Saturday, April 28, 2018

How we Hawaii with kids

I had a couple people ask me how we traveled with 3 kids to Hawaii recently. Before 3, we have taken quite a few flights with Andie and Nolan, and before that we traveled a lot with Andie (we got in as many flights as possible while she was free before 2). We have learned a few things about what works and what doesn't, and each vacation with kids will be different based on what your plans are while there. For example, what makes Hawaii great is that we stayed at our resort most of the time - the ocean and pool were at our doorstep, and we could walk almost anywhere else we wanted to go. That makes it super easy as opposed to a vacation where you are constantly on the go and needing to travel everywhere while there.

How do you fly there with 3? Well, for this trip, Cody was a lap child and Andie and Nolan both had their own seats on the plane. I packed hefty carry-on backpacks for them with all sorts of activities (which really helped Andie especially) and we loaded an iPad for them to watch and keep them occupied. We have a direct flight that lands in Maui with no layovers, so that also makes it super convenient. Side note: Alaska Airlines is fantastic. We have something called the Companion Fares through their credit card. Basically you pay full price for one flight and then bring a second person for $99 (+ taxes & the annual fee which brings it to about $200 total roundtrip). Tim and I both have a credit card and we book one of us with one kid and it significantly saves us! Click here to read more about it - but especially if you are planning on annual air travel to Hawaii, it is absolutely worth it. Anyway - both flights this year with 3 were smooth and the kids were great. The more traveling you do, the more they get used to it. If you get to choose your seats - Tim and Nolan sat in one row and Andie, Cody and I sat in front or behind them.

Do any of your kids ride in a carseat on the plane? This was the first trip Andie didn't have a 5 point harness carseat on the plane, only Nolan. My dad actually purchased a carseat by Diono that can fit into a backpack carrier, which makes it compact enough to carry on the plane. Any carseat you bring on the plane must be approved by TSA (there is a small airplane emblem on the back of this carseat so it makes it obvious for flight attendants). It's not light, but that's why I married a pack mule, I mean man who doesn't mind lugging it on to the plane. Tip... use your umbrella stroller through security/airport and push the carseat on that so you're not carrying it around - then you only have to carry the actual carseat once you gate check the stroller before stepping on the plane. If you have an older child who sits in a booster, bring that along on the airplane. Then both of those can be transferred to a rental car once you land. There is actually a really cool booster that inflates to bring along - I haven't purchased it, but we probably will for our next trip for both Andie and Nolan. Cody's carseat was put into a travel bag and we checked that for free when we got to the airport.

How do you get everything packed and ready for the trip? Ha, this is actually comical when you realize how much crap you have, but remember, it takes a village. Because we had 4 tickets (if you have an Alaska Airlines card each person gets one free checked bag), I packed everything into 4 suitcases. We also had 2 umbrella strollers (which we gate checked in their travel bags), Cody's carseat (checks for free), 4 backpacks (one for each of us), and then Nolan's carseat. For babies, everyone is different about what they pack, but I do pack diapers and wipes to bring along, then it frees up space in your luggage in case you purchase anything. We also had a washer and dryer where we stayed, so I purposely packed less pajamas, etc and did some laundry while there. Because it's Hawaii, I also packed their floaty wings (they're hard to find there), a blow up duck from Target to put Cody in on the beach, bath bombs (the kids love them and it's an incentive to get them in from the pool and they took baths everyday), sunscreen (cheaper than buying there), and all of the regular packing essentials. I had one suitcase for me, Tim had one for him, Andie had hers (which I also packed my breast pump in because I knew I would need it), and then Nolan and Cody shared a large suitcase. Because their clothes are so small, that is where I also packed the floaty wings and extras I named above.

As for getting to the airport, we drove. Tim dropped me, the kids, and allllll of our stuff off at the check in area and I began the process of getting us checked in. My parents and their friends were on our same flight this time, so they were there to help me with the chaos, but in the past when they haven't been, the airline has been super helpful about helping me manage everything. I always make sure we are there early so if I just have to stand there and wait for Tim to park the car in the long term area it won't make us late for our flight. I wore Cody in a carrier and both kids had their umbrella strollers (we open the carseat so we don't have to carry it and sit it on one of the strollers so they can ride, but they usually just run beside the strollers). With the kids, early is key - and make sure everyone goes potty before getting on the plane! Also, plan on taking trips back and forth to the curb when you arrive and get ALL your luggage off the belt - there's definitely some sweat equity and hustle involved.

Hawaii is super kid-friendly - at least where we stay. We stay at the Westin Villas in Kaanapali and it is a wonderful place for families. No one looks at you funny if you breastfeed, your kids can run around everywhere, they have activities and awesome pools (& waterslides), and the beaches are beautiful and easy for swimming. There are also several places to stay on Maui (& other islands, too) that you can find good deals on if you pay attention.

If you have been contemplating taking a trip there but are nervous because your kids are young... don't let the fear of it all stop you from taking the leap. Vacations are different with young kids, obviously, and it's not everyone's cup of tea. But we have really enjoyed seeing them experience it all and it makes for lots of special memories. It can be expensive, but if you stay somewhere with a kitchen you can alleviate some of the cost by stopping by Target or Costco and eating in (which we did for half of the nights), but we personally feel like the best money we spend is for memories with our family. We don't typically buy physical presents for each other, we spend that money on memories. We have also figured out a ton of tips and tricks for traveling there for less money - pay attention to flight deals, travel off-season (if you're willing to take kids out of school), check costco for rental car deals, and plan ahead to know what you need to save up.

I can't think of any other tips for traveling with kids, but we kind of just have a little system now. I do get some anxiety before we fly because I always worry about the kids being good and not disturbing others - but we have been so lucky and they've been great travelers... don't expect to sit back, watch movies and drink mai tais the whole time (unless your kids take 5 hour long naps). I was up, holding Cody, coloring with Andie, busy with them to keep them quiet and satisfied. But it was all worth it and all 3 kids were good! Do you have anything you do that really helps? I am always up for learning more about what works for people. XO


Friday, April 13, 2018

Traveling with kids: What we carry on

Tim and I have been traveling with our kiddos since Andie was 4 months old to take advantage of the 'free before 2' flights. Fast forward almost 5 years and quite a few more trips, we definitely are NOT experts - but we have learned a few tricks.

The kids both have their own backpack they carry-on to the flight (now that they have their own seats). I pack mostly items that they've never seen before - or items they haven't played with in a while - to make it interesting and keep their attention. These things usually work as a double because I use them when we are out to eat on vacation as well - lots of great stuff to play with in a restaurant. I also keep an item or two in my suitcase to surprise them with on the flight home. Something simple, but it does the trick!

Here's are some of the things in Andie's carry-on backpack (Nolan's is similar, just with some other themes he's a little more interested in):

I don't pack ALL of this in her backpack, it would be too heavy - I save a few of these items to trade in for the way home. I also bring an iPad for them, but it's pretty heavy for them, so Tim and I keep them in our bags for them, but that's why you see her headphones. I also always make sure to pack their blankies since they like to snuggle with them while they sleep. We have a few blankies for each kid - so I designate an airplane blanket and leave another one in the suitcase for the hotel to keep it clean. Another great thing I will throw in their carry on... a few snacks (I will grab a piece of fruit in the airport, too) and I always put in an empty ziplock bag. It usually comes in handy!

Here are some extra pieces I take with me on our trips to keep them entertained while we are out to eat or trying to keep them busy:

Another little trick I have learned... I always bring an extra change of clothes for them and a plastic shopping bag in my carry on - just in case! The plastic bag has come in handy for several reasons. We ALWAYS have a fresh pack of baby wipes and hand sanitizer, too!

Most of the items pictured are from the target dollar section or amazon. A lot of them can be re-used over and over again, too, so they're a good investment. Michael's carries coloring books and sometimes has huge sales on them ($1 or less), so I will stock up on a few of them when I see them!

(lacing kits from the dollar section at Target)

Here's a few things that are great to pack in their bag: 
lacing activities
sticker books 
beading activities (Andie loves these) 
the on-the-go packets at Target
color crayons & color books
empty ziplock bag
blankie or comfort toy
books (keep it light)
and any other activities that are easy to take on the go and don't make a big mess.

In my bag for them:
baby wipes
hand sanitizer
extra change of clothes
band aids
empty plastic shopping bag

Both of my kids are interested in everything pictured - but if your child is interested in something, figure out a way to bring it if possible.

I am sure I am forgetting lots of things - this is just where I like to start when prepping for a trip with little ones. :) What are your go-to items for kids while for traveling?

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Dear Cody... You're 5 months old!

Happy 5 months, my sweet Cody bear...

My smiley, sweet baby boy! You love to stare and I love locking eyes with you and trying to figure out what you're thinking. You've grown so much this month. You giggle a lot - and it is absolutely the cutest giggle I have ever heard. You're just a happy boy by nature and it's really easy to get you to giggle (daddy also love tickling you to make you giggle). And on that note, you are extremely ticklish!

You like to suck on your bottom lip (you have the most adorable big lips) and your fingers. Your Gramz is really good at getting you to take a paci, but we don't have that great of luck, even though we try. We are hoping you don't become a thumb sucker, but whatever makes you happy makes me happy!

You are almost grown out of 6 month clothes, they're starting to get small on you. You are wearing 6-12 months sizes more comfortably. You are still a great eater and I am so grateful that we have had a successful breastfeeding journey so far. You have taken a couple of bottles of breastmilk, but you definitely prefer to nurse. We haven't started you on any solid foods yet, but we probably will within the month.

We celebrated your 1st Easter this month and you were a ham. You loved being able to watch everyone and we celebrated at Gramz & Pop's house on Friday before with all of your cousins, then again on Easter Sunday at Aunt Richelle & Uncle Danny's house. You did so well taking in all of the faces and noises of the gang.

You are taking a few naps during the day and you sleep really well in your crib. You aren't the best sleeper at night, you will sometimes wake every 2 hours - occasionally you will go in a 4 hour stretch. You absolutely love to sleep with me and daddy and if we are next to you, you always have at least one part of your body touching us. I have just been enjoying your little baby snuggles, I know even more now how quickly this time goes and it breaks my heart.

You still aren't rolling - but you are trying more often to go back to front. When you're on your belly, you like to rotate around and shuffle forward and backward - you're going to be mobile quickly, I just know it!

You have the cutest smile - it absolutely makes us melt. You are such a mellow little guy, it doesn't take much to make you happy. You have your moments in the car, but for the most part, you are much better than your brother and sister on longer car rides.

You love watching your brother and sister and they love to be around you. They smother you, try to hold you, and love laying with you. It is so much fun to see all of you interact. You are such a great little baby and it feels like I have known you my whole life!

I love you to the moon and back and I absolutely love being your mommy. You and that precious smile bring us so much joy every single day.