to keep Norovirus at bay.  If they’re too young to effectively do that, your ONLY recourse will be diligent hand washing….because as we all know, the little tikes are constantly touching their faces and putting their hands in their mouths.  Norovirus spreads from surfaces (handrails, door knobs, etc….) to the body via nose or mouth…
  • Seasickness:  Luckily, young children seem to have fewer problems with seasickness than adults do – but for the older kids, I highly recommend the Transderm patches.  (I don’t think preschoolers, et al can use them….check with your pediatrician)  These are available by prescription only. Each patch lasts 4-5 days however, on longer cruises, we have found that the body adjusts to the movement and doesn’t require a 2nd patch on Day 5.  We DO like to have them just in case though.
  • BRING any over-the-counter meds that your child might need.  (allergy meds, decongestants, Tylenol, etc…) Children get sick easily and these are very expensive on the ship. SOME pediatricians may give you a wide spectrum antibiotic to take with you.  NOTE:  Amoxicillin can be purchased over the counter in Mexico.  Don’t forget something (preventative) for Swimmer’s Ear – Though this isn’t a problem limited to children, they do seem to struggle with it more than adults.
  • Bring your own inexpensive water/beach toys if cruising to a beach area – sandbuckets/shovels, goggles, snorkles, inflatable beach ball, etc.  Get these at the Dollar Tree (for $1)  then give them to local children before leaving the beach.  This is not only ‘nice’…but frees up space in your suitcase for souvenirs.
  • Bring SEVERAL swimsuits for each child.  As difficult as it is to get an adult body into a wet swimsuit, it’s even harder to get a preschooler into one.  🙂
  • We allowed our kids to do some things on the ship that we wouldn’t normally allow…like unrestricted access to ice cream. Of course, we gave the parental ‘warning’ about gorging to the point of a tummy ache…. 🙂 (to no avail)  We had a child who HAD to learn that lesson the hard way  😦 but it was a lesson well-learned and a mistake never made again.
  • Establish the ‘spending policy’ with your kids BEFORE you go to eliminate the ‘begging’ that can easily taint the vacation experience for parents.  How about a spending allowance for older kids?? –money that they can spend however they wish, but when it’s gone…it’s gone.  Money works that way for adults…it should work that way for kids too.  🙂
  • This bears repeating – If family time on the cruise is important to you, REQUIRE that the kids spend certain times with you….  You decide:  meal times?  port days?  breakfast each morning?  Just make that decision and go over it with the children before you board the ship so there are no surprises.

Bottom Line:  Discuss your expectations with the children ahead of time to alleviate problems once you’re on the ship.

Our Family Policies For the Children (in case you’re interested….)

I would never presume to tell anyone else how to deal with their children….I just share this for your consideration.  Take what pertains to you and disregard anything that doesn’t.

We always went over these with our children en route to the ship….just to make sure parent and child were on the ‘same page’ when it came to expectations.   🙂

  • Proper Cruise Ship Behavior: 
    • The dining rooms require behavior expected in any nice restaurant.  (stay seated, inside voices, proper table manners, courteous to servers/waiters, etc…)
    • Safety: Walk, not run though the hallways/public areas of the ship.  No roughhousing or horseplay.  No running in the pool areas.  No climbing on anything outside of the children’s area.  Note to Parents:  It’s a big ocean and a long way to the nearest hospital….
    • Elevator Etiquette:  (THIS is a Big One!!!)  Elevators are a method to move from floor to floor…They are NOT a play area.  Allow elevators to empty before getting in.  Allow those in wheelchairs, using walkers or other assistive walking devices to board or exit first.
    • Respect and Courtesy:  Be ‘aware’, use common sense, and be courteous at all times. Hold doors open for people behind you. Watch where you walk and don’t cut people off.  Use inside voices.  Generally, be pleasant and kind.  🙂
    • Remember there are older people on cruise ships.  They may be unstable on their feet, using a walker or wheelchair.  A child running past them is not only scary, but might actually be dangerous.  Always be considerate and respectful of older people.
  • Use the Buddy System:  Always be with another person from our group, unless you are at the children’s program on board. Do not roam around alone.  Do not leave the area without an adult.
  • Cabins are for Families: Do not go into anyone else’s cabin, and do not let anyone else into our cabin. EVER!!!   Even with the door open.  NO EXCEPTIONS!!!!  This is one that would incite an “on board grounding” in our family if broken….
  • Emergency Muster: In a ship-wide emergency, if you are not with us, go immediately to our muster station, STAY THERE and wait for us. Do not go back to the cabin for a life jacket (even if the instructions on the PA system tell you to), and do not wander around trying to find us (your parents).  We will get your jacket and WE will find YOU….That’s! our! job!  🙂
  • As our children entered the teen years, we STILL had ‘rules’ for them to follow.  On our last ‘family cruise’, we asked our 17 yr old daughter to either be accompanied by us or her 16 yr old brother when walking around the ship.  It wasn’t about age, maturity or trustworthiness; it was about her PHYSICAL stature – and the fact that we didn’t feel confident she could defend herself in a physical confrontation……We felt like her brother could.  As it turned out, they never WANTED to go anywhere without each other, so it was never an issue – but the request (which she honored)  gave us some peace as parents.

Have fun with your kiddos!!  Just go over the rules, expectations and safety precautions beforehand….and you’ll have a WONDERFUL family cruise experience!

.Other Posts on Cruising:



Dollar Store ‘Finds’ for the Frugal Traveler

Photo Credit: Nicholas Eckhart on Flickr CC Lic.

Every frugal traveler should include a trip to the Dollar store as they prepare for their vacation.  I was there today…actually looking for a fingernail file and started snapping photos of some of the ‘finds’ I’ve purchased for our travels in the past – and recommended on this blog.  I drew some interesting looks from the manager until I explained what I was doing….  I can only imagine what other customers thought.  haha!  Oh well!!  🙂

Though many of these things can be purchased at Walmart, Target….Dollar General, Family Dollar, etc…  what I’m referring to are the stores that sell everything for $1 — Dollar Tree, The Dollar Store, Deals, etc…

If you’re going on a cruise, check out  Dollar Store ‘Finds’ Specifically For Cruises 


This is the BEST place to get travel size containers for cosmetics, shampoo & conditioner,  crèmes, etc…  🙂

travel size bottles


These TSA approved containers have lids that are ‘secure’ so you don’t worry about leakage.  However, for worry-proof, pack them in Ziploc bags from……You guessed it!!!  The Dollar store…for $1  🙂




travel size containers


These containers come in 10 packs –  .10 each!!  Use these for anything small (earrings, Advil/Tylenol, wax earplugs,  etc…) that won’t leak as they have snap-on lids.  



travel size containers

Another option:  A 6-pack for $1   These lids seem a little more secure….


Adapt your ‘quality’ to what you plan to use it for….



travel size medications

Travel sized medication bottles.  I think I’m more ‘in love’ with the size of the bottles than anything.  We have long ago used all the meds in our travel size bottles, but keep refilling them with ‘new’ meds each vacation.    I even combine several meds of varying shapes/colors into one bottle to save space.  NOTE:  If you do this, realize that medication has expiration dates.  We make a point to use all the meds in a bottle when we return home…but refill with new meds for the next trip.  I don’t rebuy the bottles…but the medication is ALWAYS ‘new’ on every trip.


medication containers

For those on a regular medication or vitamin regiment, these pill organizers are great.  There are options to fit everyone’s schedule.  Just keep looking until you find one that meets YOUR needs.

pill organizer - 3x/day


I really like THIS one for 3x/day vitamin or medication schedule.   OR use this large container for the whole family…dedicate a row…or rows…to each person and keep everyone’s meds in the same container.

Here’s a Hack:  Use these (any size) for ANY small items you need to keep track of…earrings…rings…ear plugs…


ice packsWe use these for lunches.  When we fly, we take a small collapsible insulated bag in the suitcase along with one (or 2) of these.  Most hotel rooms have a mini-fridge with a small ‘freezer’  section for freezing.


plastic bags


If you’ve read many of my posts, you know we take plastic bags on all vacations.  You just never know when you’ll need one.  On our last trip, my bracelet broke….I gathered all the beads together in a bag and brought it home to re-string.  The uses are endless!!  🙂


All you will need is 2-3 bags of various sizes, NOT entire boxes.  🙂

ear plugs

Ear plugs come in handy quite often – flights, hotels, cruises.  This set comes with a small container for storage once the package is opened.  I have two of these!




Duct tapeDuct Tape – Again, if you’ve read many of my posts you know we ALWAYS take a bit of duct tape on trips – and usually use it for something.  I  recommend wrapping 2-3 feet around a pencil stub instead of taking the whole roll. These rolls at Dollar Tree were very small if you wanted to take the whole thing….  Regardless of how you do it, this roll is $1!


Dollar Stores are a GREAT place to find items to keep the kids occupied on any trip…flight or road trip.  There’s everything from puzzle books to paperback classics (books) to stickers/sticker books to inexpensive plastic toys that won’t cause stress if they’re lost en route.

Puzzle books and Workbooks:flashcards, workbooks

 Workbooks for preschoolers – when they still think this sort of thing is fun!  🙂

…..Coloring or Activity Books

puzzle booksactivity, coloring and puzzle books











Stickers and Sticker books:sticker books and stickers

 stickers for the kids




paperback classics



Paperback Classics:



Toys at the Dollar Store



Small toys – plastic and cheap!!  You won’t worry if they’re lost  🙂



cheap washcloths for freshening up on flights


Washcloths for that flight.  Take these (DRY) in a plastic bag – If you need to clean up a mess – or freshen up, ask the flight attendant for a cup of warm water (or cool water??).  This is better than taking the nice washcloths from home and risk them getting lost.

flavored water packets


These are nice – everyone can have their favorite drink flavor – for MUCH less $$ than sodas.


Some might have an aversion to purchasing food from the Dollar Store but I have found many things to be the same brands as the grocery stores/discounters sell.  I always check the expiration dates and occasionally find items “close’ to expiration, but have never found anything actually expired. Because I’m usually shopping the week before we travel, the close expiration date isn’t a problem.

high protein snacks Snacks – Trail Mix varieties:  I don’t actually buy these as we make our own, but for those who prefer to purchase them, here they are for $1.


snack-individual sizes

Other snack options….all individually wrapped.  These are great for grabbing before a day on the beach or in an amusement park…or going on a hike or tour.

packages of peanuts

variety of snack crackers from Dollar store



cookies from Dollar Store

Cookies in smaller quantities.  Though we don’t purchase the Trail mixes, we DO really like these cookies – (The fig newtons are as good as the name brand imho)   OK…I’ll admit it…..I buy these on a regular basis – not just on vacations. The small size makes it easier to ‘justify’ the purchase….  🙂


smaller sizes for weekend getaways

If you’re staying in a place with a kitchen/cooking facility, these smaller size mixes are great for making a dessert for one evening – without  having to deal with remainder.



travel size peanut butterPeanut Butter!  Our snack of choice – It’s protein and my family LOVES it.  Dollar Tree has both the “To Go’ packs which are great for flights.  (Food is so expensive at the airport or on the plane and  TSA restricts what you can bring with you.)   We either use it as a dip for celery, etc…or bring some crackers and a plastic SPOON ( can’t bring a knife through  security….).

The small jars were great for taking to Hawaii.  Groceries are so expensive on the Islands and we wanted to bring as much with us as we could.  This size was perfect for a week.

travel size mayo/jelly/syrup
These are more ‘finds’ we took to Hawaii.  Again the small size meant we could use it all before flying back home.  It was really nice to pay $1 for each one rather than the $4-$6 they charged at the grocery stores on the islands.  As you can see…these are name brands.



These  accordion files will keep paperwork, tickets, confirmations, etc… organized (yes, I DO print some things…its just easier to handle paper when going through security lines than phone/ipad, etc… )

Not pictured, but they also have awesome PLASTIC folders for these same items..if that’s what you prefer.  They won’t get torn up as quickly as cardboard/paper folders.


heavy duty aluminum foil


If you’re vacationing in the wide outdoors, this HEAVY DUTY foil will be great for making Hobo Meals.  Get it for $1!!!  🙂 🙂


OTHER ITEMS (not pictured)

  • PAPER!!!  Dollar Tree is a cavernous hole for a paper addict such as myself.  I LOVE the sticky notes in all sizes and colors…and pads…notebooks…Everything my little paper-addicted heart could want is there…for $1
  • Then…there’s paper’s best friend…the colored pens!!!  🙂  Packs of 4 – or 6 for $1.
  • carabiners – large ones for $1…or smaller ones in packs of 2/$1.
  • Shower caps to cover shoes when you pack…to keep clothes clean’er’….
  • Mesh laundry bags – great for that return trip home.

There you have it!  With a trip to the Dollar Tree…  (and a few dollars)  you can have a lot of things to make your travel easier, less stressful and certainly less expensive.

Happy Shopping!



Vacation Destinations –With Children

My original plan for this article was to list the great vacation destinations we have visited and share the gems we found & tips we learned through our travels.   Then I found  Frommer’s site  Top 100 Vacations with Kids….    I tried to make my own article as ‘complete’ as theirs and it quickly became  overwhelming….and entirely too long! That’s when I decided to go back to my original idea of personal experiences –    By adding a link to the Frommer’s article  THEY could be ‘complete’ and I could return to the idea of offering tips.  That worked a LOT better!  🙂 Use them together.  🙂

Photo Credit: U.S. Gov’t, Nat’l Park Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I have not put links to the locations as Frommers has done  -with one exception:  the  National Parks website.   Fortunately, that covers most of my entries here as we travel a LOT in National Parks. One Note:  When searching for information for the other destinations, be certain you find the OFFICIAL SITES  to avoid being pulled into packages sold by travel agencies/clubs, etc…   I have nothing against those but they will NOT save you money!! Another Note:  Our family is history and nature enthusiasts, so many of our vacations include those aspects in some form or another.



  • The entire East coast is FULL of history (Colonial history, Revolutionary and Civil Wars, antebellum plantations) and beauty (beaches, National Parks, lush green vegetation/climates).  Chose a state (area) and spend a week touring/visiting it to adequately SEE everything there.
  • Virginia:  With the variety of interests in our family, I was able to plan a Virginia vacation that had ‘something for everyone’.  VA has everything from history to beaches to nature/beauty to a Naval Base to theme parks.
    • Colonial Williamsburg/Yorktown/Jamestown Settlement:  You can easily spend a week in this area (including Norfolk and Richmond if you wish)  These are all National Parks/Historical Sites;  Busch Gardens for the amusement park enthusiast;  Virginia beaches;  NOTE:  In 2013, TEACHERS were given a 50% discount on admission to Colonial Williamsburg – I was not able to confirm that this program is still in effect, but it’s worth an inquiry.  You must present proof – school ID, I would assume.
    • Richmond/Norfolk –  These two towns flank the Williamsburg ‘triangle’ and give some variety to the sights.  Norfolk Naval Base gives tours;
    • Mount Vernon (George Washington’s home) or Monticello (Thomas Jefferson’s home), both in Virginia and both National Parks/Historical Places
    • Shenandoah National Park:  This is a small park that can easily be driven in a day;  hikes can lengthen your stay;  very beautiful
  • Washington DC:  In addition to the obvious places to see: Capitol, Monuments, Smithsonian, etc… DON’T overlook the Library of Congress and Supreme Court Building.  They are the most beautiful buildings in the area (imho).
  • Southeast Coast – Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia  (FL has its own category further  further down this list).
    • Lighthouse Tour on the GA and Carolinas coastlines  (There are a few up in VA too – just less concentrated….)
    • Kitty Hawk  (N.C.)
    • The history et. al. in Charleston, Savannah, Williamsburg/Jamestown/Yorktown, Appomatox, Petersburg is really more than can be seen in one trip….but we’ve tried. ha!  🙂
  • Smokey Mountain Nat’l Park, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, TN;  The Smokey’s is the only National Park (in the lower 48)  that has no admittance fee.  You can drive through in a day, but if you want to hike or explore, plan a couple of days. This is a YEAR ROUND destination.  ALL seasons have something to offer.  Our Christmas there was INCREDIBLE!!  It snowed the day we were celebrating Christmas!  🙂  Autumn views can’t be rivaled anywhere.    🙂  Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge  (gateways to the Park) offers shows, outlet shopping and many ‘touristy’ things to do.  Combine this with a day trip to the Biltmore in Asheville, NC.
  • Asheville, NC:  Biltmore Mansion (home of railroad baron, George Vanderbilt)  Tickets are pricey for this, but well worth it.  Make a stop at the McDonalds in Asheville…even if just for an ice cream cone.  It’s unlike any McD’s you’ve ever been to.  🙂  Seriously!
  • New Orleans, LA:  Rich in history and French Creole culture;  One of the oldest cities in the US;  Tour antebellum mansions; enjoy some blues or jazz;  Enjoy the French creole cuisine and architecture but be certain to try the beignets at Cafe du Monde;


  • Boston:   There are multiple ways to see Boston –
    • History which includes The Freedom Trail (takes a VERY full day) with its many historical sites including Old North Church, Paul Revere’s home and the USS Constitution,  Lexington and Concord, JFK Presidential Library and a little further south, Plymouth colony.  There is a Johnny Tremain tour that is great for children – all the sites in  Esther Forbes’ book
    • Literature:  Sleepy Hollow cemetery (where Nathanael Hawthorne is buried); Homes of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott, Henry James, Charles Dickens, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, as well as Walden Pond with Thoreau’s cabin.
    • While on the Cape, I HIGHLY recommend a whale watch tour  if you can  fit it whaleinto the budget (it’s not cheap).   It’s PHENOMENAL!!!  MANY whales swim around the boat!!  Take motion sickness meds even it you aren’t prone to motion sickness.  (I learned this the hard way…)  The Bay waters can be QUITE choppy.  I loved our da, but if I had it to do over, I’d take the Bonine and enjoy myself much more.

There is so much to do in Boston for the history or literature buff, that this was by far my favorite vacation!!!

  • Cape Cod; Get a mile-by-mile guide online for information of things to do/see on the drive up the cape; Plimouth Plantation (living history museum) is north about 60 miles;  Beaches (though don’t expect the sun-soaking beaches of South Florida…this is Massachusetts),   Cape Cod Potato Chip factory (map on the back of the chip bag);  lighthouses; Provincetown  (Pilgrim Monument ) at the tip of cape   NOTE: Families should do their research before visiting Provincetown;
  • New Bedford Massachusetts:  Whaling Museum;  New Bedford is the setting of Moby Dick by Herman Melville.  This is an easy day trip from Boston or Cape Cod.
  • Gettysburg National Battlefield:  Battlefields are typically just roads/drives with narration or markers detailing what happened at each spot/pull out.  The REAL gem in visiting any battlefield is the Visitor Centers… with their films, museums, etc…  Don’t skip them!  🙂
  • Philadelphia:   History abounds here!  Birthplace of the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution; Liberty Bell; Everything “Benjamin Franklin”   🙂
  • New York City:  The list of things to do in NYC is endless.  An internet search will help you make the right choices for your family.  NOTE:  The NY Gov. has recently said that ‘conservatives’ and ‘Christians’ are not welcome in the state.   How serious was he?  I don’t know…just always be informed when you travel.
    • History:  Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty,  Staten Island Museum and Ferry, 9/11 Memorial and Museum,  Of course, the museums are too numerous to list.
    • Arts:  Metropolitan Mus of Art is a ‘must see’,  Music spanning from  Broadway to the Metropolitan Opera – or Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.  Search the internet for your specific tastes…
    • Brooklyn Bridge, Times Square, Bronx Zoo, Central Park, Empire State Building, Garment District :), Fifth Avenue shopping… Grand Central Station, Coney Island (amusement park)  Just a few ideas….
    • Sports:  In addition to games, there’s the possibilities of tours of stadiums, etc…  Now, Yankee Stadium  tours are the only tours I personally know about, but check websites for additional information.    🙂
  • Upstate New York:
    • Catskills
    • Niagara Falls  One of only 2 Nat’l parks that are ‘shared’ between U.S. and Canada.  You don’t need a passport to see the Canadian side as of the writing of this.  (This can change at any time, so check before you go….)
    • Adirondacks
  • Mystic Seaport Connecticut   (National Park)  This is a full day of a living history museum on the whaling industry of the 1800’s

Photo Credit: Aivar Ruukel on Flickr CC Lic.


  • Everglades:  Bring mosquito repellant (with DEET) AND wear long pants and long sleeves. – no matter how wonderful your insect repellent is, it’s still no match for those insects in the Everglades!!  Don’t avoid this area just because of this.  It’s a great park… Just come prepared.  Include a trip down to the Keys if you have time.
  • Florida Keys:
    • Best snorkeling:  Bahia Honda!!  It’s better than John Pennekamp State Park (imho)
    • Hemingway’s home on Key West offers tours – and a chance to see his  ‘six-toed cats’  🙂
    • Over-seas Highway – from the Mainland FL out to Key West.  Seven Mile Bridge connects Knight’s Key  (Middle Keys) to Little Duck Key (Lower Keys)  It is CERTAINLY worth the drive!  If you’re a bicyclist, ride the ‘old’ highway and railroad bridge. It’s quite the experience.  The ‘old’ highway is also a great place to catch a sunset.
    • NOTE:  Families should do their research on the area before planning much time in Key West.
  • Pensacola:  white sand beaches;  Naval Aviation Museum;  Check to see if the Blue Angels are giving a show!
  • Orlando – Obviously, Orlando is home to The Mouse, but while in the area, don’t forget to take a day trip over to Titusville to see the JFK Space Center.  (This is the perfect break from theme parks if you need it)  🙂  I’ve written 2 posts on WDW:  Walt DisneyWorld on a Budget:  and More Walt Disney World Tips 

NOTE:  Teachers at accredited schools in Florida and Georgia can get complimentary admission to the Visitor Ctr and Educ. Resource Ctr with proof of employment – school ID I presume?  I have heard this MIGHT apply to all teachers but can not confirm it.  It’s worth an inquiry.  🙂 

  • St Augustine: boasts some beautiful pristine beaches!  🙂  It’s also the oldest settlement (fort) in the Continental US.  It’s also not far from Daytona.
  • Ft Lauderdale:  beaches – though crowded;  You may find Ft Lauderdale more ‘family friendly’ than Miami, not to mention cheaper to fly to.
  • Sanibel Island:  This area has the ‘to be expected’ beach vacation options with the added bonus of MILLIONS of sea shells!
  • Tarpon Springs & Ybor City (Tampa area):  Tarpon is the center of the sponge diving industry;  There are tours/boats to give visitors a look at the diving/divers though they do NOT take you to the actual sponge beds (locations are ‘secret’)   Go to the dock to see the boats come in with their day’s catch.  Ybor City is a Cuban settlement; taste Cuban cuisine;  cigar industry;


  • Branson, MO:  This is our weekend get-away of choice. The main attraction is country and folk music shows, but there is much more there. My post about all we’ve discovered there: Branson: Planning Your Trip and  Branson: What To Do – Shows Shopping  & More  Branson is VERY Family-Friendly.
  • St. Louis MO:  The Arch, dinner cruises (or sightseeing cruises) on the Mississippi, museums galore (we really like the Charles Lindberg Museum) and of course, Six Flags. Hannibal with all the Mark Twain ‘stuff’ is just north of St. Louis – a nice day trip.

THE WILD WEST (Which really isn’t in the ‘west’ at all)

  • Salt Lake City & Great Salt Lake:  A dip in the Great Salt Lake is an experience you’ll not get anywhere else…but do NOT get in if you have any wounds or scratches!  There’s a LOT of salt in it!!!
  • Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park – Montana – at the Canadian border. This is one of only 2 Nat’l Parks ‘shared’ with Canada. …    (Waterton is the Canadian side).  There is a very limited visitor season due to climate/weather – busiest months are July and August and that’s the only time I would personally plan a vacation there.  🙂
  • The Sierra Nevada’s are Incredible!!!  This includes everything from Yosemite and Lake Tahoe in CA to the mining towns south of Reno in NV…
    • Tahoe:  The main attraction here is skiing in the winter and water sports/activities on the lake in the summer.  All the casinos are across the stateline in NV.  While in Tahoe, take day trips to Carson City (NV)  Virginia City, (NV) and check to see if there are any local festivals in any of the surrounding towns.  On our last trip, we took in the Chili Cook-off in Virginia City and Cowboy Days in Genoa NV (OUR FAVORITE!!!)  I’ll write a blog post about it  soon.  🙂
    • Yosemite National Park is very beautiful but can be extremely crowded

      Half Dome in Yosemite National Park

      during the summer season.  If you can plan a trip in the late Spring, you can avoid some of that (Not too early as most of the roads don’t open until late April typically)  One difference between Yosemite and other Nat’l parks is that they DO have lots of eateries/restaurants/snack bars.  I”m not sure what that does to the whole “National Park experience”, but they’re there.

  • Yellowstone and Teton Nat’l Parks This takes a minimum of 5-6 days to really see it…
    Yellowstone National Park

    Yellowstone National Park

    These parks encompass everything from nature and wildlife to geothermal activity to hiking to beautiful vistas, sunrises, sunsets.  There’s more hikes than you could take in multiple visits.  Jackson, WY (gateway to the Tetons) is worth a visit/stay as well.  My post – linked above – gives details of our vacations to this area along with some tips for planning, budgeting, etc..


    Teton Nat’l Park

  • IMG_3438
  • Mount Rushmore/Black Hills: This is easily seen in a day including the hike/museum/Visitor Ctr. Plan to return to the park at sunset for the lighting of the mountain. (be prepared for congested traffic).  Catch one of the Cowboy/Folk Music dinner shows in the area if you have time.
  • Colorado:  Vacation  destinations ABOUND in CO…here are a few things we really like
    • Denver:  Museum of Natural History is a ‘must see’;  U.S. Mint offers tours, but requires security clearance which takes significant time and effort.  Research this (WAY) ahead of time.  Rocky Mountain National Park is approx.1 hr west of Denver
    • Rocky Mountain National Park (Include some time in Denver too)  This can be covered in a day, but with a few days, you can hike, attend a Ranger Talk and explore the park like it ‘deserves’ to be explored.  🙂
    • Durango/Silverton – and the Narrow Gauge Railroad between the two;  This affords views you cannot see anywhere else as the track goes where the road does not.  Views are spectacular and I highly recommend it!!  (great for kids – especially if they are ‘train’ fanatics) For those who don’t really want to ride the train all day long, (think of kids here….)  they offer a one way  train – with bus the other way.  My suggestion is to take the train TO Silverton and the bus back to Durango (thinking especially of kids here).  To get that option (and not be stuck doing it the opposite way)  you must make reservations early. Those tickets go fast!    If you prefer to drive between these two towns, you can take the “Million Dollar Highway” built back when a million dollars was a LOT of money!!  🙂
    • Mesa Verde Nat’l Park: Mesa Verde is cliff dwelling Indian ruins;  combine this with a visit to Durango/Silverton.
    • Jeep Trails: South/Southwest part of CO.  Reserve jeeps ahead of time in tourist season.  BEST TIP:  Rent the jeep 2 days in a row so you don’t have to return it by 5 pm…you can stay on the trails later the first night. I would say though, 3 days in a row is too much.  You’ll need a day to rest in between before heading out again. (imho)  There are enough jeep trails in the area to keep visitors busy for WEEKS.    Depending on where you go/stay, this could be combined with Durango/Silverton/Mesa Verde.
    • Colorado Springs:  Pikes Peak (drive or take the cog rail); Focus on the Family; Garden of the Gods
  • Utah National Parks:  Utah is a GREAT place for the outdoor enthusiast.  A family of children – young boys especially – will be thrilled with the climbing and exploring options. There are FIVE National Parks in SW Utah…all having their own special niche – and all fabulous!  Note:  I do NOT recommend going during the hottest part of the summer!!!  (just my personal opinion…)
    • Zion Nat’l Park:
      Zion National Park

      Zion Nat’l Park

      The main road of Zion is only accessible by shuttle. Arrive early in the day to be able to park inside the park. After the lots fill, you’ll have to park in Springdale and take a shuttle from there, then transfer to the Zion shuttle.

    • Bryce Canyon: Bryce is quite possibly the most unique park I’ve ever seen.  The valley is full of pinnacles formed from erosion.  There is a shuttle here too, but it’s optional.  Arrive early to avoid the masses…

      Bryce Canyon Nat'l Park

      Bryce Canyon Nat’l Park







  • Arches National Park:  All the canyons of SW Utah have arches, but Arches National park is a greatest concentration of them. – another very unique park and worth the time!
  • Grande Escalante:  This is a drive through SW Utah – en route from one National Park to another.  – very scenic
  • Canyonlands National Park


  • Dallas Metroplex:  Ft Worth Zoo (Our preference of zoos in the area) Six Flags/Hurricane Harbor; Dallas Art Museum;  Sixth Floor Museum (the JFK assassination story)  Arboretum;  George W Bush Presidential Library;  Ft Worth Stockyards, Our favorite DFW metroplex zoo is the Ft Worth Zoo. There are MANY things to do in the metroplex…search online for activities that fit your family.
  • San Antonio: Alamo, Riverwalk; Sea World; Fiesta Texas; Short drive north is  Schlitterbaun;
  • Austin:  the bats under the Congress Avenue Bridge come out every evening at sunset – there are tours, boats, make a full evening of this; LBJ Presidential Library; of course, the TX capital if you like to see different state capitals (we kind of like to at least drive by these for a quick look…)
  • 157Galveston/Corpus Christi….and the entire Gulf Coast has all the beach activities you would expect not to mention a lot of really interesting History – The “Wall Street” of the 1800’s and the story of the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900 and the rebuilding and raising of the city  by 17 ft – an incredible engineering feat for the day.  Galveston, Texas
  • Houston has the museums and activities you would expect in a metro area – and just a little way to the southeast is Kemah and the NASA Johnson Space Center in Webster.
  • Padre Island:  This is a nice place to visit but be aware that in March/April,  it becomes a College Spring Break destination.
  • Brownsville:  Walk across the Rio Grande into Matamoras Mexico  (10 yrs ago, it cost .25 pp each way….)  At that time, a passport was not required but that’s been a while back.  Personally, I probably wouldn’t cross the border now, with the recent events and warnings from the State Dept, but it’s a matter of personal preference….


  • California:  Cali has SO much to offer the vacationer.  Choose a region (south, central, north) to keep from being overwhelmed with the options.  🙂
    • Redwoods National Park
    • Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
    • Yosemite National Park  (I detailed this above in the section on Sierra Nevadas)
    • Death Valley:
      Death Valley

      Death Valley

      This is actually quite interesting, but do NOT go during the Summer.  Their tourist season is WINTER.  We went in Sept and it was fine, though getting hot, even then.  It’s possible to hike this park during milder seasons (spring/fall) but only before 10 am each day

    • San Diego:  San Diego Zoo  has pandas!!
    • Disney Land:  This is the first Disney park but it has many of the same attractions as it’s partner in Florida
    • Golden Gate Bridge
    • LegoLand
    • San Diego
  • Grand Canyon National Park:   Those who tour this park in a day don’t really ‘see’ it!  You really need 2-3 days…..MINIMUM!!  Each rim (North and South) is different.  The Grand CanyonSouth rim is the most ‘popular’ and the most ‘populated’.  If your time is limited, see the “South” rim, but if you can make the long drive around the canyon to see the North Rim, you should.  We planned it a little differently than some might – Enroute to California, we visited the South Rim on the way ‘west’ and the North rim as we headed east (home). That eliminated the LONG drive around the canyon – and perhaps enhanced our enjoyment by splitting it into two visits. (no burnout)
  • Sedona:  Beautiful vistas, sunrises and sunsets over the red sandstone formations, shopping;  This can be combined with a trip to the Grand Canyon;
  • Hoover Dam:  This is 20 min. from Las Vegas;  It could also easily be combined with a trip to the National parks of Southern Utah OR the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  Flights to Las Vegas are often very economical  I’ve written  Hoover Dam with more detailed information.
  • Crater Lake National Park:  Beautiful and easily seen in a day unless you want to camp or hike.  There are ALWAYS numerous hikes in any National Park.


  • N. & S. Carolina: not only the beaches, but numerous lighthouses (some open for tours, others only for ‘seeing’ from the outside;  Kitty Hawk and the Wright Bros museum/area is quite interesting;  Lost Colony of Roanoke;
  • Georgia:  beaches, Civil War history
  • The entire Gulf coast Shore from Galveston-Corpus Christie -New Orleans-Mobile, Alabama  Pensacola…. and of course, down the west (Gulf) coast of FL
  • Pensacola:  White Sand Beaches; Naval Aviation Museum; Blue Angels if they’re in town
  • Mobile:  In addition to beaches in the area (I like Orange Beach) there’s the U.S.S. Alabama WWII battleship in Mobile Bay.
  • California beaches – Expect crowds
  • Northern California/Oregon shorelines are not for sunbathing, but are absolutely breathtaking with their rocky shores


  • Oahu: Pearl Harbor Memorial;  Waikiki,  The North Shore and Banzai Pipeline;  the Banyan trees are a ‘must see’ in Honolulu
  • Hawaii/The Big Island:  Volcano National Park;  Coffee plantations;  Orchid plantation; Akaka Falls
  • Kauai:  Coffee plantations here too;  NaPali coastline can ONLY be seen by boat or by air – no roads!  It’s incredible!
  • Maui:  Haleakala National Park – plan to see a sunrise or sunset. Haleakala Road to Hana-  NOT for the faint of heart, but well worth it!  –649 hairpin curves!!!



This is certainly not a comprehensive list – that’s what the Frommer’s site is for.   My purpose was to give ideas, tips and my idea of the ‘Must See/Do’s’.

Happy Vacationing!!

Staying Healthy On Vacation


Clip art licensed from the Clip Art Gallery on”

Have you ever experienced this? It’s the 4th day of your long-anticipated vacation.  You have big plans for the day. You’re finally going on the hike you’ve been “building up” since the vacation planning began. It’s the REASON you chose this destination. As you’re loading the last of the things into the car before heading to the trailhead, a child says “I don’t feel good….” You immediately KNOW the day is NOT going to go as planned….

Staying healthy while traveling:

Vacations should be memory making events…all about fun, rest and family time. Unfortunately, high fat meals, over exposure to sun, and fun in the outdoors can sometimes leave you feeling worse than you did before you left.

What can you do to increase chances for that healthy and happy vacation you dreamt about?

Before You Leave...

  • Boost Your Immune System:  
    • Probiotics counteract the effects of fast (greasy) foods we tend to eat when traveling. Start them several days BEFORE your trip so they can build up in your digestive tract.
    • Photo Credit: Mush on Flickr CC Lic.

      Vitamin C – These come in pills or chewables, but the most effective form (imho) is powder form – added to water. (more quickly absorbed into the system) I like Emergen-C –NOW available at Walmart!  🙂

  • Increase fiber intake::  A high fiber diet keeps toxins from building up in your system – and toxins ‘stored’ in the system leads to ‘irritability’, ‘fussiness’ and in my experience, ‘whining’ in children (and adults).  Keeping everyone ‘regular’ can improve EVERYONE’S trip.  🙂
  • Bring basic meds with you:

Here’s a general list of things we bring when we travel, but I modify it based on where we’re going and who is traveling with us.

  • antacid
  • antidiarrheal
  • pain relievers (Tylenol, Advil, etc…)
  • antibiotic ointment
  • antihistamine
  • hydrocortisone creme
  • Benadryl crème
  • This is what our ‘medication’ bag looked like on a recent trip – small and compact, but contained everything we needed for that particular trip.

    sanitizing wipes

  • bandages/band aids
  • personal  prescription medications. (liquid MEDICATION of more than 3 oz. can be carried on a plane).

I purchased a travel size bottle of pain reliever years ago and have continued to re-fill it every vacation since then. I use or replace the pills in the bottle  regularly as meds DO have an expiration date, but the bottle is reused year after year.  You may notice from the pic that I combine several meds (of different colors, shapes) into 1 bottle. 


While You’re Away…

  • Stay active. This keeps your blood moving and body functioning as it should.
  • File:Fruit & vegs assortment.jpg

    Photo Credit; Oleary’s on Wikipedia; By Olearys (Frutas e Vegetais) [CC-BY-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

    Indulge — to a point.   Pick one meal a day to splurge, but avoid continual over-indulging.  Include fresh fruit and vegetables into everyone’s DAILY diet. Adequate fiber helps with regularity (and therefore, disposition…ha)  A little bit of sugar is ‘fun’….too much leaves everyone feeling ‘blah’.
  • Protect yourself:  
    • Suncreen of SPF 30 or higher
    • EFFECTIVE insect repellant if traveling in an area where you might be exposed to ticks.  Regularly check everyone for ticks if exposure is a possibility.
  • Use Hand Sanitizer:  Purchase these in small containers and keep it easily accessible – in a purse, picnic basket, flight carry on, etc….
  • Restrooms: No matter how well they are cleaned/maintained, these are a congregating place for germs.  Touch as little as possible and teach your children to do the same.  Use the paper towel from drying your hands to open the door when you leave.  🙂

    Photo Credit: Allan on Flickr CC Lic.

    Lastly…and possibly the MOST IMPORTANT –  

  • Drink plenty of WATER: It flushes the body of toxins and impurities.




Here’s wishing you a happy and HEALTHY vacation!!!  🙂

Kids and Road Trips Part 2

Part 1 of this topic is here:  Kids and Road Trips Part 1: Planning.

Photo Credit: CC Lic. Paul Cooper

We ALWAYS make stops at the Travel Information Centers at state borders. Many maps – (Yes, we still use paper maps in conjunction with GPS….Rand McNally) show these locations, but as a general rule, they’re on Interstate highways right inside state borders. They’re typically  cleaner (especially the rest rooms), staffed (safer and someone is there to answer questions) and they often have coffee. 🙂   If we are planning to spend time in that state, I will check the racks of brochures/tourist info for information and even coupons (though coupons are rare…).
These Travel Centers/Rest stops are great places to expend a little energy if you have young children as many locations have added playground equipment.  There are always picnic tables if it’s time for lunch. Sometimes there are grills. It’s a multi-use stop!  🙂

Rolls of quarters: When I stumbled upon this idea it made the WORLD of difference in our road trips. At the beginning of the vacation, each child got a roll of quarters ($10)  That roll of quarters was theirs to spend as they wished on the last vacation day…with just one little clincher….  Mom or dad could ask for a quarter anytime there was a ‘problem’.    If the children fussed over “backseat real estate”, we could ask for a quarter.  If they didn’t follow instructions or family rules, we could ask for a quarter.  If we told them it was time to stop giggling and go to sleep at night and they didn’t stop giggling  etc… we could ask for a quarter.  They soon realized that it was in their best interests to ‘get along’, obey cheerfully, and basically be pleasant company on our trip.  I’m happy to report that after we started doing this, behavioral issues on our trips took a nose-dive.  We had obedience without punishment…in situations where they might have been in danger otherwise.  It produced peace and peace of mind.  Since treats on our vacations were usually a rare thing, being able to spend their ‘balance’ on WHATEVER they wanted was a HUGE reward to them.  The few quarters we did actually confiscate were used for the coin laundry on laundry day.   “…Two birds with one stone” 🙂

I recently came across this…..  shared just for the humor benefit, unless  of course, you think it might ‘work’ for you  🙂

◊  One year, when my kids were in middle school, we had a vocabulary word every morning of our vacation.  I chose/planned these before vacation  and chose words that not only ‘fit’ each day but also appealed to the middle school sense of humor….words that were “interesting”, intriguing and just fun to know and use.

BUT…..WORDS THAT PERTAIN TO ONE’S LIFE ARE REMEMBERED!!!! Photo Credit: Ken Whytock on Flickr CC Lic.

What happened next was not part of my “plan”…it just “evolved” (as can often happen when dealing with middle school boys).  It became a game (challenge) to use the word throughout the day…..the funnier the context, the better.  We were often sent into giggles when someone would creatively drop the word into conversation during the day.  By the end of vacation, everyone was searching for ways to use multiple words in sentences/conversations… and it often brought either hysterical laughing…..or GROANS!!  🙂   This activity had added benefits that I never intended.  To this day, my children still know these words and I’ll hear them dropped into conversations… I know EXACTLY where and when they learned it.

Photo Credit: Loren Javier CC Lic.

When we arrive at our destination:  My kids almost always want to get in the pool when we get to the hotel.  If we’ve been sitting in the car all day long, the pool is great to relieve cramped muscles.   If we’ve arrived at  our final destination, we also like to go to the Visitor Center that evening to gather information, get our bearings, buy tickets if we need them…or come up with a plan. That gives us a head start on the next day.

Back in the hotel room that evening, we might pull out a deck of cards for a family game.  (I usually discouraged individual computer games…vacations are about ‘family time’.)  We might pop some microwave popcorn in the microwave and find a movie on television…we almost always pull our clothes for the next day and get suitcases repacked to make things a little easier the next morning.  Perhaps we’ll read through brochures picked up at the Information Center to prepare for the next ‘event’ on our vacation.  At any rate, we’re usually VERY ready to turn out the lights by 10 pm —especially our driver!    We enjoy our evenings in the hotel as much as any other part of the vacation.  🙂

Some may think that structuring things like this (and the suggestions from Part 1 of this article) are “anti” fun.  I would never presume to say what works for everyone, but I will say, this worked best for my family.  My experience with children in the classroom (I’m a teacher by profession) is that they thrive on structure and knowing what to expect.  They typically NEED that.  Of course, take from this what works for you, in whole or in part….but consider the advantage to be gained from structuring at least parts of your traveling/vacationing days.

Dealing with Motion Sickness

Photo Credit: CC Lic.

There is quite possibly nothing worse than motion sickness….you feel absolutely dreadful; you don’t have your bed to lie down in…in fact, lying down at all usually makes the motion sickness worse, and the only REAL solution is to STOP the car  –which you CAN’T do if you ever want to get to your destination!!  It’s a Catch 22 situation!!

I was a child who struggled with this and I had a child who would often need one of those “infamous bags” on trips.  Through those experiences, I learned several tactics for dealing with the situation.



WHAT is motion sickness?  Why does it happen?

Motion sickness is caused by the brain trying to sort the mixed messages it is receiving from the eyes and ears.  When you look around the interior of the car (airplane, cruise ship) your eyes do not perceive motion because the things around you SEEM to be still. The eyes send a message to the brain that you are NOT moving.  The inner ear, which establishes equilibrium, senses the movement of the vehicle (plane, ship) and sends a message to the brain that you ARE moving. The brain tries to process these mixed messages and can’t determine if you’re moving or not. 🙂  THAT leads to the nausea.

That explains why the methods below work.  However, we’re all unique individuals, so we respond differently.  Use trial and error to find what works for you or your child.

  •  Focus on the Road in Front of You:  Sit in the front seat to watch the road (especially winding roads) to straighten out the conflicting signals being sent to your brain. The front seat removes many of the stationary things in the car out of your line of vision (like the back of the seat, car interior, etc…) allowing the eyes to focus ONLY on the MOVEMENT. In our family, we play ‘musical seats’ putting the person who is ‘sick’ in the front. Obviously, reading or other activities that cause the eyes to focus on something stationary, is the worst thing to do.
  • To Eat or Not To Eat:  For some, an empty stomach makes motion sickness worse….for others, it’s the ONLY way to avoid the nausea.  Each person has to use trial and error to find out what HIS/HER body responds to.  My daughter figured out at a very young age that NOT eating was best for her.  She would bring along a bit of dry cereal (carbohydrate) or fresh fruit (contains enzymes that help with nausea) and eat it when she felt she needed to or was able to. For me, when I was a child, an empty stomach was a recipe for disaster.  A child of 6 or 7 yrs will usually know instinctively what he/she needs with this.  At first, I tried to insist that my daughter do what worked for me.  It was much better when I was able to realize that she needed to do things HER way…even at the age of 6.  :/  (one of those “light-bulb” moments for Mom….)
  • Fresh Air: Turn on the a/c or open a window and let the air/wind blow directly into your face.
  • Medications:  Most who struggle with motion sickness are familiar with Dramamine.  It works by addressing the inner ear issues.  It’s only drawback is that it makes you (VERY) drowsy.  That COULD be exactly what you want…unless  you’re the mom (or the driver). 🙂 The generic for Dramamine is Dimenhydrinate and is the exact same medication. Another common medication is Meclizine – again available in a generic form. These generics are very economically priced.  Look for them right beside the name brands in your drug store.  If you have any doubts, compare ingredient lists on bottles/boxes or ask your pharmacist.   WORD OF CAUTION:  Asthmatics should check with their doctor before taking Dramamine or it’s generic form.  It’s not totally contraindicated, but check with the Dr. as a precaution.
  • Transderm Patches are an EXCELLENT option, but they require a prescription

    Photo Credit: Missy Schmidt CC Lic.

    (and Dr. visit).  This is applied behind the ear 4 hrs before travel and a patch lasts 4-5 days.  These, too, address the inner ear issues. They are excellent for cruises, because of their longevity and the constant stream of medication.  We’ve actually never used them for road trips as that constant stream of medication sends mixed messages to the brain when you AREN’T moving –such as at nighttime or at ‘stops’.  That can make a person feel a little ‘strange’ at those times. haha!   However, if you’re traveling for several days back-to-back or have a child with SEVERE issues it might be worth consideration.


  • Ginger:  This comes in many forms.  The best part is that since it’s not a medication, no worries about interactions, and it tastes good (if you get a good one)
    • Candied ginger:  I get it at Sprouts
    • Ginger Tea or Ginger Ale

      candied ginger

      From Sprouts

    • Ginger Snaps – I don’t know how affective this would be, but they certainly taste good.  🙂
    • Prego Pops:  These are marketed for morning sickness (good option if pregnant) and are available at Babies R Us (and probably similar stores).  I’ve never personally used this, but heard they taste pretty good.  🙂
    • Ginger Root capsules:  Herb –  CAUTION:  These are a ‘natural blood thinner’ so be aware if you are on any other meds or have medical conditions contraindicating this.
  • SeaBands  Wrist bands that apply pressure on pressure points on the wrist.  They’re meant for sea-sickness, but work for any motion sickness.  I’ve never personally used this so can’t testify to it’s effectiveness, but it IS a commonly used remedy.  .
  • Green Apples: There’s something in the green apple that can help with nausea.  Cruise ships always sail with a large supply of these for that purpose.

Family Games on Road Trips

Photo Credit: Parityytirap CC Lic.

These are suggestions of games for long road trips and they actually came from several sources:

  • Games I played as a child
  • Games or printables I found online and wished I had known about when my children were younger
  • Games from a Travel book when my children were young

An internet search for car games for kids will bring up a million computer type games for purchase or download.  Those are NOT what I was trying to do with my kids all those years.  I was looking for interactive…family orie10259708_757905987567166_6039741453846557731_nnted…games.  That’s what I’ve listed here.

Basic supplies:  The beauty of these is that they don’t require you to bring a huge tote.  I bought:

  • 3×5 spiral notebooks….one per child –I purchase these in multi-packs at the local discounter (Big Lots often has them)
  • pencils and a handheld sharpener (preferably one that ‘contains’ all the shavings)
  • Printable pages if you want them
  • A clipboard may come in handy for the pencil/paper games??

With this list, you’re set!!


Idea From Pinterest:  If you need dice for a game, put them in a small clear container.  It can be shaken and the die “read” while staying contained in the container…no getting  lost or flying all over the car.

  • Car tags:  This is one I grew up playing – as did my kids.  We do this on EVERY vacation!!!  We list all the states we find on car tags throughout the vacation…The goal is to get all 50.  Here’s a printable checklist of the 50 states.  Print one for the family or one for each child.      Our Twist on This:  At the beginning of the vacation, everyone chooses the state they DON’T expect us to find.  From that point on, everyone is trying to find the states picked by others…the person who successfully chooses the “unfound” state is the winner.  What do they win?  Absolutely NOTHING but bragging rights.  🙂  Hint:  The person who chooses Hawaii or Alaska almost ALWAYS loses!!!  Shocked?  I’m telling the truth!!!
  • Car Bingo.  This is the game my kids had when they were young.

    Photo Credit: Dory Kornfeld on Flickr CC Lic.

    Here’s a printed version:   Car Bingo printout
    Another variation:  Scavenger

  • One Minute of Words  Use the 3×5 spiral notebooks for this one.  Pick a letter of the alphabet, set your phone timer while players write as many words as they can starting with that letter.  The winner is the person with the most legitimate words after 1 minute….
  • Make Me Laugh:  One person is the “jester” and the rest are “stonefaces”  The “jester” tries to make the “stonefaces” laugh or smile.  The jester can make faces, funny noises, tell jokes, do anything BUT touch (or tickle) the stonefaces.  The last stoneface to hold out is the next jester.  (My kids LOVED this game when they were 7-8-9 yrs old!  ha)
  • Word Stretch:  Choose a phrase like “Are we there yet?” or any phrase your kids use frequently  (“How many more miles” was a popular one at our house…).  Everyone makes as many words as they can from the letters in that phrase.
  • I Spy:  This game is fairly short-lived as you’re limited to items IN the car. (Outside scenery is constantly changing)  However, young children (ages 4-7) typically love this game and it’s good for about 20 min. of play.   The person chosen as “it” chooses an object, and says “I spy with my little eye something red.” Players guess what it is.  The one who guesses correctly gets the next turn.
  • Name That Tune: Players take turns humming songs….first with only 3 notes….then with 4…or 5+  until someone can

    Photo Credit: J_Alvez on

    “Name that Tune”. The one who answers correctly gets to hum the next song.

  • Tic Tac Toe:  This is a timeless game…and until kids figure out that it’s almost impossible to win, they really like to play (Shhhh…that’s our little secret)  Perhaps a printout is a little silly, but if you’re interested, it’s here:  Tic tac toe Boards
  • Rochambeau:  We probably all played this as kid…it’s the old “Rock, Paper. Scissors”.  All players clap fists together to the beat of Ro-Sham-Bo  and on “bo”, each player forms either rock, paper, or scissors.  (Form a “rock” with a fist; “paper” with a flat hand; “scissors” with first 2 fingers shaped like scissors).  Rules to determine the winner:  Paper covers rock.  Rock breaks scissors. Scissors cut paper.    We keep score to determine the winner.  🙂
  • The House on the Hill:   Make up stories about the people in the houses you pass.  Where do they work?  What are their pets and their names?  What are they having for supper tonight?  Where do they go on vacation? The better the imagination and the more details, the more fun/funnier the game is.
  • Lyrics for silly songs!  Only get this out if you’re ready for LOTS of giggles!!  🙂  Here are lyrics for several of these paradies:  Silly Songs for the Car.   Here’s some lyrics of some real songs that kids love to sing too:    Why not have the kids try their own hand at writing (or rewriting) their own lyrics to a song…get the creative skills flowing.  🙂
  • Thumb Wrestling  Boys love active competition games….but “active” in the backseat can go sour very quickly.  Thumb wrestling helps with the competitive spirit while still keeping things manageable.  🙂  Players hook the four fingers of their right hands together so both right thumbs are sticking straight up. The object is to pin down your opponent’s right thumb using your own thumb.
  • Color Safari This game works well for all ages!  Choose a basic color then list as  many items as possible of that color.  Variation:  Give each child a different color…
  • Lines and Dots:  This game is “old” but always a winner.  You can make your own sheets of dots or print one of these.   There’s one for the “big” kids and one for the “little” kids.  Lines and Dots Game  Take turns connecting 2 dots.  The person who ‘completes’ the square gets to put their initial in the box.  The one with the most boxes wins
  • City Train:  This was one of our favorites – it’s fun AND educational.  Take a ride on the ‘City Train’.  Start by naming a city

    Photo Credit: AMProSoftDesign on CC Lic.

    (expand this to include other places/locations):    Example:  Houston   The next person thinks of a place that begins with the last letter of Houston, – “N” New York….which would be followed by a “K” – Kansas City and so on.  Any player who can’t come up with a city has to get off the train.

  • Secret Highway Messages   Using the 3×5 spiral notebook write down the first letter from each of the  first 5-6-7 road signs you see.  Crack the code of those letters.   Each letter stands for a word. Example:  letters D, S, C, S, and A  stands for the secret message “Drive slowly, construction starts ahead.” Of course, someone else might come up with  “Dad, stop candy store ahead.”
  • Creative Competitions and Games:  With a little creativity, games can be created from just about anything.  If you need to get rid of the trash in the car, see who can smash it into the smallest paper ball, then throw it away.  If you want quiet time, hold a 5 minute quiet game.  If you need the back seat to be “cleaned up’ before the afternoon stop, race to see who can clean their section the quickest.   Children love competitions…use that to your advantage.

Silly Songs for the Car

I wish I could take credit for these, but I can’t. They came from a Rand McNally Kid’s Atlas and Activity Book we bought for our children years ago. I always included them in the Travel Journals I made for the kids for every vacation (when they were young).  (Thank you to a commenter below who gave me a ‘source’ for this as our book was put in a garage sale years ago…all I had were the printouts in my children’s keepsake books.)  I reprint them here but want to be careful to give credit where it is due. 🙂


The Twelve Days of Our Trip
(to the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”)

On the first day of our trip, this is what I saw– the baby throw up in the car.
On the second day of our trip, this is what I saw– two pick-up trucks and the baby throw up in the car.

Third day: three dead skunks
Fourth day: four minivans
Fifth day: five back seat fights
Sixth day: six broken headlights
Seventh day: seven miles of road work
Eighth day: eight cars a-speeding
Ninth day: nine railroad crossings
Tenth day: ten roadside rest stops
Eleventh day: eleven cop cars hiding
Twelfth day: twelve bumper stickers

Backseat Border Blues
(to the tune of “This Land is Your Land”)
This side is my side; that side is your side.
Let’s get along now; this is a long ride.
You see this line here-please don’t cross over.
One side for you and one for me.

I had my eyes close-faked I was sleeping.
So you got greedy and started creeping.
Try that again, Bub. and you’ll be weeping.
One side for you and one for me.

Just like I warned you-now you are crying.
And dad is angry – now you are lying.
You had it coming, there’s no denying.
One side for you and one for me.

99 Miles to Go on Our Trip
(to the tune of “99 Bottles”)
99 miles to go on our trip.
99 miles to go.
Step on the gas. I think we can pass.
98 miles to go on our trip.Road Trip by stevepetmonkey - Road over a hill with trees.
(Keep repeating until you get to “0 miles to go”….or until someone kicks you out of the car…whichever comes first)




Photo Credit: 3ric15 on Flickr CC Lic.

Don’t Get Out of the Fast Lane
(to the tune of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”)
Don’t get out of the fast lane.
Don’t let up on the gas.
I can’t believe all the cars we’ve passed.
Wherever we’re going we’re going there fast.
And its zoom, zoom, zoom down the freeway.
But don’t break the speed limit please.
Or the friend-ly Highway Patrol
Will request your keys!!

Are We Lost?
(to the tune of “Are You Sleeping?”)
Are we lost? Are we lost?
Yes we are. Yes we are.
Someone get a map out. Someone get a map out.
Find the way. Find the way

Battle Hymn of the Brat
(to the tune of “Battle Hymn of the Republic”)
Our minivan is loaded to the roof with games and toys.
We’ve all had snacks and found a station everyone enjoys.
The kids are all behaving well; we’ve hardly made a noise.
But something’s not quite right.

I’m not having any fun yet.
I’m not having any fun yet.
I’m not having any fun yet.
This trip is dragging on.

We’ve hit every tourist trap from Maine to Monterey.
Miami to Mount Rushmore. Plymouth Rock to Frisco Bay.
We wait in never-ending lines forever and a day.
It’s time to take a rest


Now you might think that I’m spoiled, that my attitude is bad.
You wouldn’t be the first if my complaining makes you mad.
In fact you’d be the third, behind my Mother and my Dad.
But I still feel like this:


Kids and Road Trips Part 1: Planning

Photo Credit: Brittany Randolph CC Lic.

Along with all the valuable aspects of a family road trip are the challenges that arise when families spend so much time together, in the enclosed space of a vehicle.  My experiences, both as the child growing up and as the mom responsible for vacation planning taught me quite a bit.

As the mom, I was determined to come up with a solution to the “riding in the car all day long” blues.  I developed quite an extensive list of “good ideas” and “really bad ideas that seemed good at the time”.  These ideas, both the good ones, and maybe a few of the “flops” may help you to make these days a little easier.

THE BIGGEST LESSON I LEARNED WAS: Planning and structuring that time minimizes the irritation points that can happen so quickly on driving days.

In this era of videos and computers in our cars, that might seem like an easy fix to the doldrums of a day in the car.  My opinion, however, is a bit more skeptical.  I really didn’t want the kids spending 10 straight hours watching videos.  I never allowed that at home, and I didn’t want it happening on vacation either. Not only does it turn brains to slush, but it also negates the family time of a vacation. My kids still got their video time…but it was  limited, not constant.

The old adage that I’ve used so often on this blog applies here

Fail to Plan…and You Plan to Fail.

The  Key is to occupy their minds.  An occupied child doesn’t whine, fuss with siblings,  etc…  but to keep them occupied takes a plan.

The Plan:

  • Leave at a time that is conducive to sleeping:  I’ve known families who begin their long trips at 10 pm….The kids sleep all night long and wake up the next morning

    Photo Credit: Emran Kassim on Flickr CC Lic.

    at their destination.  That’s great if it works for you…. but it would have never worked for my family.  Instead, we left home on the first day at 5 am.  Our little angels were scooped up and placed in the car, still in their pj’s, and they usually slept for the first 150 miles!!!  (Driving days are measured in “miles”, not “hours”.  )

  • Breakfast in a Bag.  We began this idea several years ago and it works great for mornings when we either have just left home, or stayed at accommodations without a breakfast provided. (National Parks, et al.) It also is a great “time-user” which is our goal in occupying minds.  🙂snacks for travel

    Breakfast in a Bag is a paper sack (though you could put it in anything) that contains various breakfast items such as muffins, fresh fruit, individual fruit/applesauce, cereal {my kids always preferred it dry} bagels, pop tarts or fruit/granola bars.  Personalize it to your family’s likes.  Everyone always had their water bottles, so that was taken care of.  I topped the sack off with plastic spoons (if needed)  and napkins, and we were set.

I have a few old cloth placements that stay in the glove compartment of the car, and we use those as lap towels when we eat in the car. When we’re finished, the crumbs can be shaken out the window and the car stays a little cleaner. 🙂

  • Finally…..I am “sold” on this idea, because of the success it has given us.  I LOOSELY schedule the day…  Should I repeat “loosely”?  I have a general idea of the “suggestions” I’m going to make to my kids on Monday morning….Tuesday morning….Wednesday afternoon, etc..  Though I don’t use a timer or stop watch, ha!  I know how long each activity will occupy them….and I’ve planned the day.  They don’t even know that I’ve planned it out.  They think that their ‘really cool mom’ just happened to come up with another ‘really cool idea’ at the exact moment  they were tired of the last ‘really cool idea’.   No need to tell them any differently.

What Sorts of Things Do I “Suggest”?

  • Read Aloud Time: I read aloud from a chapter book. If possible, I find a children’s classic that relates to our vacation (I’m an avid children’s literature guru, so I thoroughly enjoy this “hunt”) 🙂
  • Family Games on Road Trips:  This post describes quite a few car games.  Add this to your personal list of favorites.
  • Family “Bonding” Time: We may read from a favorite joke book (or Shel Silverstein poems) or just talk (great when they were teens and talking time was so rare) Sometimes we would get into a “giggle-fest” (an invention of our own making).  This can be anything you want it to be.
  • “Writing Stuff”:  Coloring books and colored pencils, (NEVER crayons that would inevitably be left in a hot car….) handheld pencil sharpener.

    Photo Credit: Barb Watson CC Lic.

    Travel Journals (I’ll write a post on that someday)    Puzzle books (I love Usborne books)

  • Card Games;
  • Pen and paper games like Tic Tac Toe  (bring a spiral notebook to keep the paper ‘contained’)
  • Tents!!! When my kids were younger, they LOVED to build tents in the backseat and would play in them for hours!!! It was ok with Dad as long as it didn’t obstruct his view 🙂 I always brought an old sheet on vacation.  (It folds thin and has MANY uses)
  • Individual Reading Time: Silent reading has been a regular part of our home since the kids learned to read. Though they were not always ‘readers’ by desire, I required it of them – and continued that during vacations. They always get a snack during this time, so that made the idea a little more appealing.

Photo Credit: Brecken Pool on Flickr CC Lic.

As I said before, I know the approx time each of these activities will “occupy minds” (reading aloud – 45 min.; puzzles —  30 min.;  a new car game is good for another 30 min.;  etc…) and I “loosely” schedule accordingly.

NOTE:  Many times, videos were pulled out right before lunch.  We were often looking for a rest area for a picnic and if we had to drive a little past lunchtime in search of one, the video would occupy them and keep those hunger pangs at bay.   (Just Fyi, during all those years and family vacations, though there were sometimes CLAIMS of ‘starving to death’  before the lunchtime stop, no one ever actually did.  We have a 100% “return home with everyone alive” rating.  🙂  )

After lunch was Quiet Time.  This lasts 1 hour and is something we have done in our home since the kids gave up naps around the age of 3.  We continued it on vacations.  Perhaps, it’s importance is magnified on vacation when we are with each other 24/7 and that “personal” time is sooo important.  They can read, ‘think’, stare out the window…whatever they want….they just have to be “quiet”.  It’s the all-important “down” time. Sometimes they (or I) would drift off to sleep – which made the hours pass even quicker.  🙂

The remainder of the afternoon was for videos –or backseat tents….unless I felt a need to “suggest” more activities.  As I said, everything is loosely planned/scheduled.

Schedule:  (I found this while going through my vacation records from years past.  This was a trip to FL when the kids were pre-teens.  It will give you a general idea of how I planned it.  Remember, this is a LOOSELY followed schedule… no stop watches or  timers.)

  • 5 am Leave home  (kids dressed in pajama pants and tshirts)
  • 7:30 (approx.)  Everyone begins to wake up!  🙂  (except for Dad who has been  awake since 3:30 this morning)
  • 8:00 (or when we find a rest stop)  Stop at a rest stop to get dressed and prepared for the day; go to restroom and get breakfast items out of the trunk
  • 15 min. later:  (OK…honestly, it usually took longer, but I can dream, can’t I??)   back on the road with breakfast in the car
  • 9:00 Puzzle books  (My kids LOVED puzzles/brain twisters at this age)
  • 9:30  Family game – car game
  • Sometime mid-morning – probably around 10:30: Fuel stop – everyone to the restroom (REQUIRED)  and to stretch legs
  • After Fuel stop:  Family Reading time – read 1-2 chapters out loud
  • 11:30 (time approx) Joke book (because of the age of my kids at this time, they were “in” to joke books.  We brought a couple on the vacation)
  • 12:00  (or until we find a rest stop for lunch)  videos or computer/phone games to fill the gap…
  • Lunch stop/restrooms/refill water bottles
  • 1 hr later??:  Back on the road – QUIET TIME for 1 hr.
  • 1 hr later:  Travel Journals
  • 30 min. later: Silent reading – with a snack
  • Videos or computer games until we get to our destination

This was just one day on one vacation, with age appropriate activities planned.  Of course I have no idea (memory) how closely we actually followed this schedule, but it was a guide that I assume we followed “loosely”.  🙂

They always got  to watch their videos or play the computer games.  They just didn’t get to be a recluse and non-communicative with the family for 10-12 hours while feeding their brains on mindless activities.  This idea of planning worked well for us for many years….  The plan was modified as they grew older and their needs/interests changed, however, the basic idea of mom having another ‘really cool idea’ up her sleeve never ceased.

Kids and Road Trips Part 2.

Packing to Fly with Children (0-5 yrs)

Traveling with children is a whole different experience than traveling with adults or teens.  It requires a fine tuned skill set.  *sigh*  🙂


While infants on vacations may be rare, there ARE times when we may need to take an infant on a flight…visiting family, holidays, relocating, funerals, etc….   If you find yourself in that situation, here are a few tips:

  • On a recent flight to Hawaii, there was a baby on our flights both going and returning from the islands.  On BOTH flights, within just a few minutes of taking off, the babies began a high-pitched scream. The ‘noise’ didn’t bother me, but the painful cries broke my heart!  I KNEW what was happening.  Their ears weren’t popping and they were in pain.  The intensity of the screams made it obvious. (A mom knows the pain cry)

    Photo Credit: Kona Gallagher on Flickr CC lic.

    NOTE TO PARENTS:  Babies needs to swallow during altitude changes in order to help with air pressure/ear popping.  Without it, they may be in a lot of pain.  (As with adults, I think it’s an individualized thing) While a pacifier may get them to suckle, there’s no guarantee they’ll swallow.  That requires a bottle…  A “Little Tip” here…If you board the aircraft with your baby slightly hungry, it increases the chances he/she will actively swallow during take off. Obviously, you know your child better than anyone so make your decision based on your own knowledge. Just be aware of the need to swallow to make the ears pop….and PLEASE, help your infant with this!!!

  • It has been suggested on several blogs or articles making their way around Facebook that parents with infants bring along ‘treat bags’ for the other passengers.  The idea behind this is that fellow travelers will be more tolerant of your baby’s cries if they have a candy bar in hand.  I have been amazed at the amount of controversy this practice has garnered online…though I shouldn’t have been. EV.ER.Y.Thing. garners controversy online….ha!  However, I mention it as something to consider…  It could cost a LOT if you make up 10-20 of these bags…and honestly, that’s how many passengers will be within earshot of a crying baby. If you feel this is a good idea for you, then by all means do it…but also, do what you can to alleviate your baby’s pain…  That will make it easier to keep him/her calm and happy.
  • Talk to your pediatrician about medications to alleviate congestion –which contributes to problems with air pressure/ear popping. This is a controversial topic, but I mention it for your consideration….
  • Use the clips that are meant to clip onto clothing and hold the baby’s pacifier, to also hold teething toys.  This keeps them from being dropped under the airplane seat or while you’re walking through the airport.
  • Discovery Toys Boomerings are phenomenal!!! Though other companies make similar links, the Discovery Toys Boomerings are more durable, imho.  🙂  These can be connected in various lengths to hold
    Product Details

    Photo Credit: Discovery Toys and Amazon

    several toys and will keep items from getting lost on your trek through the airport or on the plane.  (No, I am NOT a Discovery Toys consultant AND I am not being reimbursed to ‘advertise’ for them….this is truly my opinion.)   I share this because I LOVED them and used them for MANY things when my children were young.

  • Snacks/Bottles:  Of course, bring these, but be cautious of over-using them as it will increase the number of diaper changes you will need to do.  I mention this because I’ve seen parents who use food and drink as “calmers”….That will work against you in the long run.
  • Getting through security is always going to be a challenge with a baby. TSA liquid restrictions are ‘less’ for infant formula or medicines.  You are allowed to bring a “reasonable” amount through security.  (Check the TSA website for more detailed information)
  • Packing the diaper bag:  Make the diaper bag a “bag of bags” using Ziploc bags to separate items….a Ziploc bag for snacks, a bag for toys, a bag of a change of clothes, bag for 2-3 diaper changes…   It’s easier to grab a small Ziploc bag when you need a toy or a snack —or are heading to change a diaper rather than having to tote the entire diaper bag…or rummage through it for individual items then carry them loose.


  • Security:  Children and Airport Security will give ideas on File:2007 report child plane.jpghow to prepare your child for going through security.  This is EXTREMELY important when maneuvering through security with toddlers or preschoolers who don’t yet understand what is going on and what is being required of them.  It becomes exponentially more important if you have 2 (or 3)  young ones with you.
  • Snacks/Drinks:  Of course, you’ll need some of these, but be cautious about “over-using” them. (i.e. using food/drink as “calmers”)  It will just increase the number of diapers or trips to the “tiny” airplane bathroom you will have to make.
  • Toys:  A few toys are a good idea, but good judgement certainly has a place here.  I’ve seen parents who bring the child’s entire toy chest on the plane.  They’re just making the trip more stressful for themselves.  By all means, make the experience of the flight an exciting experience for your child.  There’s so many interesting things to see.  Of course, gone are the days when children could go up to the cockpit for a visit with the captain…but still, there are interesting things to see while there.  Make sure the child has a window seat and talk about what they’re seeing.   Computer games or favorite dvd’s can provide several hours of entertainment when the ‘newness’ of the plane wears off. (Don’t forget the earphones) Bring a favorite book – the one they ask you to read over and over at home.  You can get hours of reading and only carry 1 book.  🙂  Of course, a few well-chosen toys, crayons, or colored pencils and paper/coloring book are a good idea; just choose wisely.  My governing thought:  As many activities with as few items and weight as possible.
  • If your child is like mine, they attend countless birthday parties where they are given goodie bags.  Store some of those items throughout the year (crayons, stickers, plastic toys)  for the flight. They’re small and you won’t Toys at the Dollar Storecare that much if they get lost.  DON’T bring that treasured toy unless activity, coloring and puzzle booksYOU want to take responsibility for keeping up with it!  Of course, another option for cheap lightweight toys is the dollar store.


  • Make a “tent” for naps or play time by clipping one end of an airline blanket under the top of the folded-up tray and the other end under the headrest.  This is not only great for nap time, but makes an excellent “play area”….most kids LOVE “tents”.  🙂
  • Some recommend moist towellettes for freshening up or cleaning messes on a flight.  I actually do two different things. First, I bring antibacterial wipes for those times when germs are a concern (taking a child to the restroom where it’s very tight quarters and they have a tendency to touch everything! ha)  For cleaning up the messes children can make or for freshening up after a long flight, I prefer to bring a dry washcloth (in a Ziploc bag). Ask the flight attendant for a cup of warm water, then wet the cloth for use.   Wet washcloths are much more effective in cleaning up messes.  When you arrive at your hotel, rinse or wash it out with soap or shampoo and hang to dry.  Return it to your plastic bag when dry and it’s ready for your return flight.
  • Plan layovers to allow your child to walk off energy.  Long or non-stop flights might be ok for adults or teens, but not for small children. They NEED to get off the plane, walk around, go to a regular sized restroom, and get something REAL and substantial to eat.  Some airports are putting in children’s areas with play equipment.  Kayak  (app and website) has information on what is available at airports.

FOOD ON THE FLIGHT:  The airlines offer lunch boxes, but they are WAY over-priced for what they contain – which is typically pre-packaged items. You can purchase your own (on sale!) for much less.  These items pack very easily in a carry on or diaper bag.

snacks for travel

snacks for travel

Meal Suggestion: Take sandwiches then wash and freeze some grapes and put them in a freezer  bag. When placed in the sack with a sandwich(es), they’ll keep sandwiches cold. (Ice can’t go through security – it’s considered a ‘liquid’, but frozen grapes are OK.)  They’re actually quite delicious as they begin to thaw, but are still a little “icy” in the center.  After we did this on a flight, my kids starting asking for frozen grapes at home.  🙂

PHoto Credit:

Photo Credit: Sabrina S. CC Lic.

Candied ginger is a preventative remedy for motion sickness if you prefer to avoid medications.


Recommended by a Doctor: Using a little saline mist spray before boarding will keep your nose  from drying out and over producing moisture (a cause of the stuffiness after a long flight).  If your children will ‘allow’ you to give this to them, it’s a GREAT idea.  Saline is not a medication…it’s just “salt water” so is perfectly safe for children.  🙂

Happy Flying!!  🙂