Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How to Keep the Cooties Away

One of the concerns that parents have when traveling with children is that they will be exposed to all sorts of new and crazy germs and everyone will get sick thereby ruining the trip. And I'm not saying that will never happen. But there are some things that I have figured out that at least help keep the germs to a minimum.


I'm sure it's a no-brainer at this point but you should always have at least one container of hand sanitizer close by when traveling with kids. You never know what they are going to find to pick up that they think is SUPER interesting and must be shared with you immediately. I knew I had reached a new level when I heard myself say "We don't pick up things from the Metro floor!". The truth is that kids are inquisitive and keeping them from touching everything in sight is an exercise in futility and will put you on the fast track to insanity.

While we are traveling, I keep a small bottle of instant hand sanitizer in whatever purse or backpack I happen to be using that day. I also keep some hand sanitizer wipes in my red basket. In addition to that, we make dedicated bathroom/hand-washing visits frequently, especially if we have been in a children's museum or science museum where there's lots of touching.


It's hard to keep up a healthy diet while we are traveling because it's just not possible to pack every single one of our meals. But I do pack our vitamins and try to make sure that the kids balance out their soda/lemonade intake with water and milk. My kids take a daily multivitamin as well as a vitamin D supplement. We started the extra vitamin D last winter and our frequency of illnesses dropped DRAMATICALLY. Our current favorites are the Whole Foods 365 Chewy Multivitamins and the Rainbow Lite Vitamin D Sunny Gummies. We take the 1000 IU dosage but they also come in 400 IU.


Ha! I know, that's a funny joke...good sleep w/kids...but seriously, you can at least try! We encourage naps/rest time while traveling in the car and we don't deviate too far from our normal bedtimes even when on vacation. We've tried that and it just creates super grumpy kids and grownups. We also try to not cram too many activities in to one day and schedule some down time to recharge our mental batteries.

But even with all these good ideas the bottom line is that you'll be in new places, exposed to new germs and there's a chance someone will pick up some cooties. But we never let that stop us from exploring a new place!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Candyman...errr...woman!

We normally do not consume much candy in our house. I've been known to have to throw out halloween candy from the previous year just before it's time to go trick-or-treating again.

It's not that my kids don't like candy or that they have this superhuman will power, it's just that we eat during specified meal times and usually they ask for a cookie or something like that after dinner. So that means that candy is pretty special. And I totally use that to my advantage when we travel!

On the epic walk from the Natural History Musuem in Washington, D.C. to the Lincoln Memorial, I had to start bribing them about halfway there with Jolly Ranchers. And when we were faced with 5 looooooonnnnnng (according to the kiddos) hours in the car going from my grandmother's house in Georgia back to our vacation house in South Carolina, Will came through with this crazy gum he found in the gas station that dyes your tongue blue.

I had the forethought on our last big trip to pack some of the easter candy in my camera bag so when the whining started while we were waiting for fireworks on July 4th, I pulled out Blo Pops and suddenly I was everyone's best friend!

The trick is keeping Will out of it until the right moment when the candy is most needed. ;)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Everything's Fancy to A Kid

We are larger than the average 2.5 kid family. So it's difficult sometimes to travel because that involves getting multiple hotel rooms which makes my cheap frugal husband nervous and he starts shoving sugar packets and soap samples in our luggage in an attempt to offset the expense.

I was overjoyed when I found the Six Suitcase Travel site which is designed to help families my size (or larger...) find a hotel that won't lock their doors when we pull up. I used this site to help find a hotel that would work for our trip to Philadelphia and I soon settled on The Springhill Suites by Marriott. I called their very friendly 800 number and found out that not only would it accommodate all of us but they were running a special so I was able to score ONE hotel room for all six of us for $87/night over the 4th of July weekend. Amazing! Not only did they have a great rate, but they also promised a free, hot, buffet breakfast every morning.

To be perfectly honest, I was a little nervous. It seemed too good to be true. Would we pull up and find something more in line with the Bates Motel? I was also concerned because in our efforts to find affordable lodging, we were looking outside of Philadelphia so our commute time was questionable. I was pleasantly relieved however when Jack guided us to a beautiful 8 story hotel perched on the top of hill, which made it even more impressive to the kiddos in the back. I heard one of them say, "wow, this must be an expensive hotel!". Oh little did they know!

Check-in was a breeze and soon we were checking out our hotel suite. It had a small work/kitchen area with a fridge, microwave and small sink. There was a desk that Will promptly took over as his own and set about figuring out how to get the high speed internet that had been promised. It took some convincing but Marie finally agreed to share the sleeper sofa with Nicole and not sleep on the chair and ottoman. There were two double beds so much to Tony's disliking, he did have to share a bed with his little brother. He wanted to sleep on the floor. After explaining germs, hotel rooms and general hygiene, he agreed that he probably wouldn't catch as many cooties sleeping next to Drew as he would on the hotel room floor! Once all the sleep negotiations were settled, we promptly took over the indoor pool area and let the kids get all their wiggles out from being stuck in the van for 5 hours.

I was still thinking that this hotel was too good to be true and that we would be in for a rude awakening the next morning with the "hot buffet breakfast". But we trooped down there nice and early and the kids thought they were in heaven! Fruit loops, pastries, peanut butter w/sugar in it, all sorts of things that I wouldn't be caught dead letting them eat normally. But since we were on vacation, I let them have at it. There were eggs and sausage that some of my creative children used to make egg and sausage bagel sandwiches. In the mini-fridge, there were peeled hard boiled eggs, milk, yogurt and cottage cheese. Fresh hot coffee to wake me up and oatmeal so Will could eat a healthy breakfast. It was perfect for our family. The staff was very accommodating and one morning, when we walked in to the dining area and MTV was blasting, I asked a gentleman at the front desk if he could change the channel and he quickly came and found something more kid-friendly.

The location was so convenient and while we did have to travel about 20 minutes to and from downtown Philadelphia, the kids didn't seem to mind and it gave us some time in the car to discuss what our plans were for the day or to sit quietly and listen to music. We stayed in the Plymouth Meeting location which had a Giant grocery store as well as other shopping close by.

While the kids enjoyed all the sites in Philadelphia, I think it's a toss up as to what was actually the highlight of the trip. Beautiful fireworks over the Philadelphia Art Museum or mini cinnamon rolls on the breakfast buffet every morning?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Who's pickier? A teenager or a preschooler?

Having a 6 year spread between our oldest and youngest children sometimes makes it difficult to find an activity that makes everyone happy and keeps them involved. Luckily, we have an awesome location within perfect driving distance for a day trip that solves that problem.

In Richmond, Virginia, the Science Museum of Virginia and the Children's Museum of Richmond are right next door to each other. They share a large, convenient parking lot and the location is centrally placed to be able to enjoy other fun activities in Virginia's capitol city.

  • Well-stocked Art Studio for the crafty crowd
  • Indoor tree climbing structure that lets little ones stretch their legs
  • Dinozone with lots of dinos to climb on
  • Playhouse theater so your little Shakespeare can express themselves
  • The Backyard area for fun water play and other neat outdoor exploring
  • Always lots of events planned so check the calendar on their site


  • Bioscape lets the curious crowd become more familiar with how the body works (make sure you solve the crime mystery and turn in your card at the welcome desk for a special prize!)
  • Light visions that help teach illusions and other forms of trickery
  • Real trains in the back (since this building used to be a train station)
  • Rat basketball (only on Saturdays so try to go's one of the craziest things you will ever see! Trust me!)
  • Wonderful traveling exhibits

The biggest plus of visiting these two museums is that because they are side by side, you can split up and send one grownup with the olders to the Science Museum and have the other grownup take the youngers to the Children's Museum. But if you happen to be traveling solo there are still things for multi-age groups to enjoy at either location. There are great spots outside to have a picnic lunch if the weather allows. Parking is convenient and free. Also if you are members of your local children's museum or science museum, check to see if you can take part in the reciprocal benefits from the ASTC. Oh and how could I forget? The Science Museum has a cafe so you can refuel with Starbucks for the drive back to your hotel or home!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sanity Saver

How do you keep four children of various ages quiet and occupied?

You bring toys along. Not just any toys. Playmobil.

I have yet to meet a child that doesn't immediately sit down and become engaged when a box of Playmobil is set down in front of them. I know some parents and grownups cringe when they see all the tiny bits and pieces that come along with any given Playmobil set but they are relatively easy to keep up with and we have only lost a few pieces over the years and that was mostly when I made the mistake of letting Nicole and Marie bring this

in the minivan one time for a short trip. See all those little cups, plates and silverware? Yeah, some of those knives have been sucked in to the black hole of the seatbelt stalks. Gone forever. But for the most part, we've got everything that came in the box.
Short trip to Grandma's house? Take Playmobil.
Week vacation at the beach? Take Playmobil.
Sibling lacrosse game? Take a little Playmobil. ;)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Toll Charge Ahead

When heading out on a trip, it's usually a good idea to have some cash in your wallet.

I know what you're thinking. Annie, we come to read your blog because you promise tips to help us travel with kids better and this is what you give us? That may seem like an axiomatic statement but I frequently leave home with ZERO cash in my wallet. Case in point, our recent Philadelphia jaunt.

I had thought earlier in the week that it would be a good idea to go ahead and withdraw some cash for our trip since we use a local credit union and chances were good that we would need cash at some point during the weekend even though most places take credit/debit cards now. (And paying ATM fees makes Will's head spin around faster than Linda Blair's.) The thought flitted out of my brain and as we launched on our trip that early Thursday morning I comforted myself by remembering that my dear husband Will almost always has a few dollars in his pocket. So with no worries, we zipped out of town.

Hours later, when we zoomed past the "Toll-2 miles" sign on I95, I suddenly turned to Will and said "You have cash, right? Right?". To my dismay, his answer was NO! We quickly polled the kids riding in the back seat and between the four of them, we were able to come up with enough change to pay the $2 toll. I'm still wondering what would have happened if we got up to the toll booth and didn't have the cash.
Would they send a bill?
Let me write a check?
Make us stay in Maryland forever?
Who knows?

But we did find the nearest exit and located an ATM because there were even more tolls ahead before we reached Philadelphia. I should have listened when Jack warned in his proper English accent "Toll Charge Ahead" but I was too busy updating my Facebook status to make sure that everyone knew we were leaving on vacation...not because I wanted to rub it in or anything...because really, who besides me thinks that being in a minivan with four kids is anything close to a vacation?

Friday, July 10, 2009

MapEasy Guidemaps

One of the things that I felt was necessary for our recent Philadelphia trip was a map of the city. I had never been to Philadelphia and I thought that it was important for me to be comfortable with the layout of the city before we arrived since Will and I would be herding four kids around during probably the busiest weekend of the year. I had poured over google maps, done the street-view and mapped out our travel paths. But I still felt like I needed something to hold in my hands while we were actually there. So I found this MapEasy Guidemap of Philadelphia. It had all the qualities I needed in a map: cheap, laminated, easy to fold and it had highlights of the city already marked for me! There are MapEasy Guidemaps for other cities so if we do venture on our NYC trip next summer, I know what I will be packing for sure!