Posts Tagged ‘travel with kids’

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Traveling with Two to the San Diego Zoo

January 6, 2013

The adults loved San Diego because we love travel, the ocean, adventure, and sunshine. Our two-year-old loved “Sandy Eggo” because of the airplane ride, the sand, unlimited access to grandparents, and the animals. Oh, the animals! What toddler doesn’t love animals?

For animal-loving tots, the San Diego Zoo is a must-see. It’s famous. It’s huge. It has cute (rare, famous, giant) pandas.

Included in our multi-park pass was a bus tour around the park. Do it! You see 70% of the zoo in just over half an hour. We walked the first day and rode the bus the second. With two strollers, lots of hills, and two tired little ones, it’s no surprise that we were all much happier on the second day. One of my favorite things about the bus ride was seeing the zoo’s animal ambassadors. We saw an arctic wolf out for a casual stroll with its trainer. On other days, you may see a cheetah or a blue-tongued skink.

The Skyfari was also included in our pass. It’s a four-minute ride over the zoo forest. Strollers that fold can ride, too!

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With little ones, the petting zoo is a must. There aren’t any really special animals in there, but when was the last time you got to pet a sheep or a goat?

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Like SeaWorld, the zoo has live animal cameras–pandas, polar bear, ape, and elephants. Check them out before and after you go!

Parking at the zoo is free! It’s located in Balboa Park, which is also home to a Science Center. Our local museum membership got our family of four in for free because of the passport program. Score!

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The best bang for your buck is definitely with the multi-park pass. (Did I mention kids three and under are free?) With that option, how can you go to San Diego and not visit the zoo? Next time we’ll be sure to visit the Safari Park as well. Has anyone been there?

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Traveling with Two: SeaWorld, San Diego

January 4, 2013

I’m a travel optimist. Nothing will stop me from having a good trip. Not even a stomach bug, a coughing toddler, an infant growth spurt, a three-hour time difference, or  an impending blizzard–all challenges we faced on our first cross-country trip with two little ones.

Was I phased when our normally happy baby was fussy on the plane? You bet. Did I wish for death when my guts were trying to explode before the captain turned off the fasten seat belt sign? Perhaps. Was I frustrated when my babies melted down during dinner because it felt like midnight to their little internal clocks? Of course.

On the other hand, how fun was it to watch my toddler wave to and clap for dolphins, birds, and whales? Will it ever get old to hear her tell people that she saw “animals SPLASH”?! Or to watch her waddle like a penguin? Or to hear her ask to “ride the fish” (kiddie roller coaster) again and again? Or to see the baby smilingly happily as her daddy talked to her and pointed out animals from the comfort of her Baby Bjorn?

And it was pretty cool to see an arctic wolf casually walking around the San Diego Zoo. And it was pretty nice to pass the babies off to Mamaw and Papaw when the girls woke up early. And I loved having a beach instead of a back yard.

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See? Like I said–travel optimist!

As we were preparing for our trip, I had trouble finding travel tips for San Diego with a toddler and a baby, so I’ll write a few of my own. Keep in mind that our oldest is just over two and the baby is five months.

SeaWorld with a Toddler and a Baby

Get the pass. 

This trip was a Christmas gift from my parents (thanks, Mom and Dad!), and we knew the whole family (including my brother, a college student) would like the San Diego Zoo. Nate’s Christmas gift to me and the girls was to add SeaWorld into the mix. He purchased a pass that allowed us unlimited visits to SeaWorld, the San Diego Zoo, and the Safari Park for seven consecutive days. This allowed us to come and go as we pleased. We went “home” for lunch and naps. We went back to the parks multiple days. Bonus: purchasing through ebates gives you cashback (ours was 2.5%)! If you haven’t signed up for ebates yet, I’ll send you my referral link. It’ll be a good deal for you and for me.

Prepare Your Kids

Did you know there is a live Shamu cam and penguin cam you can watch online? How fun is that?! The live feeds helped prepare and excite our little one for the animals she was going to see. And as I’m typing this, I have the penguin cam open. I’m watching the trainer feed the penguins. Cute!

Even if you’re not going to Sea World any time soon, this is a fun at-home activity.

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Winter

A lot of Sea World reviews bemoan the heat and lack of shade. With a December trip, the weather was quite nice. It was in the sixties during the day. The So Cal folks wore scarves and gloves. We wore short sleeves and sunglasses.

One evening it rained. We brought our stroller cover, but mostly went to the indoor or covered exhibits (polar bear, penguins, manta rays, etc) when it rained. Bonus: the lines were short and the park felt empty!

There was also a special Christmas exhibit. We visited the reindeer but decided to pass on the sledding area. We get enough snowy goodness here in the Midwest, why spend our vacation time in a man-made snow rink? Sorry, SeaWorld. We came to California to escape the snow.

Sesame Street Bay of Play

This kiddie area was a hit with the tot and Uncle Wade. I worried that introducing a kiddie roller coaster at bedtime would be disastrous,  but our girl loved “flying” with her daddy on Elmo’s Flying Fish ride. The uncle used the toddler as an excuse to spend twenty minutes climbing through a somewhat complex rope course. In the summer, it appears as though there’s a little splash park.  There are also a few other spinning rides for kids and parents with strong stomachs.

Shows

There’s a school of thought (which I totally understand) that suggests waiting until your kids are old enough to remember before seeking out (and paying for) big adventures and experiences. While it’s true that our two-year-old won’t have any actual memories from this trip, the experiences were valuable. She learned that an otter can be taught to wave, and whales can splash.  Dolphins jump really high, and sometimes people get to ride on their backs.  Sea lions growl like her dog (“Mommy, when I pick up Sofi, she growl too”), and Santa Claus is just as scary in California as he was back home in Indiana. All of that from the famously fun SeaWorld shows.

(For the record, the dolphin show was my favorite. The sea lion Christmas show was funny. We missed the domestic pets show. The whale show was okay. But it’s SeaWorld–you have to see the whales.)

Know Before You Go

The official SeaWorld policy is no outside food or drinks. However, all bags are searched at the entrance  and there was no objection to our snacks and water bottles. Parking was $15 per day. However, one evening we had my parents drop us off at the gate so we didn’t have to pay to park.

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Conclusion: the adults, the two-year-old, and the baby all enjoyed the fun of our winter trip to SeaWorld. If and when you go, I hope you do, too!

Next up: stories from the world-famous zoo!

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Traveling with a Toddler: The Airport

May 31, 2012

While we’d like the focus of this blog to stay on Guatemala, we’ve had little to no news to share and our next possible trip won’t be until next year. Meanwhile, there’s a lot going on here at home, and I (Rachael) miss writing. Once our new baby comes, I probably won’t spend my discretionary time on our blog; however, until then, we’ve decided to branch out and talk about new things on our blog. One of my favorite things to read about online is how to enjoy traveling with kids. So after returning from a trip to Phoenix a few weeks ago, I decided to share my own tips and hints. And, hey! We’ve taken our baby to Guatemala twice now, so I guess it’s not too off-topic!

One of the reasons we waited five years to have our first baby was that we weren’t quite ready to slow down and cut back on our travels. As it turns out, we still aren’t. Yes, traveling with a baby is different than traveling as a couple, but, the point is, we’re still traveling. Of course it helps that our baby has a pilot for a daddy. She’s been on several short flights in “his” plane, but those are easy. When it’s just your family in the plane, and you are (theoretically) in control, the normal hiccups that come with traveling with children (boredom, crying, pressure changes) seem less daunting. The harder trips include strangers who might not appreciate being strapped into a seat next to a baby who is equally unhappy about being strapped into her seat for the duration of a non-stop, four-hour flight.

A few weeks ago, our daughter took her seventh commercial trip (four have been domestic; three have been international) to and from Arizona for a conference with Nate’s work. As she gets older, these trips have gotten easier. Or maybe we’ve gotten wiser. Most likely it’s a combination of the two. Here’s how we managed the trip we fondly refer to as “Big Sister’s Babymoon”:

And, just for fun, we’re linking up here:  Travel Tips Tuesday

Packing: Weeks before the trip begins, I make lists. I make mental lists and physical lists. Sometimes I’ll find partial lists scribbled on receipts or on ripped off pages of magazines.  I keep track of my mental lists by reciting them to Nate (What can I say? I married a very patient man). I print off packing lists from online and add my own notes. I keep a notebook next to the bed. That way, when I wake up at 4 a.m. to go to the bathroom (again) and remember that we can’t forget to pack A’s current favorite blanket, it goes on a list.

Apart from my lists, my favorite packing strategy is to put all of our daughter’s outfits and accessories in Ziploc gallon bags. Each bag gets a label (e.g., Monday-travel day. Leopard pants, pink shirt, sweatshirt, pink bow), and everything for that day gets zipped into that perfectly contained little baggie. I fill extra bags with things that don’t go with specific days or are used multiple times–socks, shoes, diapers, and pajamas. This system means no digging through piles of clothes for a matching outfit and no worrying about lost socks. Daddy likes this system, too, because Daddy doesn’t really care which outfit his little girl wears when. He’s more than happy to change her diapers, get her dressed, brush her teeth, and put her hair in a ponytail (yep!), but he’ll leave the wardrobe decisions to me. I like to think we make a good team.

When luggage fees aren’t an issue (like on Southwest) or we know we won’t have access to a crib, we bring out our huge rolling duffel bag and pack our Pack ‘N Play. It’s bulky and difficult to lug around, but it’s worth it to know our girl will have a familiar and safe bed.

Since I may have the tendency to pack too much, we bring this luggage scale: Travelon Stop & Lock Luggage Scale. It’s easy to weigh our bags at home before our trip begins, but the return trip is the kicker. Now that we have the luggage scale, there’s no more shuffling our dirty underwear or rearranging our well-packed souvenirs at the check-in counter.

For several years now, Nate and I have kept our “overnight bag” packed and stored in the bathroom. This bag has almost all of the cosmetics we need for any trip–contact solution and a contact case, toothbrushes and toothpaste, his and hers deodorants, shampoo and conditioner, tweezers, lotion, and a razor for me. At the last minute, we add my glasses and makeup bag and Nate’s shaver.  Packing for grownups is easy.

In Transit: When planning this trip, we noticed that a 6:30 a.m. flight out of Indy meant we would land in Phoenix around 7:20 a.m. local time. At the risk of having an overtired, cranky kid, we chose this flight to give us an “extra” day to play. From our last early morning trip (in February), we learned that light and noise wake our daughter up, and she has trouble going back to sleep when we’re transferring her to the car. So this time we put her to bed early the night before and stealthily moved her from her crib to the car in complete darkness at 4:00 a.m. The car was completely packed, and we kept the dome light and radio off. She talked to us a little, but (amazingly!) she went back to sleep. We thereby traded one hour of potential crankiness for another hour of rest.

At the airport, Nate parks the car while the toddler and I check in. When he returns, we all go through security.  TSA gets a bad rap. While I won’t deny that it’s annoying to take off your shoes and remove all liquids and gels, people are generally gracious and happy when young kids are involved. (The fact that I was third-trimester pregnant couldn’t have hurt this time either!) A lot of airports have a “family line.” Business travelers must cringe when they think of an entire line devoted to moms struggling to collapse their gigantic strollers and TSA agents who have to open and test each jar of baby food, but we see this line as a free pass to skip ahead. It’s generally much shorter than the regular security line, and we breeze right through. Before we travel, we always check the TSA website. There are generous exceptions for young kids (e.g. extra liquids are allowed for bottles and food), but these rules can and do change.

At this point, we will have checked our suitcases, but our stroller and car seat will still be with us.  While she’s still under two (the age when most airlines no longer allow children to fly for free on their parent’s laps), we refuse to buy her a seat of her own. We’re cheap like that. (To prove her age, we always bring along her passport.) But one reason we keep our car seat with us is that on flights that aren’t full, lap infants and their car seats can occupy the empty seats. Once we arrive at the gate, an agent will tag our stroller and check to see if there are enough empty seats for our car seat to ride with us. When there are no extra seats, we wrap our car seat in two extra-large garbage bags and hope that the baggage handlers aren’t too rough. Thankfully, it’s a short trip from the gate ramp to the plane and back. Gate checked items don’t make the full trip from plane to truck to baggage carousel. Instead, they’re waiting for you on the ramp right when you step off the plane at your destination.

Thankfully, for both flights for this trip, we were able to keep our seat with us.

Once we board, the real fun begins! Coming soon: How we survive the actual flight!

(Since we buy everything from furniture to diapers from Amazon.com, we decided it was time to try their Amazon Associates program! The links in this post are referral links that all go to products we use and genuinely recommend.  While it’s unlikely that we’ll earn more than a few pennies from this program, we wanted to include this official disclaimer: Nateandrachael.wordpress.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.)