How to Travel with Kids by Plane

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With all of the ridiculous articles and shares floating around the interwebs about families who preemptively hand out goody bags to other passengers on a plane lest the other adults not act like adults if their children might act like children, it’s no wonder that the idea of flying with small kids is enough to strike fear into the hearts of parents far and wide.  But I’m here to tell you that you can rest easy.  We have been flying since my oldest was 11 weeks old and, not only have we never had a terrible experience with other passengers, we’ve become pretty excellent at making the whole process pretty seamless.  Here’s the lowdown on how we travel:

Car Seats!

First off, buy yourself a lightweight car seat for travel.  Your baby should have his or her own seat for maximum safety and the car seat will also provide an excellent, familiar place to nap.

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Rolling through the airport in Austin, TX

Luggage checking or even gate checking a car seat can cause serious, invisible damage to the integrity of your seat and endanger your child in a crash.  If your baby is still in the infant car seat (by the way, my favorite is the Cybex Aton), read up on your manual before leaving so you know how to safely install it without the base.  You heard that right: you do NOT need the base for your infant car seat – leave that heavy sucker at home!  If your baby is out of the infant seat or your child is up to age 5, pick up an Evenflo Sureride DLX for under $100 and one of these travel backpacks so that you can haul this lightweight seat through the airport on your back.  You will look ridiculous, but your life will be easy.  (Besides, when we became parents, we started accepting we would not always look cool, yes?)  Alternatively, you can grab a GoGo Kidz to wheel your car seat (and baby if safely buckled in) through the airport.  I’ve used both setups and personally prefer the backpack, but ymmv.

 

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At the airport in Dublin

Strollers!

Next, choose a lightweight stroller that is suitable to your destination.  This means if you are going somewhere with cobblestone streets, poor sidewalks, or other rough terrain, do not bring your umbrella stroller.  For these destinations you will want air tires or air tire equivalents.  My very favorite stroller for tackling European streets is the Micralite Fastfold Super-lite.  It isn’t available in the US, but if you plan ahead and stalk Craigslist, chances are you’ll find one.  If you need a double, you can take one of the Micralites that is rebranded as the Joovy Toofold with the second seat. The Toofold is what I used on our most recent trip to Italy.

Checking out the residents at Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen
Checking out the residents at Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen

 

If your destination doesn’t need beefy tires, go with one of the smallest, lightest strollers on the market, the Mountain Buggy Nano.  This stroller fits into an overhead bin on the plane, is easy to carry up and down stairs at train stations without lifts, reclines well for comfy naps, has a decent canopy, and has a shockingly large basket.  This is what I took to Denmark, Sweden, and Germany with great success.

Another excellent travel option is the Babyzen YOYO.  This small, light weight stroller also folds compactly enough to carry on-board and store in the overhead bin (I really can’t stress how fantastic this is – especially on international flights where gate checked strollers do not reappear at connection gates or for arrivals where the jetway will be unbearably hot or cold while you’re waiting for your stroller to be carried up).  The YOYO is a sexy, nimble stroller that packs an excellent suspension, an adjustable recline and leg rest, and an ample basket into its 13lb self.  It is also compatible with car seat adapters.  The YOYO also functions just as nicely as an everyday stroller that won’t take up your whole trunk.

Entertainment!

Now that you have your gear and are on your way, you need to keep the little people entertained.  This is easier than you think.  If you have a young toddler, simple tasks work well.  Bring a pack of kleenex and show your baby how to shred them up.  This task alone is lots of fun!  Once the shredding is losing its luster, take the shreds and demonstrate stuffing them into a TP roll (easy to pack in your purse) or a flat tissue box.  You will be amazed by how much time can be spent packing and unpacking the roll or box.  And this game isn’t just fun for little ones!  My 6 year old still enjoys shredding tissue/paper towels/paper and packing them into something; she now calls this process making nests.

My kids have always had a lot of fun searching through the seatback magazines for pictures of babies, mommies, daddies, pets, etc.  It’s novel for them and a freebie in case you find yourself without an activity (or access to one during takeoff or landing).

Lots of people suggest bringing stickers for kids to play with.  Let me just warn you that removing 4,000 stickers from every nook and cranny of an airplane is not a job you want to be doing.  Instead, do like the Danish carrier SAS does and provide a cling sticker activity set.  With these, your kid can arrange and rearrange stickers to their heart’s content on big scenes and then take their set with them on your actual trip to provide further entertainment.

Another obvious activity is coloring.  But a collection of crayons that constantly roll off the tray table and disappear down the aisle is not a relaxing time.  Instead, bring a set of triangular crayons that refuse to roll away.  And rather than a coloring book, do a google image search for coloring pages in a variety of your kid’s favorite themes to print out.  This way, you will also have blank pages on the back of each image to get creative.  If you have a child age 3+, another great activity is to print out letter and number tracing pages, which are perfect for the bright colors of crayons.

Pretend play is another easy go-to on a plane with a set of mini figurines.  Your child’s little friends will have a wonderful time exploring the airplane, playing with one another, visiting the coloring pages, hiding in the kleenex, etc.  They’re also an easy thing to toss in your purse for peaceful meals out.

If you’ve exhausted your various distractions, it’s time to pull out the big guns: the phone or tablet loaded with movies, tv shows, and apps that don’t necessarily need sound to be fun.  Did you know that you can download Prime eligible movies and tv shows to watch offline?  This is the perfect option to keep media content costs down while keeping the novelty factor high (I reload our tablets with brand new stuff before any long travel day)!  Here are some of the apps that we’ve found to be particularly valuable over the years: Elmo ABC’s (not available for iphone, just ipad and totally worth the purchase price), Tozzle (puzzles that animate once completed – another app worth every penny), PlayHome, Color Dots by Ellie’s Games (this one is great for even very young toddlers), Toddler Alphabet Game and Toddler Counting both by iTot, Toca Tailor Fairy Tales by Toca Boca, Paint My Wings by Toca Boca, Hooked on Phones Learn to Read (an outstanding app for your new reader), Sprout’s Good Night Star, Kids Doodle by Bejoy Mobile, ZOOLA Animals by INBAL Tal, Sight Words by CFC s.r.o., Dogs*** / Wolf** / Cats** / Cat!! / Dogs** / Horse! / etc all by Namaste Power Store, My Zoo Animals by wonderkind GmbH, The Stories of Bertie by The Story Mouse, Animal Fun by Brian Pfeil, Millie Was Here by Megapops, Twinkle Little Star by Tiger Stripes LLC, and the classic favorite Angry Birds.

Between your little arsenal of activities, media/app content, naps/sleeping, meals, and staring out the window, your flight will go by in a flash! (and PS: remember to feed/nurse/give a pacifier to kids too young to yawn automatically during takeoff/landing to keep their ears from hurting)

Happy travels!

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The Bugaboo Bee – It’s True Love

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Oh, Bugaboo Bee, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

I have a confession: I have a stroller problem. I don’t want to tell you how many different strollers I’ve owned over the past 6 years, but suffice it to say that I presently have 6 (and that’s after I’ve sold several recently). Yes, I’m a strolleraholic! So without further ado, let me tell you about my absolute favorite for the past 5 years: the Bugaboo Bee.

After owning countless strollers, I realized that my biggest complaint with all of them was their size and weight. No matter how wonderful their other features might be, the heft of most strollers became a big bummer on a daily basis. I didn’t like lugging them in and out of my car (or how much of my trunk they took up). I didn’t like running into doorframes or display racks with the edges of the tires. I really didn’t like not fitting down some store aisles or not being able to easily maneuver around displays. Don’t even get me started on trying to fit in changing rooms at stores!  I needed a narrower, lighter stroller, STAT.

tog-662px-bgb-bee3-totalAfter several failed attempts with other, less expensive brands, I finally closed my eyes and hit buy on the Bee. It arrived in all of its European-designed funky glory, and I wondered how I was going to deal with a stroller that didn’t look entirely traditional. But as soon as I popped it together and had my daughter climb in, all my doubts evaporated. She immediately decreed, “Mommy, I wuv dis -troller!”.  And the push! My goodness, the push! The Bee g-l-i-d-e-s! Everything about the Bee immediately exceeded my expectations and made me a believer in the Bugaboo brand.

In addition to all of this, the Bee is solidly built, parent-faces (a must for me with babies and young toddlers), and is also exceptional for tall kids.  The seat pan is extendable (to continue providing leg and thigh support) and the seat back is also extendable!  Both of my kids have been near the 99th percentile for height as infants and toddlers, so these features were invaluable.  In fact, my oldest is now almost 6 (and has slowed down to the 50th percentile), but she still fits nicely in the Bee with the seat fully extended in both directions.  Amazing.

I’ve owned many iterations of the Bee over the past 5 years now: the “original” Bee Minus (as it’s become to be known), the Bee Plus (or Bee +), the black framed Bee Plus, and the Bee3.  I’ve gotten adventurous and made my own custom canopies, tried out the baby cocoon when I had my 2nd child, added the Bugaboo rider board, imported a Twoo Seat to attach to the board so my oldest could grab a seat if she tired of standing… I.just.love.this.stroller.

If you are in the market for your first stroller, spare yourself the all too common mistake of buying “too much” stroller and just buy the Bee straight away.  If the price scares you off, buy a used one off of Craigslist.  Even an old Bee Minus (identifiable by its solid white wheels, “wings” on the sides of the seat, and the extra large canopy) in good condition will be a far better stroller than most and should run you between $75 and $150 depending on your area.

The Bee Plus (white spoke wheels, a non-extendable canopy, 3-piece harness buckle) on the silver aluminum frame should run from $200-$350 depending on your area (assume $50 extra for the black frame).  You can always update a Bee Plus with the Bee3’s basket (it’s slightly larger), seat (fabric is different and the harness straps are 5 pieces), and extendable breezy canopy (it zippers open to reveal an extra panel) should you feel the need for any of these parts.

bgb-bee3-bassinet-662pxThere is also now a bassinet/carrycot for the Bee available as an additional piece.  Between you and me, I think the cocoon is more than sufficient for use with a newborn (it’s easier to cart around AND easier on your wallet).  But, if your heart is really set on having the full pram look for your newborn, you can certainly splash out for the beautiful bassinet!

If you’ve been going round and round, wondering if those high end strollers are really worth the price, I’m here to tell you YES.  Absolutely.  I’d rather have an old Bee than nearly any other brand new stroller.  It’s just that much better.  Happy strolling!

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The UPPABaby Vista is a Winner

UppaBaby Vista Colors

There are approximately eleventy-thousand stroller options out there.  Umbrella, Snap N Go, travel systems, luxury…

I became obsessed with strollers as this purchase would mark my official First Large Baby Investment and hitting that milestone meant I really was having a baby.  I looked at every stroller going by, I did internet research, and I finally started chasing down people pushing strollers I was considering in order to grill them on their strollers and to see if they were happy with their purchases.

I finally decided that my needs were as follows:

  • Relatively light (but not so light as to compromise durability)
  • Turns easily and can be steered with one hand
  • Does not require a PhD in structural engineering in order to fold
  • Can grow with me as I hope to have another baby before this one graduates from the stroller
  • Has a nice pattern that doesn’t scream boy or girl so that I can keep it should the next baby be a boy

Points 1, 2, and 4 eliminated travel systems for me, the Snap N Go was too bare bones and did not meet Point 4.

As I ticked options off my list, I started looking at the “luxury” lines.  They really met my criteria – although they also made my inner cheapskate die a little.  I eliminated the Orbit for its non-traditional looks and proprietary (and expensive) car seats.  The Stokke Xplory was too futuristic for my baby dreams.  The Bugaboo Bee didn’t have a carrycot (at the time).

I was down to the Bugaboo Cameleon and the Uppababy Vista.  Two things really sold me on the Vista over the Cameleon: being able to fold the frame up with the seat attached and the price point.  Also, every person I spoke to that had a Vista RAVED about how great it is.

I proudly hauled home my new Vista and regaled my husband with stories of its greatness.  He was only marginally sold and not entirely convinced that we really needed all of this.  But oh boy was I happy and I knew it would just be a matter of time before he loved it too.

Fast forward to having my daughter and proudly pushing all 6 adorable pounds of her around the block in the bassinet attachment (it was exactly like the image I had in my head).  My husband joined us for a walk and, half way down the block, stopped to proclaim “This is the most awesome stroller of all time!  No really, this thing is great.”  Aha!  Convert!  I knew he’d see the light.

The Vista is everything I expected it to be and I can confidently recommend it now that I’ve used all three attachments with it.  My only complaint about the stroller is how much room the frame takes up in my trunk.  I have a Prius and it takes up virtually the entire footprint of the trunk (it’s too wide to stash it on its side).  That being said, this is not reason enough to tarnish its image in my eyes – a smaller stroller just wouldn’t get the job done in the same way.

Also, if you have to fly with your Vista, the travel bag is really the only way to go.  The double stroller gate check bags only fit the frame if you also remove the wheels – which is a real pain when you gate check.  Order the travel bag when you can find it – it tends to go on back order often!

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