Family Travel (aka The Miracle of Dental Floss)

CONTRIBUTED BY LUCIA

I am hoping this is the first in a series of posts about traveling with kids. Since this is the time of year for those especially long trips (PCSing, summer trips back to the States, etc). I thought it might be helpful to share some survival tips.

When we first arrived in Okinawa our son was five months old. We had high hopes and a long list for all of the wonderful Asian destinations we wanted to see. I am happy to say we did have some amazing trips but they weren’t always what we were expecting. Each trip was an adventure and also a learning experience. We quickly realized the importance of traveling light, making time for naps, and learning to accept that traveling with kids means we are not going to see every major tourist attraction listed in the guide books. Some of our more memorable travel experiences came as a result of having small travelers with us… slowing down the frantic tourist pace to hang out in a local park resulted in new friends in Tokyo, searching for whole milk in Thailand led us to a wonderful little cafe,  getting trampled by Korean junior high students as they tried to get close to our blonde, blue-eyed son made us feel like movie stars. Family travel can be a lot of work but it can also be a very rich and memorable experience.

One of the most challenging parts of family travel is the time in small confined spaces (ie, planes, trains, buses, etc). Here are some things that have worked for us (we have two kids….4 years old and 19 months old):

1) Dental Floss. Cheap, small, and provides hours of entertainment for toddlers. Let them unwind it, wind it up, and start all over again.

2) Small Portable DVD Player. We aren’t a big TV watching family but on a plane or in a cramped hotel room this sucker has been a lifesaver. Pack some new DVDs and watch the time fly by.

3) Magnadoodle (or the 100 yen versions).

4) Lots and lots of snacks. Don’t forget to pack lollipops. These are good for helping kids’ ears (or maybe just distracting them for the pain?). Gum or gummy worms work well for older kids.

5) Always pack an extra set of clothing for all family members. I wish I had listened to my own advice on a recent 5 hour flight. My daughter peed all over my jeans minutes before departure. Trust me, urine-soaked jeans aren’t good for traveling.

6) Wrap up small 100 yen toys or matchbox cars. Tissue paper makes everything more exciting. Pull out a new “surprise” when the little ones get antsy.

7) Vomit bags make good puppets (new vomit bags, not used ones)

8) Never hesitate to ask for help. Our experience throughout Asia and on most of our flights to/from the States is that people are generally very understanding and helpful. Be sure to ask for child-friendly meals. On many Asian airlines they will give out toys and provide baby bags for babies complete with jarred baby food, diapers, and wipes.

Please share your tips for surviving and enjoying family travel especially during those long flights!


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19 Comments
  • Pingback:Packing For the Long Flight | Germany Ja!

  • March 20, 2012

    Do you know how long is the flight from the States (LA) to Okinawa? and how many stops are there? Can we book our own tickets?

    Peggy
    Reply
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  • February 16, 2010

    Hi~ I’m coming to Okinawa (Naha) with my family (9 yr old boy, 11 month baby) in a couple weeks, because my husband has been invited to do a guest spot at a tattoo shop here. We are staying for 6 weeks, but can’t find housing and fear being forced to pay for a hotel the entire time. Are there any longer term housing options that won’t kill us financially? Also, we love to cook at home and it’s often easier with the kids and all, so that’s another reason we’d prefer to stay in an apartment or home than a hotel. Any suggestions greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    Anna S.
    Reply
  • February 13, 2010

    The information I find on this site is incredible. We are coming to the island on May31st and I cannot wait. We will be traveling with our 4 y.o and that kidsflysafe recomednation was fabulous! Thanks ladies!!!

    Victoria
    Reply
  • April 10, 2009

    While researching a “CAR SEAT APPROVED FOR AIRCRAFT TRAVEL” I found CARES kid fly safe at http://www.kidsflysafe.com/

    It’s a five point harness that straps to the airplane seat. Plus when you’re done you just toss it in your bag. Except it’s about $82 I don’t know if that’s worth it to anyone but I’m definitely going to look into it. Especially since my 4 year old is out growing his convertible car seat and I can just pass it down to my 1 yr old. I don’t know if I want to buy her another car seat. Hope this helps someone.

    Monica H
    Reply
  • December 14, 2008

    Does anyone know the rules for traveling with a new born? My husband and I are supposed to be leaving for Kadena AFB shortly after our daughter is born so by the time we get all of the documents for her such as her passport she’ll be about a month and a half, the reason Im asking if because a few people have said that some airlines have a age limit as to how young a child can be to fly. Any info will be GREAT

    Kelly
    Reply
  • December 14, 2008

    Does anyone know the rules for traveling with a new born? My husband and I are supposed to be leaving for Kadena AFB shortly after our daughter is born so by the time we get all of the documents for her such as her passport she’ll be about a month and a half, the reason Im asking if because a few people have said that some airlines have a age limit as to how young a child can be to fly. Any info will be GREAT

    Kelly
    Reply
  • October 6, 2008

    my favorite tool for traveling with kids: the Traveling Toddler (check it out on Amazon – currently $15). it is a T-shaped strap that allows you to strap your latch-equipped car seat to a carryon suitcase. we use it with the Sunshine Kids Radian 80 folding car seat (which is one of the narrowest available and great for those who travel a lot and/or have smaller cars) and an Ebags mini-lode carryon rolling bag. the strap is placed behind your suitcase and the latch straps on your car seat secure it to the suitcase. it is not the MOST secure thing in the world, especially with a soft-shell suitcase like mine, but it is so great to stroll through an airport after checking in with nothing but a rolling carryon, one child riding in the car seat/strapped to suitcase, one child riding in a child carrier, and one small shoulder or waistpack (which can be attached to the rolling suitcase if needed) to carry sippy cups and boarding passes (i personally am in love with the Mountain Smith Tour lumbar pack if you are looking for something new). and yes, it all fits down the airplane aisle, assuming your car seat is 16″ wide or narrower.

    my other favorite things … Ebags packing cubes, especially the smallest size. i just fill color-coded packing cubes with diapers and wipes in one, changes of clothes in another, and in-flight entertainment in another. then once i am on the plane, i pull all the necessary packing cubes from my rolling bag, stow the big bag overhead, and toss the packing cubes under the seat.

    last one: some kind of big hook – like you might use for repelling. i bought the “Mommy Hook” for $6 long ago, overpriced perhaps, but it is awesome. when i travel with the stroller this hooks to the handle and i can attach packing cubes or shopping bags, etc to it. without a stroller, it is just a nice way to keep all those extra bags in one spot, like when you are grabbing drinks after security at the airport.

    we fly a lot with our 4 year old and almost 2 year old (with one more on the way) and sometimes i have to fly with the kids by myself. i have found that lightening the load in the airport makes a HUGE difference. and pace yourself (as in at least 3 hour layovers to get through customs, security, bathroom breaks, and maybe a short stop at a play area). and ask for HELP.

    good luck! see you in Okinawa next fall!

    Anne
    Reply
  • August 14, 2008

    We have a 11 yr old, 18 mo old and 4 mo old. We bought the Stroller/car seat for the flight, it was sooooooooooo worth the money!!! We did have to seat the car seat rear facing to stop our son from kicking the seat in front of him, but it is small enough to fit down the isles on wheels and take 2 seconds to convert to a car seat. Awesome travel light tool! The PX on foster has them. Or i hears to GOGO kids attachment (PX also has) is good too

    melissa
    Reply
  • August 14, 2008

    Most public flight will not allow u to board a flight after 32 weeks post partum, and if they do tey require a realease from the Dr. If it is the MAC flight no flying after 34 weeks and u still must have a waiver from Dr. Hope this helps. I just had this issue in April. If u fly lots lots lots water, suppots stocking are a must to help w/swelling. Make sure u get up every hour to walk up and down the isles to help circulation. Good Luck!!

    Melissa
    Reply
  • July 7, 2008

    We just found out we will be coming to Oki possibly Oct/Nov…no details yet. Hoping this gets pushed back a bit as I am due at beginning of Oct with first.

    Any suggestions on what baby equip to bring?

    Thanks.

    Kris
    Reply
  • November 17, 2007

    Has anyone been to Hong Kong with kids? Any parks, or particular areas anyone could recommend? We are considering going with a 4 and 2 year old in the next few months.

    Jennifer
    Reply
  • July 24, 2007

    Great tips! We are planning a short trip to Tokyo for Labor Day weekend with our just turning 2 daughter and 4 month son. Nothing like diving right in!

    Stacy
    Reply
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  • July 10, 2007

    Julie,
    Good point about the bed situation. We co-slept so that made things easier. Friends of ours used to put a blanket in the bottom of the hotel bath tub and used that as a “crib” until their child became too mobile. Any other suggestions out there?

    lucias
    Reply
  • July 10, 2007

    Thanks for the great topic Lucia!
    One of the best things I love is the kid meals. On the United flight back to the states call before your flight and ask for them. The kid meals are served first and have more fruit and other kid friendly lifesaver type items.

    Also when traveling in asian countries be aware that even the five star hotels may not have cribs for infants. Asians don’t use the types of cribs westerners do and each hotel may only carry one western style crib so be sure to ask ahead of time if you need one or consider bringing your pack n play.

    Downtown Julie Brown
    Reply
  • July 10, 2007

    This is great advice; we’re trying to work up the energy to travel with the Bean soon.

    bianca bean
    Reply
  • July 10, 2007

    We also came here with fanciful dreams of travel but the kids changed that. HOWEVER, you give me hope here. I should be a bit more brave. Or a lot more brave. I’m instantly turned off by the actual traveling time. I haven’t gotten pass that part!

    I hope you continue with the SERIES. This is so super useful!

    mereditz
    Reply