I was hunting through the dollar section at Target the other day, when these expanding capsules caught my eye. They’re cheap, extremely light weight and unbreakable – they seemed like they should be the perfect travel toy. Other ones I’ve seen have called for hot water. That seemed like it could be a bit of a hassle. Especially if, say, you were balancing a baby on your lap while helping your toddler with them. These, however, did not. I wasn’t sure if this was just poor instructions or if they really didn’t require it, but I figured, for the price, I could afford to find out.
I dropped it in a cup full of room temperature water and waited. Nothing. The toddler in question asked me what was happening… I let several minutes go by. Nothing. Our toddler asked me if it was food… (Which actually, is another vote against these – I’d hate to think about what happens if a child should swallow these. Yes, they do say 4+, but plenty of children older than that might still be tempted). Even a couple of HOURS later, still NOTHING. Our daughter was seriously underwhelmed. By this point she’d lost interest in our little experiment. By the next day it was still only about half out of the capsule and even the half that was out was underwhelming.
It worked better when we tried it in hot water, which wouldn’t be hard to come by in a hotel room, or even on the plane. So it’s travel friendly enough. But seriously, the sponge that came out was sad. Tiny, flimsy, lame.
Start with a great playground, add a lake for boating, fishing and feeding ducks, a carousel, a train ride, a petting zoo, a bounce house, pony rides, a real digging machine you can operate, and a splash pad and you’ve got a park your kids might just never want to leave. Visiting California Wine Country with kids and looking for a great place to burn off some extra energy? Or for a wonderful reward for hanging in there while you went wine tasting? You just found it! Howarth Park has everything a kid could want in a park and lots for grown ups, too!
The upper parking lot at Howarth Park is right next to Lake Ralphine. With ducks and geese galore, you’ll have no shortage of hungry mouths to feed if you bring along some food. There are tree shaded picnic benches right next to the parking lot and beside the lake, making for a relaxing and easy to reach picnic spot. Boat rentals are available for paddle boats, kayaks, canoes, sailboats and rowboats. On the other side of the parking lot, at the head of the paths that lead to the rides and playground, there is a snack stand that is open when the rides are and a bathroom that is open year-round.
The playground at Santa Rosa’s Howarth Park is enormous. Filled with unique climbing structures, there are different areas for children ranging from toddlers to spaces that will challenge far older children. Miniature town store fronts invite your child to make pretend visits to the bank – and to jail! There is a wet sand area (complete with a concrete pig to oversee it) and a dry sand area (complete with “dinosaur bones” to dig up). Never fear, though. Once your children are completely covered in dirt from head to toe, send them over to the splash pad to get cleaned off. Separate from the main play area, a secondary one (further down toward the tennis courts) features a rock climbing wall, additional swings (toddler and regular) and two train tables complete with hills and tunnels.
As if all that weren’t enough, from the beginning of May through the end of October the rides at Howarth Park are open. Opening hours are 11-5, (weekends only between Labor Day and the end of October). Tickets are $2 each, 10 for $17 (good that day) or 25 for $40 (good for one year from date of purchase). While these certainly aren’t rides that would thrill a teenager, young children will enjoy the train ride. The track runs in a loop through trees and the drivers recite some cute stories about alligators (fictional) and monkeys (stuffed) that riders will find along the route. The carousel (merry-go-round) is right next to the train depot. Just past the carousel, you’ll find the bounce house. It’s just an average sized one, but does feature a slide inside. Down below, on the way to the playground, are the ponies. They rest under trees while they wait for their next young rider. You have a choice between a one loop ($3) and a two loop ($5) ride. The path is lined with trees, which makes for a much more natural, peaceful setting. Continuing down the path to the playground, you’ll find the digger off to the left, and the petting zoo just to its right. (The petting zoo is run by 4H kids, and therefore is only open during school summer holidays). For little kids, (and their parents) the closeness of all the rides makes for a relaxing visit to this area of the park. Halloween brings a trick-or-treating event to the park, and the last chance of the year to ride the rides.
Howarth Park also offers walking (running/biking) trails – both paved and unpaved. If its own attractions weren’t enough to entice you to visit, the paths actually connect up to those at Spring Lake. From the parking lot at Howarth Park, a paved path runs 3.7 miles (5.95km) through trees, around Spring Lake and back. Benches are sprinkled along the length of the path and there are several bathrooms along the route, as well.
So, if you’re visiting Wine Country with kids, or if you’d just like a chance to relax and spend some time out on the waters of Lake Ralphine, head over to Howarth Park and enjoy one of the treasures of the area.
For people on the go with baby or young kids, books can present a challenge. Paperbacks aren’t very sturdy and have a hard time standing up to all the “love” that a toddler or baby can dish out. Board books are a lot tougher, but even they can’t handle getting wet (or who are we kidding – soaked) and bring more than one along and you’ll quickly realize they are HEAVY! Sure, there are some that are more suited to travel with kids than others. We’ve used the Eric Carle Stroller Cards and love them, our toddler is entranced with the Animal ABC’s Ring Flash Cardsand the Maisy Stroll-Along Bookshave traveled all over with us. However, as much as we love these great products, it’s still challenging to bring more than one or two along when we travel. Enter the Indestructibles- lightweight, tear-proof and washable, these might just be the perfect item for travel with kids! Picture a book that’s as (if not more) lightweight than a paper back picture book, but more rugged than a board book – welcome to the world of Indestructibles!
Indestructibles are made out of Tyvek – a material used to build houses – rather than paper. This makes them tough. Incredibly tough. Being the brats that we are, we naturally felt it was our duty to instantly and personally test out the claim that these books don’t tear. We tried. We really did. But they don’t. And won’t – even when your toddler leaves them where baby can reach them. Not only is the material itself super strong, but the pages are sewn together, not glued, and there is no cover. The whole book is made out of the same tough material. So go ahead – shove them into your diaper bag. Toss them into the bottom of the stroller, pile whatever you want on top of them, cram them into that overflowing carry-on – you can’t rip these. We dare you to try! Heck, our son has lovingly chewed on more than a couple. They can take it!
As anyone who’s ever had a toddler with a leaky sippy cup can tell you, board books don’t like water. Regular picture books like it even less. Indestructibles , on the other hand, are washable. That’s right – full on, in the sink, scrubbing with the soap brush – washable. It’s a beautiful thing. So after your toddler drops them in the parking lot and (hopefully) before your baby decides to teethe on them, you can simply wash them off. It’s a slightly surreal feeling as you serenely watch the water pour over a book and then take out your scrub bush and go to town. Not only do they come clean, but washing them seems to smooth out the worst of the wrinkles from the, ahem, “love” that ours receive.
Available in several different titles, the books are filled with bright pictures that our kids really enjoy. Both our toddler daughter and our baby son really enjoy them. None of the books have words written in them, but given the age of our children, we don’t feel that’s a problem. It’s easy to make up a story, or simply talk about what’s in the picture. There are several books that are modern twists on nursery rhymes (Humpty, Dumpty falls off the Great Wall of China, Old MacDonald Has a Farm – in Bolivia and Mary and her little lamb live in Africa, amongst others ). Not only are these a fun new version, but since the words are already well-known (and printed on the back of the book just in case), it’s easy to “read” along, even without the words being on every page. Plus, for those who travel with kids (or would like to) it’s a fun way to introduce young kids to other places(Mommy and Daddy have seen the clock the mice went up – it’s in London! )
We have a Skip Hop Pronto diaper bag that we use all the time, and love. We also have a bigger backpack we’ve used as a diaper bag – because travel with kids means bringing a lot of stuff with you! However, we still felt something was missing. True, we could easily attach the Skip Hop Pronto to our stroller, and have everything we needed for diaper changes in one compact place. However, that conveniently small size means that you don’t have room for snacks. Or stickers. Or toys. Or any of the other bribes incentives that we bring along to help the day go smoothly. The backpack holds a ton of stuff. Which makes it great on a long flight. Or exploring a new city for the day. But trying to grab snacks out of it on the go is challenging. Especially if you’re by yourself.
Enter our latest addition to our diaper bag collection – the Skip Hop Spark diaper bag ! We LOVE how our Skip Hop Pronto diaper bag attaches to the stroller, or can easily fit around your wrist (SO great for travel with kids – especially on planes!). The Spark easily attaches to your stroller, with two metal spring loaded hooks rather than Skip Hop’s usual plastic buckles. The hooks can be a bit trick to do up one handed, but it soon gets easier with a little practice.
The Spark diaper bag is spacious enough to hold everything you’ll need for a day and still compact enough not to get in your way while you push the stroller. Inside, you’ll find 4 interior open topped pockets that are large and deep enough to hold diapers and wipes. There are sippy cup/bottle/water bottle pockets on either side of the bag. They are apparently insulated, which sounds great for travel with kids, but we haven’t noticed that it’s enough to make a difference. There is a zippered pocket on the back that holds a padded changing pad. (It’s convenient to have one – but we wish they’d made it as wide and long as the one on the Skip Hop Pronto). On the front of the bag is a small zippered pocket big enough to hold emergency items like band-aids and extra pacifiers, and a magnetic closure flap pocket that’s the perfect size for a whole bunch of snacks and your phone.
We are so happy we decided to get the Skip Hop Spark diaper bag ! Even if the only travel with kids you do is to head to the park – you’ll be happy you have it with you! There’s no heavy bag to lug around, or to stuff into the stroller basket along with the myriad of other things you’re already trying to shove in there. Best of all, everything we need is at our fingertips – without having to miss a beat! It’s super easy to grab snacks, or drinks or toys, without having to dig around in the crowded stroller basket. The diaper bag is spacious enough (and cute enough) to serve as a purse, too, and it’s been super convenient to only have one item to just grab and go. We hemmed and hawed over this purchase, but in the end we’re so glad we finally decided to get the Skip Hop Spark diaper bag!
We recently flew “home” to visit family in Canada. It was our first flight since the birth of our son, and suddenly, travel with baby had turned into travel with baby and toddler! It was also the first time our daughter had flown since she turned two. Turning two meant we were now flying with a toddler who had her own seat – and was supposed to stay in it! So, how on Earth do you keep an energetic toddler in their seat, especially when you are already holding their baby brother? Enter CARES Child Aviation Restraint System . The perfect answer for all who are attempting to travel with kids old enough to be in their own seat, but not old enough to stay in it!
CARES (Child Aviation Restraint System), is a super compact seat belt attachment and turns the airplane seatbelt into a harness suited for travel with baby or toddler. It comes in its own (very small) bag and weighs just one pound – FAR lighter and more compact than trying to drag a toddler car seat onto your next flight! In fact, we easily fit it into the front pocket of our daughter’s backpack (filled otherwise with great travel toys for toddler). Naturally, we’d taken out the product ahead of time, figured out how to use it and practiced installing it at home, when we had all the time in the world, right? WRONG! Of course not! We’d been busy getting ready to travel with kids! We didn’t have time for that! The best part? We didn’t need to practice – it is ridiculously easy! We (naturally) didn’t bother reading the instructions (helpfully printed right on the bag, just in case!) and still had no trouble getting it to work right away. Easy peasy! It really, honestly did take, as advertised, less than a minute. In fact, we’re pretty sure it was less than half that. The design is very straight forward and we were able to look like pro parents who had travel with kids down!
Basically, you wrap the big strap around the seat back (and behind the seat tray of the person sitting behind your toddler). Then you adjust the straps to fit your toddler and thread the seat belt through the bottom of them, securing it the same way you normally would. There is no strap between your child’s legs, so yes, they could technically try to wiggle out – but the chest strap would keep them for going very far if they did. We’ve seen complaints that the chest strap was dangerous when the toddler fell asleep. We really don’t understand that. Car seats, high chairs and many strollers have chest straps. When done up tightly enough, they should not be hazardous to your child. Our daughter was perfectly comfortable and at no time were we worried for her safety.
Yes, we did have to ask the gentleman sitting right behind out daughter to lower his tray for a few seconds while we installed the belt. But, he was able to close the tray when we were done with no trouble. Given how squished airplanes are, and how often trying to get settled into your seat turns into an elaborate game of Twister with strangers, we feel like asking someone to lower their seat tray for a few seconds is hardly a big deal. Not to mention that we find most people are very accommodating when they see you are attempting to travel with kids and are happy to help you in any way they can. Basically, they’ll do anything they can to help you avoid having the kids scream the whole flight (of course, this won’t be happening to you, since you’ve read Travel with Baby: Flying Tips for Fearless Family Travel!)
Our daughter was happy to wear her CARES belt throughout the flight, and it kept her in her seat the entire time. It was great not to have to worry about her trying to get up and exploring while we took care of our baby son. (For other tips on how not to lose things while traveling, including your kids, check out our post on How Not to Lose a Thing While You Travel with Kids).
Memorial Day marks the start of the summer travel season in the U.S. School is almost out and it’s time for summer vacation! While the kids are probably excited, the thought of long car rides and tiring flights can make travel with kids seem overwhelming. Family travel doesn’t have to be stressful or difficult, though. Travel with kids can mean air travel or a good ol’ fashioned road trip; simple weekend getaways or splurging on all inclusive resorts. But, no matter where you plan to travel with kids, we have lots of advice to help you keep your summer vacation fun and easy!
First off, you’ll want some ways to keep the kids entertained while you travel. Whether you’re taking a road trip or have air travel in your future, happy travel with kids means keeping kids busy during long car rides and even longer flights. All that sitting and waiting means you’ll want great travel toys and lots of them. To help you find travel toys for kids, you can read our posts on great toddler travel toys to help you travel with a toddler, as well as our 3 Great Toddler Travel Toys and Top 10 Great Toddler Travel Toys posts.
Do your travel plans involve a flight? Lately, it seems there are endless stories of delayed flights, TSA snafus and extra fees for just about everything! Is it even worth considering flying with kids? Air travel with kids can be challenging, but there are ways to make it easier! Our guide – Travel with Baby: Flying Tips for Fearless Family Travel has lots of practical tips for family air travel including what to bring, and how to help your kids deal with spending all that time in a confined place. Early morning flight? Don’t start off your family vacation on the wrong foot! Read our Flying with Kids: Why Airport Hotels with Shuttles Make for Good Travel Mornings and start your holiday out well-rested and ready to take on flying with kids!
Heading to the beach is perhaps the quintessential summer family vacation. If the thought of relaxing in the sun with the waves lapping at your feet seems out of reach now that you travel with kids – think again! The beach is a great family travel destination and one that can work well for families who travel with baby, too. We had a wonderful time with our toddler during our family beach vacation to the beautiful island of Aruba. Our week there was everything a family vacation should be – plenty of fun activities for the whole family and plenty of relaxation, too! For tips on how to have fun in the sun at the beach with kids, check out Beach With Baby–How to make the Most of Your Beach Vacation. Then, grab your beach towel and sun tan lotion and get ready to hit the beach!
Is the thought of planning a family vacation stressing you out? If your hectic life means you don’t have time to plan a vacation, why not head to an all-inclusive? While we’re not huge all-inclusive “types”, we’ve definitely done this kind of travel in the past and can see how it could be a great choice for travel with kids. Club Med is like camp for adults – and kids! With everything organized and already paid for, you can kick back, relax and do as much or as little as you’d like – with your kids or by yourself. Kids “camps” keep everyone from baby to toddler to teenagers busy and having a great time. We very much enjoyed our time at Club Med, Cancun. Since we were there, Club Med has added Kids Clubs, making this a great destination for travel with kids!
No matter where your summer vacation takes you, the important thing is that you get out there and travel. The world is full of amazing experiences just waiting to be had! We firmly believe that your and your kids’ lives will be richer for the experiences that travel brings and family travel just makes the experiences all the better for having been shared with the ones you love! Bon voyage!
Once upon a time you could just grab your jacket and head out to dinner. Throw a few things in a weekend bag and off you went! But that was before you had kids. When baby comes along, suddenly, even a quick bite at a local restaurant seems to require a mountain of diapers, bibs, toys and so much more!
There is no question that when you have kids, especially young children, you need a lot more things to make it through a day comfortably. But there’s also no reason that a last-minute getaway is out of the question. We’ve found it’s still possible, if we’re prepared ahead of time.
Travel with kids means toys and preferably new ones. New toys are more exciting than familiar ones, but buying new toys every time you travel can get expensive. Here are some easy ideas for travel toys that will keep your kids entertained while you travel for next to nothing. In fact, you may already have many of these items at home!
1) Pipe cleaners – There are endless possibilities for these great travel toys. Lightweight and pretty much unbreakable, they bend and twist in a million different ways. Try making letters or numbers, twist multiple ones together, wind them around a finger or make them into a bracelet. When you’re done, unwind and make something else!
2) Paper bag puppets. The lowly paper lunch bag can become a puppet show! All you need to do is add a face! Bring some crayons along and you will soon have yourself a full cast of characters ready for opening night.
3) Cats Cradle. This classic children’s game requires nothing more than a little string. Cut it ahead of time, since bringing scissors onboard is a no-no.
4) Photo album. Pick up a mini photo album and print out new photos to make an exciting new activity for each trip. You could make the photos ones of the places you’ll be seeing so that you can talk about them with your child, or photos of relatives you’ll be visiting so you can get ready for your time together.
5) Stickers. Stickers can be stuck in a sticker book, can decorate your car seat or can be the star of a great picture for a dictated (or written) story. They’re great fine motor practice and can make keep kids entertained from an older baby to toddler to kid. Plus, at these prices you won’t care if they get left behind! Looking for an additional twist? Mount your sticker on a popsicle stick, and use your drawing as the background for your puppet show!
6) Post-it Notes. Draw on them, write on them, stick them and re-stick them as many times as you like. These come in lots of different shapes and colors and won’t stay stuck on anything you don’t want them to.
7) Clothespin dolls/super heroes. Get some old-fashioned wooden clothespins and some markers and your imagination is the only limit on the endless number of possible characters.
Heading to the beach with baby this summer? Here are some things we’d recommend to help make your beach vacation with kids truly a vacation!
Going to the beach with baby doesn’t have to mean the end of those long walks on the beach! On the other hand, your toddler’s tender feet will probably thank you if you bring along some Water Shoes. They are also great for walking on hot pavement around pools.
For extra fun both on the beach and in the pool, we also brought along a Kidoozi Castle Bucket Set. Sure, we could have just bought something at the beach, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as durable – or as fun! The bucket, shovel and rake are great for sand, and the water mill and watering can are great fun in the pool. In fact, well after our beach vacation was over, our toddler kept using these in her wading pool.
We also brought along plenty of Huggies Little Swimmers Disposable Swimpants, since diapers are usually more expensive at beach vacation destinations. We were glad we did. It turned out diapers were much more expensive at the stores we checked, and they didn’t have the size we needed, either!
We loved having a Swimways Baby Spring Float Sun Canopy for our toddler in Aruba. This great swim float has a mesh seat for baby to sit in. It comes with an attached sunshade that can be tilted to the right angle. You twist to fold it up, and it springs open- like those sunshades for cars. It’s super compact size makes it very convenient for travel! It was great not to have to hold her the whole time and we appreciated the sun coverage (especially that close to the equator). She enjoyed playing with shells we stuck on the mesh in front of her. She also roamed around in it in the (very) shallow part of the pool and we didn’t have to worry about her falling over. The float is covered with fabric which we appreciated since we felt it wasn’t likely to puncture right away like so many inflatable beach toys for kids. It is really compact and was easy to inflate. Very worth it! We actually saw lots of people with the adult version – Swimways Spring Float Assortment, and we wished we’d known about them, too!
Travel with baby means you’ll want to have snacks and milk available. We brought a very small, Insulated Thermal Cooler Bag with us. This lightweight cooler was compact and easy to travel with. Every morning, we’d stick a bunch of (adult) drinks and a sippy cup with milk in it along with some ice and bring it down to the pool or beach with us. It was much cheaper than buying drinks all the time and very convenient for having milk for our toddler.
Even if you’re spending your day relaxing on the beach baby will still need to nap. Luckily, we were able to get a palapa to shade us. If we hadn’t, it was great to know we could easily use our Phil & Teds Traveller (Travel Cot) to keep our toddler shaded while she slept. While she played, her Sunday Afternoons Kids Play Hat, with its SPF 50, kept her face well shaded. (We’ve been in love with that hat ever since friends gave it to us when our daughter was still a baby. With it’s great elastic at the back, it still fits! In fact, we first wrote about it in our list of Top 10 Items to make Travel with Baby Easy and Fun).
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Heading to the beach with baby this summer? What are you planning to bring? Already took a beach vacation with kids? What did you bring along to help make the trip truly a vacation?
On our first trip with our daughter, we brought along lots of new baby travel toys. Most of them were big hits, but some of the travel toys just didn’t interest her that much. After all, we’re all different, and kids are no exception. Given that some people don’t even (gasp!) like chocolate, there are bound to be travel toys that most other kids enjoy that just aren’t your child’s thing. No matter how carefully you choose travel toys for kids, there are bound to be some things they enjoy much more than others.
So, when it came time to choose some new toddler travel toys, we got smart…and asked our toddler! That’s right – we took her along and asked her which travel toys she liked! Ok, you’re thinking – but I want these toys to be new. Surely that’s half the value of a great travel toy, right? We completely agree that having new travel toys is a great way to go. The beauty of having a toddler is that those toys you buy today will be a complete surprise in a couple of months! Heck, they’ll be all new again in a couple of weeks!
Of course, if you’re like us, you’d rather shop online. No problem. Just chose some travel toys on Amazon, and then return the ones that your child doesn’t seem interested in. Or keep them, and try them next trip! Many of the travel toys that our daughter now loves as a toddler she didn’t really “get” at first.