Category Archives: Travel

Air Travel: Toddlers

Travel Series: The ABC’s of Flying with Toddlers

Welcome to the second installment of our summer travel series…flying with your toddler! For the purpose of this series, we are going to consider children between one to three years old as “toddlers”. (Click HERE If you are looking for baby flight tips!)

The key to understanding this age: squiggle. Children this age are newly mobile, and they want to move!! They are exploring their new freedom, figuring out boundaries, and sometimes even testing them as they reach the mid-twos and into the threes.

What to do with all this energy? My best advice is to work with it instead of against it.

A.) Talk to your children about what to expect.

I am a big believer in having one-sided conversations with your children at this age. I know they are probably not answering in complete sentences…it doesn’t mean that the information isn’t being soaked in. Take the time to explain and describe the experience.

Some things to highlight and fill in the details about might be…

We are going to pack – we are going to drive and park the car – we will go through security – we will wait to get on the plane – we will have to sit in our seats with our seat belts on – we will have fun – we will get to see the clouds – it’s going to be an adventure – it’s going to be cramped and feel like a long hug – we will get snacks – when we get off the plane we will see (people? place?) – we will have fun!

Yes, fun is in there more than once because THOUGHTS ARE THINGS! Start planting the seed in your child’s mind that this is going to be FUN and maybe, just maybe, (okay probably!) you will have a fun time if you allow yourself to experience a trip from your child’s point of view. Everything is new – big – amazing – and because you are there, they know they are safe.

Show them pictures of airports and airplanes. If you are going to take their car seat on the plane, tell them they are going to have it on the plane and that it may feel like a very long car ride. You can explain the experience of takeoff and landing – the opportunity to introduce concepts and vocabulary is endless when it comes to travel.

If you still have to carry travel documents (usually a yes for children under two) such as a birth certificate or vaccine record – check with your airline for requirements – then show them those, and show them where they are in your bag.

Once our children were mobile, I would also make them a name tag (2″x3″) to attach to their clothing.  On one side, I would put their picture, name and birthdate.  On the other side, I would write our names, phone numbers, list any allergies and their blood type, and the phrase, “I AM A U.S.A. CITIZEN”.  I would laminate this, and then attach it to their clothing with a safety pin.  You may want to do some trial runs with this before travel day so that they are used to it, and you can figure out where best to put it so that it stays on without bothering them.  The best spot for our kiddos was at their waist right around the area where a waistband was out of the way of a seatbelt.

I would also fill out a couple of index cards with the same info and tape it to their car seats and the underside of their strollers.  I am a big “just in case” person – thankfully, we never had to use them.  My intention was that our children could be identified, cared for, and quickly reunited if we were separated or god-forbid, incapacitated for whatever reason.  Once I placed them, I would show them where they were and tell them that this information would help reunite us if we were separated.

B) Packing List for the flight

Diapers – Plan on taking two sizes for the flights…one that fits and one size bigger to catch blowouts – put the child in both of them for the duration of the flight. This would also work if there is going to be extended car trips at your destination.

Books – we love the Indestructibles series: they are lightweight, bendable, and there are no words! You can introduce vocabulary or make up a new story every time!! Even if you can’t find these, something your child can hold aside from your phone is great! At this stage, “reading” also includes eating the books sometimes. Pick two or three favorites if you are packing board books – and maybe read them in different voices, or change up the story a little bit every time and see if they notice!

Toys – some favorites that you know they like, some new ones wrapped up as gifts. We would buy a little set and wrap up each piece individually to be opened up every time the alarm rang on a watch or phone.

Snacks – I seriously believe that you cannot pack enough of these. We had a small soft-sided travel cooler that would carry a small ice pack and lots of cheese sticks. I also like the “handful” snacks from Trader Joe’s (lots of protein!), and also fruit leathers or cereal snacks. The cereal snacks serve a double purpose… first, you can make shapes or letters with them on top of a napkin on the tray table…and then your toddler can eat them up.

Wipes – do not leave home without them!! I put some in my purse and in the diaper bag.

Wet mat – I shared THESE last week as well – I never left home without several of these tucked into my bags…they are great for the car seat or your lap if your child is going to sit on you, and they also make great floor mats if you are going to be at the airport for a while and need a place for your child to sit aside from the dirty floor.

Extra clothes – for both child and parent!! When a spill or a blow-out happens, it is hardly ever contained to one person. As I mentioned last week, extra clothes is packed into zip lock bags – it lets you squeeze out the air for tight packing, and also provides a container to hold any icky smells/wet stuff you don’t want getting on the rest of the items you packed in your bag.

Wet bags or zip bags – I always carry an extra wet bag and a few quart-size sealable plastic bags…you just never know. They can store dirty clothes, uneaten snacks, serve as containers for errant toys or crayons…they have always come in handy.

Coloring or writing implements – a spiral notebook and triangle crayons or pencils that don’t roll are my favorites!!

C) Flight Tips

  1. As in last week’s tip list, do your best to plan flights around their sleep times. Allow yourself plenty of time to get to the airport, get through security, and then have time to feed them and play with them in the gate area before you board the plane. Walk up and down the concourse, or have races, or go window shopping if your airport has shops along the way…anything to get them primed for a nap on the plane. Once you board and get them settled, you can all sleep through the flight.
  1. Take advantage of any early boarding policies for families with small children. At this age, some kiddos will still use their carrier, others may be too big or too squiggly and your best bet to move through the airport is a stroller…either way, it adds up to a lot of gear!! Early boarding gives you extra time to lug on any of the bags, car seats, assorted gear, etc. that you don’t gate check*, and let’s you get your children situated without the huffing and puffing of the line of people behind you. Wait until they are pleasantly surprised when your child travels well…they will change their tune!
  1. Have a strategy for take-off and landing – at least two to three ideas to help them deal with the air pressure changing in their ears. If you are still nursing and you have a lapsit child, you can breastfeed them during take-off and landing. If your child is in their car seat and/or not breastfeeding anymore, then you can offer them a drink or show them how to yawn big and wide…make it into the “Yawning Game”…who can yawn the biggest?!? Or if your child is a little older, you may even consider chewing gum for them. Whatever it is, have a plan in place to help them move air down through their throat to help counteract the effects of changing air pressure.
  1. Definitely take advantage of empty aisles between service times if, despite your best laid plans, your sweet pea did not fall asleep for the duration of the flight. As long as the seat belt light is off, you two can go up and down the plane. I would also use a timer for this…when the alarm goes off, we will get to walk up and down the plane one time. Have them look for a color as they walk, or maybe a letter – let the walk be a little different every time.
  1. Relax – your child and the people around you feed off of your energy. If you are anxious, they will multiply it. If you are relaxed, your child feels your safety, and the people around you will feel your confidence and probably start to relax a little themselves. If I can make eye contact, I will greet them and make a little small talk. You can even invite them to help and make them your ally…

Hello, this is my Sweet Pea’s (x)th trip…we are so excited to have fun!! We have packed lots of entertainment in our magic bag…and of course, if you have any positive travel tips for toddlers, I’d love to hear them! Hopefully we will all get to sleep…and if not, we are going to have lots of fun learning and exploring along our trip to (destination)!!


That’s about all I can think of for now. Did I forget anything? I would love to hear what works for your family – please leave me your best tips in the comments!


*gate check: once you get to the gate with all your gear, you can check anything you don’t want to or can’t carry in the main cabin due to size restrictions. I would pack a couple of large garbage bags to store the gear in and attach a name tag and claim ticket to the outside of the bag.

Air Travel: Babies

SERIES: Traveling with your Sweet Pea(s)

Flying with Babies

Otter and I had the pleasure of attending a very special family occasion over Memorial Day Weekend. We had to fly, and the crying babies reminded me that we know a few travel tricks and tips in regards to traveling with small children. I felt funny going up to the parents to see if I could help, however, I resolved to share the things we have learned about traveling with Sweet Peas over here any of you that are going to be traveling with their littles this season, so that you can benefit from the little things we gathered along the way. I have also drawn from the brain trust of our SPB community to offer you the best of what we have collectively learned about traveling as parents. Thank you to our amazing group of students who have their own awesome tips to share!!

The first posts in this installment are going to deal with travel by air, broken down in three categories: babies, toddlers/preschoolers, and elementary age children. After we share about flying, we’ll talk about ways to have successful road trips with those same age groups. So here we go on our “Summer Travel Series”; let’s start by talking about flying with babies.

Babies (0-12 months) have very basic needs that have to be met: hunger, cleanliness, and comfort. They must be fed regularly to stave off hunger, changed from soiled nappies to clean ones, and they crave the attention and care of a loving adult. Add in,” attending to the discomforts of teething” when appropriate. We have found that by meeting those needs, we generally had happy babies that traveled surprisingly well.

There are a some planning items before your trip to make things smoother:

  • Plan to travel according to your child’s naptime or bedtime. We would schedule flights so that we would have a higher likelihood of sleeping children while we were in the air.
  • Remember to bring a birth certificate or vaccine record for your infant. Call your airline to find out if a copy or an original is required, and what kind of documentation they need to prove that you are traveling with your own child – usually until they are two years old. We have not had to provide authentication documents for our older children.
  • Figure out how you are going to move your baby and your gear. Most of our students feel that babywearing is easier than carting a stroller. There are others that take the stroller to cart all the stuff and wear the child. I suggest taking a couple of mall trips with what you plan to bring and see what works best.  Malls offer air conditioned walking space – see how it goes with what you think you are going to bring so you can best plan for your trip.  It may look funny, but at least you will be prepared!!


Now onto how we meet our baby’s needs when traveling by air on Travel Day.

Tip Number 1: Our first tip addresses the area of “comfort”. Find something  – anything – to help with the ear popping.
If you are changing altitude, your little one’s ears’ are going to pop. There really is no way around it that we know of. With that in mind, have a strategy for take off and landing. Is it breastfeeding a lap child? Is it offering a bottle of breastmilk if your child will be traveling in their car seat? Is it offering a pacifier or a teething toy? Or maybe they will suck on a blanket with tags on it, or the sucking pads on their car seat or a rolled up baby carrier? Maybe they like to suck on fingers…theirs or yours will do. Whatever the mode of delivery is, find something that makes them move air back in and through their throat to release the pressure that builds up in the ears during take-off and landing.

Read latest TSA info if you are bringing any liquids. You can check the link HERE.

Tip Number 2: if possible, purchase a ticket for your child so you can use their car seat on the plane.
We heard from several flight attendants that children who traveled in their car seats did better on planes. They attributed it to the fact that children relate the car seat to traveling and sitting still for extended periods of time. Whatever it is, it did seem to make for smoother rides in our case.

The car seat is required to be in the window seat so other passengers wouldn’t have to climb over it in an emergency. The other caveat with this is that if you have a car seat, your child is required to use it for take off and landing, which means breastfeeding is out as an option to help with ear popping. You will have to consider some of the other options listed above to help with that.

When we traveled with our children as infants in their car seats, we would offer them breastmilk in bottles during take off and landing, and then if they were awake, I would nurse them during the flight.

In researching this post, I found that Southwest Airlines still offers reduced fares for children under two to encourage parents to travel with car seats. Check with your carrier to see if they will do the same.

Tip Number 3: Take full advantage of family priority boarding/de-boarding.
Not all airlines offer this if they board by group number, however, it doesn’t hurt to ask the gate agent what their policy is. We have found this to be subjective – sometimes it depends on the person and the kind of day they are having. So just ask – the worse that will happen is that they will say no.

Tip Number 4: Sit near the front of the aircraft, and near a bathroom for changing access.
Being as close to the front as possible makes for a shorter walk with all the gear. Usually, there is a bathroom near the front so it’s a two-for-one win. We have also taken advantage of the long aisle between beverage service times to take a walk to the bathroom at the other end of the plane. It just depends on how much energy your child has at any given time.

Tip Number 5: Practice up on “distraction techniques” in case baby gets upset or wants entertainment.
Along with that, don’t stress it if something goes awry – whether your child is fussy or another passenger is being nasty – children seem to pick up on this and it doesn’t help the situation. Have fun! Make a joke out of it – humor is a choice, too!

Depending on the child’s age, distraction techniques may be silly faces, baby games (peek a boo, where’s the person/toy), songs, food, or toys. Keep any physical favorites at easy reach within the outside pockets of your diaper or travel bag.

We would also pack a couple of new toys that we thought might be interesting because they were different from anything they had, or maybe a variation on a toy we know they liked. I would gift-wrap them to add to the suspense. To this day, our older children look forward to travel day to see what kind of “gifts” they will get.

Tip Number 6: Put the baby in two sizes of diapers if using disposables.
The current size your child is wearing is the first line of defense, and one size bigger in case of leaks or blowouts.

Tip Number 7: Aside from packing a couple of extra outfits and blankets for your sweet pea, at least pack a clean shirt for each parent in your carry-ons.
Just in case your baby has a blow out or vomiting incident, you all get a clean shirt. There is nothing worse than smelling like the accident that happened at the beginning of the trip for the whole flight. We pack extra clothing in ziplock bags. This serves two purposes: one, it makes for more efficient packing. Roll up the clothes, squeeze it in the bag, squeeze out all the air, and now you have a compressed slick packet that easily slides into a full bag. Two, it makes a great container for the soiled clothing you are trading out for the the clean clothes. We packed all the extras in their own bag so that there would always be a 1-1 trade of clean for dirty items, be they baby clothes, blankets, or parent’s clothing.

Tip Number 8: Waterproof pads rock.
I would put one in the sweet pea’s car seat to protect against the blowouts, and also have an extra one handy to put in my lap if I was going to hold our sweet pea. You can never be too safe when it comes to guarding against spills of any kind. HERE is a link to some that we used – funny to see that they are still available although they are discontinued. (Not an affiliate link – click away!)

Tip Number 9: Be flexible.
As with so many things in life, taking a measure of grace to help you go with the flow is always helpful. My husband never understood why I packed for every “just in case” I could think of…my worse case scenario was getting stuck in an airport with no access to food or diapers. However, he humored me as I stuffed diapers and snacks into every empty space once our carry-ons were packed with essentials. We never got stuck in an airport without food or diapers. We did experience travel delays every once in a while, and those extras did come in handy, though never to the extreme I imagined.

Understand that just about everyone is freaking out when flights are changed and/or delayed. Be the cool family with happy kids by remaining calm. As mentioned above, our children pick up on our vibe – so keep it cool…you are prepared with food, diapers and distraction techniques – you’ve got this!!

Tip Number 10: Have fun!!
It never ceases to amaze me that tubes of chunky metal get off the ground and move us from one part of the world to another. If your child is awake, count how many seconds it takes for lift off. Look outside the window with them and notice the wings if you are over a wing, or the landscape, or the clouds. Even if your child isn’t verbal yet, if they are seeing they are processing. Start offering them words for all that they are experiencing. You never know – they may surprise you with their memories of early travel someday…they are definitely taking it all in.


How about you – what are your best travel tips for babies??

Tuesday Tips: Busy Books

We are going to be taking a few road trips this summer, so when my friends posted THIS link, I was intrigued.  A portable activity kit could definitely entertain our kiddos on the road.

I also thought that they would have the added benefit of keeping the little Sweet Peas entertained when I was reading out loud to the older kiddos during our morning school session.  So far they have been a big hit.

I am sharing our modifications and some new ideas that occurred to me based on the skills we want to improve. I decided to start from scratch with most of the activity cards instead of printing off the provided links for a couple of reasons. I want to provide a print-rich environment, so I added words to many of the activities.  In addition, I also want everything the Sweet Peas see to be bi-lingual so that they are exposed to both of the languages we speak in the house in print as well as sound.  (Even when some of the activities had words, they were English- only. )

The books were such a big hit with Otter and Charger! Puma and Night Owl were also flipping through the books, checking out the different activities.  I felt badly that I hadn’t created something for them, so when the opportunity presented itself, I bought more supplies to create books with age-appropriate activities for them.  They helped me choose what they wanted in their books.

As far as the little Sweet Peas go, I am thrilled that they are enjoying their books and looking for new pockets to unzip.  I loved all the printables (free!) on the Busy Little Bugs site. I am thinking that I will have to go back there to the to find new games that I can swap out periodically so that the littles do not get bored doing the same activities.  Ideally, I would like to have twenty different “busy bags” with activities to rotate through, maybe putting in five zip pockets at a time into the Busy Books, and letting them choose their favorites when it’s time to hit the road.

We are three days into having these books around, and every day I still hear (several times a day!), “Where is my Busy Book?” YEAH!


  1. Links to all the websites I used to make the Busy Books are at the bottom of the post.
  2. If you would like my English/Spanish activity cards, then please send an email to  I will send you the file I used so you can print them out for your Sweet Peas.
  3. Felt sticks to itself!! You probably knew this – I am thrilled since it is new to my memory bank! Saved all the leftovers – looking forward to cutting it up and using it for future activities.
  4. Cardstock and Con-Tact® Laminate paper are the best! I wish I had picked up the cardstock the first time around at the store.  Since I didn’t and I am not patient when my mind is set on finishing something, most of the activity cards are printed on regular copy paper.   Still okay – the laminate paper make them durable enough to get good use out of them.  In the future and for any recipients of Busy Book gifts, we will definitely use cardstock.

Charger’s Book (5 years old)BLOG Busy Book Overview

Felt Name Board with letters color-coded for vowels and consonantsBLOG Busy Book Name

Shape-MatchBLOG Busy Book Shapes

Buttons + Boards for sortingBLOG Busy Book Sorting

Counting Cards 1-10 odd/even color-codedBLOG Busy Book Numbers

Memory Game / Puzzle Cards

BLOG Busy Book Memory

Charger’s pieces double as a puzzle and a memory game; I chose a fun chevron print for the top-side of Otter’s game

Color Card MatchBLOG Busy Book Rainbow

“Copycat” bags: Felt “Snake”, Velcro Craft Sticks, Before & After number game from Busy Little BugsBLOG Busy Book Copycat

Mona MELisa Sticker Playset – we store it in a page protector sleeve so that the sleeve also serves as sticker storage.


Image from Mona MELisa Webpage


Otter’s Book (2.5 years old)

  • Felt Name Board with letters and shapes
  • Shape-Match Buttons + Board for sorting BLOG Busy Book Toddler Sort
  • Counting Cards 1-10 odd/even color-coded – Otter’s set has pom-poms to put on the circles – she is still having a hard time with the mini-clothespins.  She reminded me that she can use the big ones 😉 I tried to explain to her that they don’t fit in the bags and we’ll have to save those for the schoolroom games.
  • Felt “Snake”
  • Velcro Craft Sticks
  • Memory Game
  • Color Card Match
  • Mona MELisa Sticker Playset – we store it in a page protector sleeve so that the sleeve also serves as sticker storage.

    Blog Busy Books TRVLPPPONY-1

    Image from Mona MELisa Webpage

Puma’s book (nine years old): BLOG Busy Book Puma

  • Felt shapes for creative design
  • Beads + Cord for jewelry making
  • Horse coloring pages
  • Memory Game
  • Mona MELisa Sticker Playset – we store it in a page protector sleeve so that the sleeve also serves as sticker storage.

Image from Mona MELisa Webpage 


Night Owl’s book (six years old):BLOG Busy Books Owl

  • Sorting Cards + Buttons
  • Velcro Craft Sticks
  • Knights (Printed on cardstock /laminated.  They stand-up for play and fold flat for storage)
  • Memory Game (Dragon Images + a Bowman Family Crest for top-side)
  • Dragon Coloring Pages


Link List

Inspiration Post From Mama.Papa.Bubba blog

Busy Little Bugs – Printable activities

Travel Play Sets – Mona MELisa Designs

Chevron Paper

Pirate ship background turned puzzle*304*304125.jpg/

Flowers for Puma’s Memory Game

Google Searches
Knight Images
Horse coloring pages
Dragon coloring pages



Thursday Tips: Summer Bucket List

I was inspired by Jessica at Little Baby Garvin to do a Summer Bucket List a little while back and I thought I would share here!

nothing says sweet summer like ice cream on the beach!

nothing says sweet summer like ice cream on the beach!

Now that my T baby is over 2 he is much more aware of what we are doing each day, has his friends (seriously SO cute), loves certain activities, doesn’t love others, tells me what he wants, doesn’t want, etc. and is making me very excited to share some summer fun with him! We live on the central/northern California coast so the temperatures don’t really warm up here as they do in other places where there is no escaping that it is sweet, sweet summertime so I figured planning some out of the ordinary activities would help us get into the summer groove and really live it up these next few months before the crazy-ness of the fall & winter holidays hit!

Go to a Giant’s Game: T loves watching the big kids play baseball at the local baseball field and often hits baseballs with myself or his dad, I am not sure about sitting through a whole game but I think he would love it nonetheless!

Make Homemade Ice Cream: I have had my eye on this machine for awhile now, I think I should just pull the plug and we can get to creating our own healthy and delicious versions.

Swimming Lessons: check! We signed up for lessons that start July 2nd, a local outdoor pool that is heated is having them twice a week for four weeks, bonus – it is at the beach!

Take a Vacation: Our good friends recently moved to Seattle, a city I have been dying to visit for some time now. Summer would be the perfect timing weather wise, even though we live in an idealistic vacation destination it is always nice to try and escape the hustle and bustle or routine of daily life sometimes.

Celebrate the 4th of July: Last year we were moving on the 4th of July so no celebrations ensued, this year it is the one year anniversary of us living in this amazing place and I really want to celebrate! We don’t have fireworks near us either so going all out on a party, BBQ or something sounds exactly like what we need. T also has this adorable shirt a friend got him for his birthday that we have been saving for the 4th, so he definitely needs some fun activities to match his festive outfit.

in all his America glory :)

in all his America glory 🙂

We had a fun time! Nothing epic – but we wore cute outfits, visited a park with live music and had lots of fun and celebrated with great food, friends and family.

Go Kayaking: Kayak rentals here require that any children on board are at least 5 years of age, so we need to scope out a cheap kayak to buy or borrow. We have been wanting to do this forever and this summer seems like the perfect time to get in gear and make it happen.

Grow some more things: We currently have one planter box growing cilantro, tomatoes, strawberries and sugar snap peas. We planted them on Mother’s Day and they have yet to really take off. I would like to dedicate some time to mixing up the soil, adding some compost and really get some more things growing in the next month or so. T baby loves watering the plants and is even more obsessed with picking the fruits, we need some more for him to harvest!

Visit Friends: It has been a year since we moved from our brief stay in Sacramento, we have many friends and family there though and it would be nice to make a visit before everyone is busy with holiday plans.

Go Camping: My husband has been wanting to go camping forever, and we have yet to take our little T! He loves being outside and his current obsessions include rocks, sticks and things to do with dirt. He would be right at home. We really need to make a trip happen soon!

sticks & stones, the way to this kid's heart!

sticks & stones, the way to this kid’s heart!

And of course, last but certainly not least, go to the beach as much as possible! It was 70 degrees and sunny today so that is where you could find us. I plan on us trying to soak up as much sun as possible and the days the fogs burns off the beach compares to no other.

What are you plans with your Sweet Peas for summer? Does summer seem busier than normal or is it a time you try to relax? I would love to hear what everyone else is up to and even get some more ideas!

Family Fun: Destination Unknown

We used to do these fun getaways with our students when I worked in the dance business, and I thought that this would be a fun idea to modify and share with you as a family event.

The whole idea behind this was the fun and adventure and the thrill of signing up for a trip where the destination was a surprise.  We promised that it would be 5-star service, sight-seeing and lots of dancing!  Our students enjoyed doing these – nobody wanted to miss out and be the ones who stayed home when everyone else went galavanting off for a good time!

It occurred to me that this idea is perfectly suited for a family!  You could plan it within your budget: you could do anything from a staycation in your city, to a road trip, to a trip across the country or overseas to a resort.

Here are the keys:

  • If traveling by air, plan in advance – THIS article suggests purchasing 60-days out for the best prices on airfare.  (check it out for other money-saving tips, too)
  • If you are going the resort route, plan to visit a resort in the off-season.  They usually run specials to lure visitors during their slow time.  It’s an added bonus for us living in Phoenix – the 5-star resorts run great deals over the hot summer months – many are doable with a modest budget if you are willing to visit in July or August.
  • If traveling by car or train, plan around your Sweet Peas sleep schedules.  If they can sleep through drive/ride time, it makes for a quieter road trip with less stops, and it keeps the destination a surprise a little bit longer.  Added bonus: quiet talk time for you and your partner!
  • Another tip shared in the article was to arrive in the evening – this is especially beneficial if you are traveling with Sweet Peas.  Giving them a full night’s sleep before taking off for sight seeing makes for better travel anytime!

Once you plan your trip, it’s time to build the suspense!  About a week to two weeks before the event (you know your Sweet Peas breaking point on suspense!), start dropping hints about the Destination Unknown.  You can make a collage, make a playlist, show them the bags you are packing (if they are readers, you can write them a packing list!), read stories about activities you will be doing at your destination, if you know someone who has been there before, you can borrow souvenirs to share at mealtime…the possibilities for creative clues are endless.

When it’s go time, blindfold your Sweet Peas as you get into the car.  They probably won’t keep them on until you get to your destination – the suspense is fun while it lasts, though!  And then take lots of pictures, and incorporate them into a memory box with all the clues you dropped before the trip.

The Destination Unknowns we did with our students were definitely among the most memorable. I can imagine it would be even more fun with the people that you can share the memories with for years to come.

Where would you take your family on a surprise trip?

Tuesday Tips: How to Gluten-Free Road Trip

How does a Gluten-Free family pack for a road trip?

Actually, there is a little more…our allergy list looks like this: gluten (wheat, barley, rye, spelt), egg, cane sugar, peanuts, soy, coconut, hazelnut, and watermelon.

People who are not familiar with allergies, or who are new to allergen-aware living look at that list and freak out! What do you eat? How do you manage?  Do you eat out? Can you leave the house?

When I first learned about all the foods that send our two eldest children over the edge, I freaked out, too.  I cried.  I didn’t think we would ever eat out or go on vacation again.

Then I got over it and did what I do best: I got busy.  I read everything I could find.  I scoured the stores for gluten-free (GF) sections.  I got good at reading labels and all the unfamiliar ways those foods are listed (more on that another day).  We tried all the brands at least once and pared down the selection to a few favorites.  (We are so blessed to live in a day and age where there is so much selection…when my brother presented with a gluten-allergy twenty years ago my mom had almost zero to choose from.)

I also came to the realization that our list was only 8 items long.  That left us about 2000 foods that we can eat, and we have barely scratched the surface when I think about what our kiddos eat on a regular basis…we still have a lot of food exploring to do!!

How do we plan for a road trip?

First, we usually try to stay at hotels that have a kitchenette.  With our family our size, the kind of accommodation we need for space usually includes this feature.  This allows me to make pasta for the kiddos to take along if we are eating out.  I can also bake cookies if we are going to visit family or friends who are not familiar with our sensitivities.  When we visit, we usually bring along fruit, cheese and cookies, as well as a bag of pasta to cook there.  This way I know our kiddos are going to at the very least, eat protein, starch, and fruit, and have a “safe” dessert.  I can live with that as a meal on vacation.

In the case where we are staying at a venue without a kitchenette, I call ahead about two weeks before our visit.  I find out what kind of accommodations they make, or are willing to make, for our family.

For the times we are going to eat out (after all, vacation from the kitchen counts, right?) I also scour the Internet to find out where the “safe” restaurants are.  We know we can count on a few of them to be good for families with allergies.  On out list are P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, Pei Wei Asian Diner, Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill, and Chick-Fil-A.  I also look for Mexican restaurants – generally safe; as well as Thai and Chinese restaurants…as long as we stay away from the soy sauce, or ask if they have gluten-free soy sauce, we are okay.

The other thing I search for are our top 3 grocery stores: Sprouts, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.  Since we travel to major metropolitan areas for the most part, we can generally find two out of three.  We bring consumables for about 3 days, stop for soft fruits upon arrival, and we plan for a store stock-up on Day 3 or Day 4 of our trip.  On longer trips, we find that we are hitting the grocery stores about every 4 days.

In the days before the trip, there are grocery store runs to all 3 stores in town.  I bake cookies the day before we leave, and I store it in daily rations.  This trip, we also decided to try a recipe from Weelicious…we made some fruit leather that tastes and smells A.Maz.Ing.

Chocolate Chip Cookies using 1-2-3 Gluten-Free Mix and Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips

Chocolate Chip Cookies using 1-2-3 Gluten-Free Mix and Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips

BLOG GFtravel.6

Strawberries + Honey = Amazing
Puma enjoyed the puree, and Otter was looking for more “smoothie” after we gave her a taste of the puree – will definitely be making this again!

We pack in reusable shopping bags and a soft cooler that we can use when we go shopping at our destination.
Dry Goods
GF cereals
A couple of bags of GF pasta
A couple of boxes of GF cookie mix
Hardy fruits: apples, oranges, green bananas (we buy them green to allow them to resist bruising and ripen on the road)
GF Crackers
GF Pretzels
That’s It Fruit Bars (
Pure Brownie Bars & Cherry Bars (

Dry foods that travel well enough :)

The way we ensure some fruits get into the kiddos on the road - dry all the way!

The way we ensure some fruits get into the kiddos on the road – plus the token brownie bar 🙂

Carrot Sticks
GF Chocolate Chips
GF Chocolate Chip Cookies
Flax seed

Liquid vitamins, probiotics, cookies! fruit leather, yogurt, nectarine, cheese and hummus are under the ice pack

Liquid vitamins, probiotics, cookies! fruit leather, yogurt, nectarine, cheese and hummus are under the ice pack

The kiddos snack on the dry cereal in the car.  We can also use it when we hit the breakfast bar at hotels – we have yet to go to a hotel where I feel at ease that they take cross-contamination precautions in the big breakfast bar areas.

Snacking on the road is usually a smorgasbord.  Everybody picks three things to put in their snack bag, and this is what they snack on until we take a break and re-fill if necessary.

A mix of Vera Bradley, PBKids, and Itsy Ritzy.  Since switching over to reusable containers we hardly ever use plastic baggies - don't miss them at all!

A mix of Vera Bradley, PBKids, and Itsy Ritzy. Since switching over to reusable containers we hardly ever use plastic baggies – don’t miss them at all!

When we get where we are staying, we hit a grocery store and purchase the softer fruits that do not travel well: strawberries, grapes, mangoes and peaches for our family.

Now we have a full compliment of what our family would call “convenience” foods: single serving sizes, or easy to wash and cut when we are ready to prep snacks for the day.

Why go through all this “trouble”…because it is so worth it when we get there and see this…pure, unbridled joy with not a care in the world 🙂

Puma and Night Owl can barely contain their excitement when we arrive at our destination - best.feeling.ever

Puma and Night Owl can barely contain their excitement when we arrive at our destination – best.feeling.ever

P.S. Hello, Bernice!  We got to meet a SPB/SPF fan out on our shopping trip on Sunday – so lovely to meet you! Thank you for being a devoted reader and an awesome mama yourself 🙂

Crafty Garden Mama

Tuesday Tip: Traveling with your nursling

As we prepare to take one more trip before we settle back into our homeschool year, I thought I would share some of the things we do to prepare to travel with our children, specifically our youngest.  One of the greatest conveniences of breastfeeding is that your milk is always available, in the right quantity and at the right temperature.  We have enjoyed being very mobile with our little ones.

Here are some things we have learned along the way:

If your nursling was into a rhythm, prepare it to change.  Whether you are changing time zones, or changing the people coming into your circle, or maybe it’s simply a change in the place where you are sleeping, nurslings are usually a little thrown off from their patterns.  Having specific routines in place may help ease their transition through your trip.  Wherever a routine fits into your schedule, keep it: morning routine, nap routine, bedtime routine.  Usually a family has a consistent way of doing things somewhere in their day if they think about it.  Figure out where yours is and keep it consistent when you are away from home.  Keeping it consistent may ease your baby back into their other patterns once they settle in.

Also prepare yourself to be flexible: you may not be able to get back to your sleep space right on time for your nursling’s nap.  Can baby sleep in the car as you drive, sleep in a carrier, sleep in a stroller?  Have a back-up plan just in case so that you can enjoy your trip and the new sights without being tied to your nursling’s schedule which they may not be keeping anyway.

Your nursling may want to nurse more.  This goes back to your baby’s rhythm.  Even the slightest change in their day may send your baby back to the breast more often at home.  Their need to comfort nurse may be heightened in your new surroundings.  Knowing this, plan ahead if you think frequent nursing is going to be uncomfortable in your vacation/trip space.  Call your hosts ahead of time and feel out their comfort level with breastfeeding (if they are not, ask them to think about where you can nurse when you are visiting them), search out family-friendly venues, plan your wardrobe according to ease of nursing.  You can mix fashion and functionality…in fact, one of my favorite lines is Momzelle, which happens to be on sale today!

Your nursling may be happier next to you.  Keeping your baby “on” you may not be feasible through your whole trip.  However, if you are comfortable babywearing or have time to get used to it before your trip, that close proximity has been another way we have found to ease our nurslings anxiety when we travel.

Bring some of your favorite foods with you.  If your nursling has already started solids, bring some of their favorite snack foods with you.  We usually bring along enough for a couple of days of snacking.  With the ease of the internet, you may be able to find a store that sells your nurslings favorite foods at your destination.  Also remember that “food before one is just for fun”.  Friends or family that you are visiting may fret that your baby isn’t eating enough…rest assured that your breastmilk makes all the nutrients your baby needs and they will be getting enough to thrive up until around their first birthday (more HERE).

When you relax and have fun, your nursling will to.  Our nurslings are little energy readers – are yours?  They know when we are feeling off, and likewise when we are at ease.  Do you know how to operate at your best “frequency”?  Make sure that you take care of yourself so that you can be at your best when you are on your trip.

What tips would you share with a family traveling with a nursling?

Did you see last week’s tips on handling breastfeeding when you travel in regards to nursing in public and breastfeeding laws?  You may want to check that out if you are traveling out of state.  Personally, I will be refreshing myself on CA laws this week 🙂