Thursday, April 3, 2014

20 tips for travelling with children

Take your time

The greatest thing you can take – whether at the airport, sightseeing or getting from A to B – is extra time. Toddlers love to explore and don’t care for the time pressures of travel, so you’re more likely to all retain your cool if you factor the faffing, gawping, stalling, toilet stops and tantrums into your timeframe.

Book ahead

Whether you’re camping or staying in hotels, it pays to book ahead. Trying to retain the spontaneity of travel BC (Before Children) doesn’t pay off if you arrive at your destination to find you can’t bag a bed or pitch and have to hit the road again with tired, hungry toddlers melting down in the backseat.

Give them a camera

Giving toddlers their own (robust, child-friendly) camera encourages them to observe their surroundings and focus on what interests them. You might be surprised at the results from their knee-high view. Amongst pictures of feet and wheels, my three-year-old has shot flowers, animals, helicopters, boats, rocks and rabbit poo.

Be prepared for the climate

It’s simple advice, but children dressed comfortably for the weather and terrain will be happier in a new environment. With all the gear available, there’s no excuse for dressing toddlers in ski-suits four sizes too big, forgetting their gloves, or leaving them barefoot on a beach where sea urchins lurk.

Pack Pull-Ups for potty training

Planes and public transport during the potty training days can be a nightmare. As if you didn’t have enough in your hand luggage, now you’re expected to add a potty, three changes of clothes and bags of wet, stinky pants. Potty-training gurus may disagree, but if toddlers are still having lots of little accidents then I’m all for putting them back into Pull-Ups on the plane.

Be app-y

Thanks to toddler-friendly apps, there’s no need to cram a toy box into your hand luggage when travelling by plane. By all means take a book and a magic scribbler (crayons just get lost down the side of seats), but the most compact form of entertainment is a device loaded with apps and games.

Use public transport

Most toddlers love the novelty of traveling by train, bus and boat, so ditch the hire car and use public transport where possible. In Switzerland, my two-year-old would repeat the names of the metro stops as they were announced – provoking ripples of laughter and making him even more excited about boarding the train each day.

Invest in a child locator

In my experience, toddlers aren’t fans of reins, backpacks with a leash, or any infringement on their freedom. Keep tabs on them at airports, train stations and crowded attractions with a child locator. The child wears a small unit (strapped to a belt or shoe) and you keep the transmitter. If you lose your child set off the alarm and follow the sound to find them.

Keep bugs at bay

Whether you’re travelling to Paignton or Peru, antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer are handbag essentials. A wipe of the cutlery in restaurants where you’re unsure of hygiene, or a squirt of hand sanitizer when there’s no washing facilities, can zap a few germs and prevent toddlers catching some common bugs.

Don’t forget the medicine

Whether they’re out of routine, jet-lagged, or eating less healthily, kids always seem to get ill on holiday. Dampen the impact of broken nights, frayed temperaments and fevers by packing an easy-to-swallow medicine such as Calpol in the UK. Other basic ingredients in your first aid kit should include antiseptic wipes, plasters, sting treatment, and a thermometer.

Don’t let the children pack their own rucksacks

We once went on a trip with our eight-year-old, who complained incessantly that her backpack was too heavy. The reason why? She’d brought along her entire collection of fossils “just in case”. Do let the children have input but remember to edit this heavily before departure.

Keep the activities coming

If you’re heading out on a long journey have a collection of toys to be handed out once an hour. Handheld puzzles, tiny colouring books, stickers, wordsearches and even tiny packs of Plasticine will pass the time on a long flight or car journey.

Have a number of family games ready in case of delay.

Punch-buggy and padiddle are popular, if violent, favourites for car journeys, whereas more cerebral ones like the Alphabet game are safer for air travel.

Avoid sweets

Resist the temptation to keep them going on a long journey by feeding them sweets. Pack a mixture of savoury snacks like cheese cubes, breadsticks, fruit and bagels – anything to avoid arriving in a strange city with children in the middle of a sugar rush.

Encourage them to keep a travel journal

Get your kids drawing and listing things they’ve seen and interesting foods they’ve tried. Who knows, this might also encourage them to try different foods. Collecting postcards from places you visit and asking them to write themselves a message on the back means they can reach adulthood with a library of memories all their own.

Remember the medicine

It should already be on your travelling list, but having kids along means carrying a small first aid kit is all the more vital: plasters, antihistamines and sachets of painkilling syrup can save a lot of stress later on. Antimalarials are also available in liquid form.

Brand them

If you’re going to be travelling through busy, crowded airports or transport hubs, write your mobile number on your child’s arm in biro in case they get lost.

Check your passports

Children’s passports only last five years and they have a habit of running out when you’re not looking. Allow at least four weeks to renew one. The cost of a last-minute passport is astronomical, and particularly galling if you only realise it’s necessary when already in the ferry queue at Calais. Don’t ask us how we know this. We just do.

Remember the baby wipes

Even if all your children are long out of nappies, don’t forget the baby wipes. They’re useful for washing hands, cleaning toilet seats, and wiping down restaurant tables. In the same spirit, little bottles of hand cleanser can be a lifesaver in some countries, but check the travel regulations for liquids well in advance.

Engage and involve older children

The best way to avoid a soul-destroying sulk from your teenager is to involve them in the planning of the holiday and ask them for input on what they’d like to do. You might be surprised to hear it’s not spending all day on the internet.

Travel Safety Tips

Use the same common sense when traveling overseas or anywhere else for that matter.
 Be especially cautious (or avoid) in areas where you may be more easily victimized. These include crowded subways, train stations, elevators, tourist sites, market places, festivals and crime-ridden neighborhoods.
Don't use short cuts, narrow alleys or poorly lit streets.
Try not to travel alone at night.
Avoid public demonstrations and other civil disturbances.
Keep a low profile and avoid loud conversations or arguments.
Do not discuss travel plans or other personal matters with strangers.
Avoid scam artists by being wary of strangers who approach you and offer to be your guide or sell you something at bargain prices.
Beware of pickpockets. They often have an accomplice who will:
  • Jostle you,
  • Ask you for directions or the time,
  • Point to something spilled on your clothing, or
  • Distract you by creating a disturbance.
Beware of groups of vagrant children who create a distraction while picking your pocket.
Wear the shoulder strap of your bag across your chest and walk with the bag away from the curb to avoid drive-by purse-snatchers.
Try to seem purposeful when you move about. Even if you are lost, act as if you know where you are going. Try to ask for directions only from individuals in authority.
Know how to use a pay telephone and have the proper change or token on hand.
Learn a few phrases in the local language or have them handy in written form so that you can signal your need for police or medical help.
Make a note of emergency telephone numbers you may need: police, fire, your hotel, and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
If you are confronted, don't fight back -- give up your valuables.

Travelers Please Take Precautions

Bed Bug Precautions for Travelers

All travelers should be aware of the increase in bed bug infestations worldwide. While bed bugs feed on human blood, they are not known to transmit diseases, but the itchy, red welts sometimes caused by their saliva are very annoying.
Unsuspecting travelers often encounter bed bug infestations and unknowingly transport bed bugs from place to place. Knowledge is the key to defending yourself against bed bugs. If you are going to be traveling, it is always a good idea to take some simple precautions against transporting bed bugs home with you.

What do bed bugs look like?

Bed bugs range from brown to reddish-brown in color, are oval shaped, flattened and paper thin when unfed.  Adults can be 3/8 of an inch long (about the size of an apple seed) and immature bed bugs cab be as small as 1/16 of an inch.  Young bed bugs are nearly colorless except after a blood meal when they become bright red.

How do they live?

Bed bugs are wingless and actively walk in search for blood at night and hide during the day.  Females lay white, oval shaped eggs (1/16 of an inch long) into cracks and crevices of their hiding places, called harborages. Immature bed bugs shed their skin (molt) five times before becoming adults. All stages of bed bugs require blood for growth and development. Immature bed bugs can live several months without a blood meal; adults may survive as long as one year without a meal.

What are the signs of a bed bug infestation?

In addition to bites, there are four basic signs of bed bugs: eggs, cast skins, fecal spots, and live bed bugs. Fecal spots are most likely to be found on mattresses and sheets. As they feed, bed bugs digest blood and defecate, leaving behind small marks similar to those that might be made by a ballpoint pen.  These fecal spots can range from black to brown to red in color. Live bed bugs, if visible, are most likely to be found in hiding places in or around the bed.

How can you avoid picking up bed bugs?

Bed bugs are hitchhikers and their presence is not necessarily related to poor sanitation. In hotels or hostels, bed bug infestations are always a threat due to the high turnover rate of people from diverse locations.  When entering a new room, it is always a good idea to do a quick inspection using a very bright flashlight.  If possible, leave your luggage outside of the room or put it in the middle of the bathroom floor while you do the inspection.  The inspection should focus around the bed. Start with the headboard, which is usually held on the wall with brackets.  Lift the headboard up 1 – 2 inches, then lean the top away from the wall to gain access to the back.  Look for signs of live bed bugs squeezed into cracks and crevices of the headboard.  Then pull the bedsheets back to inspect the mattress and box spring, particularly around the seams, Look for fecal spots, cast skins and bugs.  Then check any curtains or furniture near the bed including dresser drawers and night stands.  These are also often hiding places for bed bugs. The next morning, double-check for blood spots on the sheets in case bed bugs discovered you in the night!

If you can avoid it, do not unpack clothes into drawers and keep luggage closed on a luggage rack pulled away from the wall. Never set luggage on the bed or upholstered furniture. Though luggage racks may not be completely safe, they help to isolate your belongings from the surroundings.  When you are not using your suitcase, keep it zipped and closed.  Do not lay clothing on the bed. While travelling, you may want to store your clothing in large Ziploc bags to prevent any bed bugs from getting into your clothes.  Keeping clothes in Ziploc bags also makes it easier to safely launder clothes that may be infested upon your return home.  While sleeping, you may want to keep a flashlight close to the bed.  Typically, bed bugs avoid ambient light and movement.  Using a flashlight may help to identify an infestation during the night.

What if you notice bed bugs during your stay?

Notify management immediately if you notice an infestation.  Request a different room (one that does not share a wall with the infested room), and if management is not willing to help, go to another hotel.  All of your possessions have the potential to be infested so it is important to be careful when moving to your new room.  Clothing does not have to be washed, but should be dried on the highest setting of at least 30 minutes.  High heat (greater than 120 degrees) will kill bed bugs and eggs that may have gotten onto clothing.  Clean clothing should be placed in a large Ziploc bag if possible.

What to do when you arrive home?

If you encountered bed bugs during your trip or have reason to suspect the facility may have had bed bugs, it is best to treat your belongings immediately. Luggage should remain outside of the home until it is certain there is no threat of infestation.  Do not unpack your suitcase on the bed.   If possible, examine your belongings outside the home or in the garage.  If you do not have a garage, you can use a light colored bathtub.  Do it quickly, in case there are any bed bugs inside.  Clothing should be bagged, washed and dried on the highest setting.  If a suitcase is infested, and you want to keep it, contact your local pest control company to inquire about any service they may offer, including heat or steam treatment.  If traveling is a way of life for you, you might want to consider commercially available small heating units designed specifically for treating non-washable items such a luggage, electronic equipment, backpacks, shoes, sleeping bags, and pillows.