September 28, 2012

Toddler Travel Checklist

Are you going on a trip with a toddler any time soon?

If so, here is our checklist that makes us at least feel prepared and get to our destination pretty successfully (which means we can actually enjoy said destination!).

And we have used ALL of the items listed below for the reasons listed below... I am not just being a worrywart!

Travel - Airport/Flight/Car Trip -

Snacks. Bring your sippy cup for filling with water once through security, and refill it whenever possible. Flights are long, and you never know when you will get delayed or hit traffic on the road.
Also pack favorite snacks. For us that means cheese, fig newtons, goldfish, raisins/dried fruit, PBJs (still taste good smushed). Throw in an apple or other hearty (as in you won't find it smushed at the bottom of the bag later) whole fruit/vegetable for good measure (apples, baggie of grapes or melon chunks, carrots, snap peas). Pack twice as many as you think you'll need because you may get delayed, or hungry yourself, or they may just be the thing that keeps your toddler from melting down. We often enjoy Delta's fruit and cheese plate... but you may not want to wait - or pay - for it. Consider milk boxes because milk on a plane or in an airport, or even at your destination, may be scarce, and these don't have to be refrigerated.

Toys. Bring the iPad if you have it, and preload it with some of your toddlers favorite videos, games and apps if you can. Spring for the internet on the plane if its a long flight, and watch YouTube videos. Pack toddler headphones if you have them, too. Not everyone loves Elmo for the 18th time.
Play doh - my son got some mini cans of play doh as birthday favors and valentines. They are the only play doh we own, and works pretty well on an airplane tray. You could also make your own and pack it in a sandwich baggie.
Toys with few parts - pick some of your kids favorites that are small enough to be packed in a diaper bag/carry on and have few parts so you don't lose them or spend a lot of time fixing them. Polly pockets are out. Travel magna doodles are in (I think my mom us got a much less fancy version for my son's Easter basket from a dollar store and it has been a fantastic toy for travel and restaurants for over almost a year!).
Restaurant crayon pack and coloring book - you know that 4-pack of crayons you get every time you go to your favorite restaurant? Save a couple of them (my husband is cringing) and throw one in your travel bag. You won't care if you lose them and your toddler won't care that there's not a full 8 or 64. Throw in a coloring book for good measure if you have it. If not, a pad of paper, or use in flight napkins if you have to. Coloring is a 'together' activity!
Other books - besides regular entertainment, books are handy to have to protect nap routines in-flight AND to have at your destination for bedtime, too.
Cars or the like - for hours of driving around airports, rest stops, gas stations, grandma's, on armrests, practicing colors. I hear girls like playing with cars, too, right?
A new Toy - or book. Some people even wrap them. But something novel always cheers up a little one. Doesn't have to be big or flashy or expensive. Just different from the regular stuff he plays with.

Blanket - planes are chilly! Plus a blanket can cover a dirty floor for your little one to get some tummy time. Or it can be a sunshade on the plan or in the car. Or it can be another toy. Our plane was delayed HOURS on our last trip but our toddler thought it was fun to lay across some seats at our terminal and cover himself up and then 'wake up' over and over. We like an Aden & Anais because its big, but packs small and is plenty warm.

Clothes I dress myself and the toddler in convertible pants (the kind that can roll up and be buttoned there) because it can be hot in the airport and cold on the plane/car, etc. Pack at least two changes of clothes for the kid, and at least one for yourself. $h!t happens.

Diapers - 'cause of all that water you've been offering. And you will need more than usual because things just happen... but also because you'll change one last diaper before strapping the kid back in the carseat, or boarding the plane, which will be 5 minutes before they decide to poo... and again... you never know about delays or traffic. We use cloth, but we always carry at least one disposable on top of double the diapers we would normally go through in the same amount of time. AND WIPES. FOR EVERYTHING. Hand sanitizer, too.

Your child's suitcase - We usually bring our son's suitcase as one of our carry on's for the plane. Our luggage has been lost recently, and we think its most important to have his stuff in that event. Also, its handy in case you thought my diaper and clothing estimates were over the top, to have more wardrobe and diapers to fall back on. :)

Trunki - Also fun for a toddler to scoot around in the airport or at Grandma's. Ours only comes out for traveling, so it's a novelty. And we stuff all the toys and the blanket listed above in it! (trunki at Amazon)

Destination -
Diapers. If you are packing cloth, check with your host ahead of time to see if they mind you using their washer for diapers. They will likely let you, but at least this gives them time to adjust to the idea, if they may privately be thinking, "EW!". Bring your own detergent (I stock up on freebie samples when I make my diaper purchases and pack them just for trips) because its polite, and because they may not have the cloth-diaper-friendly variety.
If you are using disposables (because you won't be able to wash at a hotel, or because you use disposables all the time :) ), consider mailing a box to your destination ahead of time (or ask grandma buy some for you and have them ready), so you dont' have to pack this on the plane or car. And make sure the box contains more than you would usually use... because of Murphy's law. Don't depend on buying some when you get there because who knows when your first opportunity to get to the store will actually be. And you will have used all of your travel stash while traveling. Promise.

Clothes. Suitable for your destination. Will you need a swimsuit (and swim diapers)? Will you need pants? Shorts? A coat and hat? Dress clothes? Special colors for a family portrait? Should you pack that outfit so-and-so gave you that you really never let him wear but she would love to see Junior in? Don't forget socks and suitable shoes.

Toiletries. Toothbrush and toddler toothpaste. The others stuff can probably be subbed in a pinch, but just for completenes: baby wash, lotion, diaper cream, other ointments... and our mini-first aid kit of a thermometer, tylenol, bandaids, and neosporin. Maybe you need vitamins or some other prescription, too?

SUNSCREEN. enough said.

Pack n Play. If you a driving, you may have room for this in the car, but you may also check to see if your host has one or can borrow one for you to use (if your little one still fits in one... ours is too big for our mini-crib, so we are going to try a camping mat -that we already own- in a few weeks... fingers crossed)

Stroller or baby carrier. If you think you'll be out and about a lot. The stroller can be handy for naps on the go... we usually only get an hour tops (and we prefer more like 2 hrs) but its better than nothing if you really can't be home in a bed. A carrier is good for long walks or crowds.

Booster seat. If your child needs one. Grandma keeps one at her house and offers to bring it if we meet at an alternate destination. Just ask your host.

Potty Chair.We are just now starting a potty routine and I don't want to mess it up, so I purchased this travel potty seat recently to test out this weekend... I'll let you know how it goes.

Cups and cutlery. If you are visiting a place that doesn't have kids living there.

Other things to keep in mind:
Try to stay on schedule, even/especially if you've changed time zones. We live on the West Coast and our family on the East, so we operate like teenagers when we visit (staying up late and sleeping in). It so easy to let friends and family lure you into letting the little one stay up 'just one more hour'. Or maybe your extended family is like ours and eats late breakfasts, or skips some meals entirely. I personally have trouble with this, but the poor toddler really can't handle it. So I try to be up front about our 'plans' for the day, and ask ahead of time what friends and family have planned, so we can work in naps (and pre-nap energy expenditure) and meals, too.

Did I leave anything out? What are your travel 'must haves'?

September 8, 2012

Review of the BumGenius Elemental

Overall rating: 4/5 stars.
The bumGenius Elemental is our workhorse diaper, mainly because it makes up the bulk of our stash and seems to be one of the easiest to grab, since its all one piece. It's also a pretty good option for grandparents and daycare and husbands, but they all have to have a few tips on getting the right fit (see below).

This is a one-size diaper, which means it will fit your baby from about 10 lbs to 35+ lbs. BumGenius claims a range of 7-35 lbs. I can't speak to the low end, since our guy didn't start wearing cloth until he was three months old and well past 7 lbs. However, he's now 33 lbs, and has plenty of room to grow.

The many combinations for rise and waist settings help get a good fit. Before hitting toddlerhood we were on the highest rise, and I was concerned we would outgrow these, but he has since slimmed down and we are on the medium rise again and still have plenty of snaps on the sides, too. There aren't any gussets, so its key to make sure there is no gaping at the legs. Also, you do have to take care to make sure all the cotton at the legs is rolled inside the diaper or you will get wicking (meaning the wet fabric will touch baby's clothes and get them wet, even if the diaper isn't full). The elastic in the back keeps in what disposables typically wouldn't with an explosion.

This diaper is really trim! Another mom once commented about just how trim they looked in jeans! In all honesty, though, a one-size diaper will be bulkier when your child is on the smaller weight range. The extra fabric that is folded under or otherwise hidden when in the smallest setting does take up space, and for a while we just sized up our little one's pants. But now he is in his regular size and these don't take up any more space than a disposable.

The Elemental does take a while to dry, and I have found that no amount of time in the dryer will really get it all the way dry in the seams where the inner is sewn in. Our general routine is one cycle in our (gas) dryer, and then hung up to dry outside for a day. This does mean they are out of commission until after the obligatory drying period, but this doesn't cramp our routine style, since we have about a day's extra worth of diapers in our rotation.

This diaper comes in a wide range of solid colors (half pastel, lighter colors, and half more vibrant options) and a only a few patterns at this time (but the Albert pattern is worth having in your stash even if you want to just try this diaper).

This isn't the cheapest diaper out there, but its pretty typically priced for an AIO (all-in one) at $24.99. Again, they fit for a solid two years, and my estimate (while there are other things to consider, I use a rule of thumb that a disposable diaper is about 23 cents, and that you would use a cloth diaper about twice a week) is that they pay for themselves in about a year.

Pros - easy (nothing to figure out for dads, grandparents and daycare - most like a disposable)
Cons - take care getting a good fit around leg openings, takes a while to get dry, especially near where the inner is sewn in.

Use for daycare: 4.5/5 - have to have good communication with them about getting the fit right, and the edges rolled in.

Daddy rating: 4/5 stars - "These could be better if they had the velcro of my favorite diaper [TotsBots EasyFit]. I really like the all-in-one part, though."

Front view: unsnapped (highest rise setting)


Front view: medium rise setting
On a 31 lb, 37" tall toddler (24 mos)
On a 31 lb, 37" tall toddler (24 mos)

September 4, 2012

Hot Air ballooning, Pregnant and with a Toddler

So I felt compelled to write this post right away due to the lack of research I was able to find on this subject.

Riding in a balloon basket at Pennypickle's Workshop,
the award-winning Children's Museum in Temecula
We have renewed energy to beef up our 100 Weeks list as baby #2 will join us soon! As a part of a weekend trip to Temecula, CA (partly to celebrate our anniversary, though we didn't taste -much- wine and M joined us) we decided to go hot air ballooning. It seemed like the "other" thing to do in Temecula, if you weren't visiting all the wineries. So we called and made a last minute reservation for the three of us Sunday afternoon for the next morning. But then later that evening, a friend on Facebook asked, "Are you allowed to do that when pregnant?"

getting ready to take off!
we flew with 15 people (including the pilot).
 luckily the basket was compartmentalized,
and our family got a compartment to ourselves. 
Hm. The balloon company never asked (and it was me, a woman, who called). They didn't seem to have any concerns over us bringing the two-year-old along (in fact, they had a toddler aboard the day before, the man said). But better safe to do some Google-ing. Between hubby and I, we came up with post after post that said, "DON'T DO IT". Some, with no reason at all listed, but some said that a rough take off or landing could be dangerous for baby. Some also said the altitude might mean less oxygen for mom and baby. Still others suggested that the stress of being afraid of heights would be detrimental. Some just said that many companies had policies against it. Only one poster said that they'd actually asked their doctor, who said they were fine with it.
watching in fascination as the
 crew sets up the balloon, rocks and sticks
 were also fun to play with while we waited.

But I REALLY didn't want to have to cancel our adventure. So I called the balloon company back and asked if it mattered if I was pregnant. They said, "How pregnant?" About 4 months. "Hm. This is probably a question better asked to your doctor. But we aren't expecting it to be very windy tomorrow, so we don't anticipate very bumpy landings. If it were February or March, we'd say definitely not." OK, thanks for the information. Doubtful I'll hear from my doctor before 6AM tomorrow.

So hubby and I discussed. I am not afraid of heights, and had been ballooning before, so I didn't think stress from that would be an issue. Bumpy landings were less of a risk, given the weather, but we (and the company) were willing to subject our toddler to that already, right? Less oxygen? Hm. Didn't seem like a real risk since they didn't ask if we had any other health conditions... 

So we did it. And while I am NOT a medical professional, nor have I consulted mine about this (yet), here is what I will tell you:

up in the air! with a bunch of other balloons!
With respect to being pregnant, bring snacks and water and a hat. We each had a banana before heading out at 5:45 AM and didn't have another chance to eat until 9AM (we didn't think we should bring our whole bag along for the flight, given the space and exact weight being calculated). Too long for me to go, and I did start to get really tired. You stand the whole time (it was about an hour and fifteen minutes for us) in the basket (except the breaks I took with M) and beforehand while they set up. I declined to wear M, or even pick him up (not that that would have been very safe in the air anyway). We could have easily brought a bottle of water and some Nutragrain bars with us. Actually, we did have a champagne/OJ toast to celebrate the safe flight after we landed (about 8:30). But still, a little OJ over three hours later was cutting it close. The hat is because, while it is sunny up there, you are also really close to the flame throwers that heat the air in the balloon. And they are hot on your head! I guess pregnant or not, another layer between me and that would have been nice. They did actually tell us to bring hats, and everyone had one except me, because I didn't pack one on the trip. So just saying, they are serious about that.

watching the balloon come down after our ride
With respect to bringing a toddler, bring snacks and water and a hat... and a cell phone. Again, guess who else needs to eat frequently and be protected from heat? And gets cranky if they don't have these things? M loved watching the balloon be set up, and the first 20 minutes or so of the ride. He rode in our Ergo carrier with his daddy for takeoff, and for those first few minutes, but then wanted to get down. He sat in the floor of the basket (where it was further from the flames and cooler) and looked out of the foot holes, or flipped through photos on my iPhone. Every now and then, either Daddy or I would squat down and help point out mountains or lakes or trees or other balloons we could see out of the holes. Only twice did he complain that he was "all done". At the advice of our pilot, we didn't put him back in the Ergo for the landing and while it wasn't very bumpy, we did have a bump and he hit his face on the basket, right where there was no padding. A little whining, but fine after a kiss, and no mark.

All-in-all we were happy with our decision!
the traditional post-balloon ride toast (just juice for me and M)