If you’re just now catching up, check out…
and today, the conclusion!
Part IV: Favorite Products and Websites
There are several items we have used during our frequent travels that we love love love.
1. Sleeping Tent
We purchased this nursery tent from Amazon when our son was a baby. The sides are see-through mesh, so I sewed a cover for it so that it would feel the same from inside no matter where we set it up (you could also just throw a sheet over it if the weather isn’t terribly hot). We gradually trained him to sleep in it anywhere and then we did the same with our girlie. You can read about that here and here.
There are fancier sleeping tents of this sort for kids, but they are much more expensive and also much larger when broken down. This one is only about two pounds, eighteen inches long and about five inches around. It is tiny and fits in any backpack or small travel bag. Heck, it’d fit in my purse! (Please note that we did not travel with the foam pad/mattress that it comes with. We’d just throw any sheet, blanket or towel in the bottom that we could find along the way.)
Purchasing this lil’ tent is one of the most wonderful things we have done as frequent travelers with kids. It’s not possible to travel with travel cribs… those things are just too huge and heavy. But this tent can go anywhere.
They’ve slept in it in multiple airports during long layovers. Even I slept in it (half my body, that is) along with my two kids during this layover! (Sharjah)
We have put it on top of other beds (Lebanon).
And on the floor of hotels often (this one is Nepal).
We have even taken it cabin camping in Colorado.
AND put the little tent inside a big tent when camping along the Nile River.
My favorite time was when we used this tiny bit of floor to set it up when we were on an overnight train through Transylvania (H was eighteen months old). The space wasn’t even three feet wide but we just squashed the tent and H slept amazingly well in this incredibly strange situation. And so we slept great too!
I cannot sing the praises of this product enough. It takes a little effort up front on the parents’ part to teach the child how to sleep in the tent, but it is worth the payoff… having a baby/toddler that can sleep anywhere you can find six or nine square feet of space makes traveling infinitely easier.
2. The Ergo Carrier
This is another one of the most wonderful things we have purchased for use when traveling (and every day life, too).
This amazingly versatile baby/child carrier is the best I’ve ever tried. It can be used as a backpack
…or a front pack. You can put a tiny infant in it if you like and it easily adjusts to fit lots of body types.
When we were touring this old fort in India I even put my four year old in it (and he weighed 35 pounds). He was asking all sorts of questions about what we were seeing but it was so busy and loud that I was having to stop walking and bend over every time I wanted to hear his or answer him. So I strapped him on my front and we could talk easily while taking our tour in this noisy place. When I purchased this carrier I never dreamed I would be able to use it for such a big kid!
When we are traveling I wear this thing all day with one or another of the children in it and my body doesn’t revolt. I mean, I can tell I’m carrying around extra weight and burning lots of calories doing so, but my shoulders don’t kill me like they did when I used to put even a fifteen pound baby in a regular front pack Baby Bjorn type carrier.
3. A Stroller
I’ve done some ‘research’ and have found that frequent travelers have a love or hate relationship with strollers. Some refuse to travel with strollers, saying its much more trouble than it’s worth. But I love traveling with a stroller, especially when we’re doing lots of airports! When I flew alone with the kids, this stroller and a half (as Mike calls it) was a life saver.
Don’t think of it just as a child-pusher, but a stuff-holder!
This particular one is a Sit N Stand Stroller and it’s my favorite to travel with. It’s not practical for touring cities so much, but it’s great for trips where you’re just doing lots of airports. Look at all the stuff we can pile in it! On this trip, I had my three month old daughter snuggled in the Ergo Carrier on my chest and then I had two free hands to push this cute boy and a bunch of our stuff easily through the airport. I could have even been sipping a latte at the same time, it makes airports so leisurely. Ha!
We’ve also made single stroller work for two kids.
I learned this from a friend of mine. Just lay the back down and stack the kids up. They get used to it. There isn’t as much room for gear, but it gets the kids around.
There are a few downsides to doing airports with a stroller, just so you know what to expect and can make the best decision for your family…
1. You have to take elevators up and down the airport levels and not the ever popular escalators that the masses take. Sometimes this requires a bit of a detour.
2. When going through security you are required to take the children out of the stroller, unload the thing, break it down and put it through the scanner. This takes a couple extra minutes.
3. When exiting the plane you may have to wait on the ramp while they unload the strollers and extra carry on bags that were checked plane-side at your departing city. This also slows you down a few minutes.
All in all, these inconveniences are still well worth it, for me at least!
4. Travel Pillowcases
Now, this one is really just a bonus. If you’re not crafty and you can’t pull this off… no worries! A couple years ago my Mama gave my boy a small pillow with a homemade pillowcase on it that he slept with every night. It happened to be the size of an airline pillow.
So when the time came to travel, I didn’t want to carry the whole pillow onto the airplane but I did pack the tiny pillowcase in his wee backpack. When we were getting settled on the plane I slipped the pillow case over the little travel pillows that the airline provides for use on the plane and just that easily my son had a pillow that was familiar and comforting to him. and it took almost no extra space to bring along the small pillowcase. Now my girlie has one too and their pillowcases have been on and off airline pillows all around the globe. When we arrive someplace to stay, then I put them on a small pillow that I packed in our large checked in baggage (or a random sweatshirt or towel if I didn’t bring the small pillows along) and they use them nightly until we travel again.
Fav Travel Websites
Lastly, here are a few of our fav websites that we often use when arranging our travel.
1. We love agoda.com to find hostels and hotels abroad.
2. Skyscanner.com is a great site for getting a handle on small regional airlines that aren't often listed on the major search sites. Small regional airlines are KEY to saving money while globe-hopping. You can find flights with tiny unknown airlines flying in and out of big cities or obscure towns on this site and then follow the provided links to book your tickets.
3. Travelocity.com is the place to go for hostel and hotel reviews. It’s good for reading up on the cheap hostel or hotel your husband just booked so you can prepare yourself for the worst. Ha! It’s also good when you are trying to choose a 'vacationy' place to kick-back for several days. Other people's recent reviews of a place can easily make our decision for us when we are trying to choose between a couple accomodations and feel like we have no information to go on.
4.Finally, ALWAYS SIGN UP FOR FREQUENT FLIER MILES!!! I am amazed at how many frequent travelers have never bothered to join these free programs. We are members of many clubs, but United’s frequent flier program is connected with many of the international carriers we use most often and we've gathered points for many years on these airlines. This is how we we 'pay' for most of the little adventure trips we take on the way home (like our Asia trip in 2011). It's totally worth it. We even flew back to Africa recently for free (saving $3000!!!!) because we always save our frequent flier miles. Don't waste another flight! Sign up on your most common carrier and see what it's 'partner carriers' are, on which you can also earn miles. If you fly an airline that isn't in your program, then sign up for their program too. It doesn't hurt and you never know when you might fly that airline (or a partner of theirs) in the future. Sign up your kids too, once they turn 2.
Happy traveling everyone!