Spring-break fun around Vancouver

In the school district where we live, the kids get a two week long Spring Break, and we're just finishing up the second week of our holidays. It's been a low-key affair, mainly because we've been dealing with the flu, but we did manage to squeeze in some fun as well.

1. Going for a great walk in Lynn Headwaters park in North Vancouver. This is one of my family's favourite hikes, and the lower trail along the river is a smooth and easy walk for any age: even if you're bringing a stroller!

2. Taking our new guinea pigs outside for a taste of grass and sunshine. Recently we made two guinea pigs the newest members of the family, and they are just the cutest, sweetest little pets (with big appetites!).

3. Checking out the new installations and exhibits at Vancouver's Science World. As usual, visiting Science World was a big hit with the kids. They loved the new Creativity in Motion exhibit, the modular railway on display in the upstairs area. The new outdoor interactive play-park was also a lot of fun: it'll be even more fun when the water features are turned on in April!

4. Going for a walk in downtown Vancouver. Walking along the shore in Kitsilano and following the water all the way to Granville Island is a great way to spend a sunny day. Capping things with some ice cream once we arrived at Granville Island made it even better. The sculpture above is in the Kitsilano neighbourhood close to Vancouver's Maritime Museum.

5. Visiting The Vancouver Aquarium. This is one of the best family-friendly destinations in all of Vancouver. We brought a packed lunch which we ate in the dolphin underwater gallery, we got to see the big octopus stretching his arms, did some fun crafts, and enjoyed looking at all the other critters as well. Even on a busy day (and it was busy when we were there), The Aquarium is a lot of fun for kids and adults.

Flying with kids - 5 rules-of-behaviour to follow on board

When you're on an airplane with your kids, you will probably feel a bit stressed out at some point. No matter how experienced a traveler you are, and how well-behaved your children are, it's just a fact of life that most regular kids will not behave as perfect angels for the duration of a long-haul flight.

In my experience though, most kids do OK on flights, even long ones. Yes, they can get bored and fidgety, and sometimes they cry, but on the many flights I've taken, I've never seen children totally out of control. Kids are people too of course, and if they're tired, hungry, scared or uncomfortable they might act out rather than tell you what's wrong. I've seen some adults act a lot worse than most kids I've traveled with, and they have way fewer excuses in my opinion!

Still, there are certain behaviours that should be avoided at (almost) all costs on board a plane. And most parents know that with kids, especially younger ones, you better pick your battles and focus on stuff that is REALLY important, rather than nag them about every little thing. So here are my 5 most important rules on board:

Behave, or the t-rex will get you!
1. No kicking the seat in front
Nobody wants to get kicked in the back every two seconds, so to preserve peace and good-will on the plane, this is my number one no-no for the kids: squirm in your own seat if you must, but don't kick the seat in front of you.

2. No tugging on the tray table
This is just as bad as kicking the seat, since the effect is pretty much the same for the poor passenger in front of you. The tray table can be rather irresistible for kids, so it's best to keep an eye on this and lay down the law as soon as you can. Using the tray-table is alright, but don't pound on it, or tug on it so that it causes distress for others.

3. No screaming (unless you're really in pain)
Let's face it: sometimes kids get loud. This is when we as parents sometimes tell them to use their "indoor voices". On the plane, indoor voice is important. Babies can cry: they don't have any other way of telling adults if something is wrong, so they're excused. I tell my kids they can whine and complain to me if they like, but please, no loud voices. With everyone in cramped, close quarters on a flight, too much noise is not a good thing.

See, perfect angels...
4. Always clean your hands after going to the bathroom
This rule is good all the time, everywhere, but I especially enforce it when we're on a plane. Why? Because airplane bathrooms are very, very cramped and very, very dirty. Anyone who goes in there will touch something that makes them pick up unwanted germs. Antibacterial hand-wipes and hand-sanitizer is a must to reduce the risk of catching a cold, flu or stomach-bug.

5. When you board the plane: get into your seat right away
When people board the plane, they should get out of the aisle and into their seats as fast as possible. Get your carryons out of the way immediately, or sit down and do it later. Standing in the aisle means you're holding up the entire boarding process, and that other passengers will have to stand around and wait for way too long. I enforce this rule for my kids when we board a flight, and would like to be able to enforce it for every adult on the plane too. My kids (and most other kids I've seen) usually get into their seats quickly, while adults often stand around fiddling with bags, coats, cameras, newspapers, headphones, laptops, tablets... forever.

Bonus rule: help out if you can. If you see a fellow passenger that needs help entertaining a child, getting their carry-on out of the overhead compartment, finding a pen that fell on the floor... help out. Small acts of kindness can go a long way on a long flight.

Bringing food & snacks for travel - useful, reusable products

Whether you're packing your child's lunch box in the morning, heading out in the car and need to bring along some snacks for your kids, putting together a picnic, or stashing some reliable favourite snacks in your carry-on for a long flight, it's very helpful if you have some good snack- and food-containers to use.

Here are some great, reusable options to help keep edibles fresh and mess-free.

Insulated containers
If you want to bring along something that needs to stay either warm/hot or cool, an insulated container is a must-have. I've used the Thermos brand for my kids, and I really like their containers: easy to fill and empty, easy to clean, and they keep foods hot for a very long time.
Note for flights: Any liquid food such as soup or yogourt will count as a liquid, and might not be allowed through security. Also, stainless steel containers will probably attract attention when going through the x-ray machine: take them out of your hand-luggage before sending your bag through the scanner.

Snack-bags and pouches
These kinds of soft containers won't protect your snacks from getting crushed in your bag (a big problem on flights when your carry-on might get man-handled a bit), but they will help keep snacks fresh. They can also be easier for your child to use, and easier to store at home, since they take up less space. Just make sure you get a brand that can be washed properly!

Stainless steel snack- and food-containers
Many people are getting worried about the chemical contents of plastics, and are choosing stainless steel containers instead. These are also easier to keep clean. Lunchbots has several sizes and types of containers, including ones with separate snack compartments in a single container. They'd be a great choice for any kind of travel.
Note for flights: Going through security, it might be a good idea to take these stainless steel tubs out of your carry-on, just in case they will require extra attention from the screeners.

Plastic snack- and food-containers
I use the Lock&Lock containers for a lot of the snacks I bring along on trips, and also for my kids' lunch-boxes. They keep snacks from getting crushed and flattened if they're in your hand-luggage on a flight, which is a big perk for my family. They're also easy for the kids to open and close on their own, and come in a great variety of sizes. The Klip It containers are similar and look great as well.

Food wraps
For snacks like sandwiches, rollups, and bagels, a reusable food-wrap is a great idea. These reusable and washable products are a great substitute for plastic wrap and tinfoil. Wrap-N-Mat and Planet Wise are just two of the many companies that make reusable wraps. Lunchskins makes pouches that can be used in a similar way as well.

Reusable water bottles
Reusable water bottles are a great alternative to purchasing water bottles that cost a lot of money, and (despite your best intentions) might end up in the garbage. I always keep one in the car, and have started to bring one along on flights as well: sometimes I have to empty it out before going through security, but it's worth that small amount of trouble.

Antibacterial hand-wipes
I always bring antibacterial hand-wipes along on flights, and insist that the kids use them before eating anything on board the plane, or at the airport. It's really helped cut down on the amount of colds and flus we catch on our trips. Keep some wipes or hand-sanitizer in your purse and car as well, for on-the-go meals and snacks.
Note for flights: I prefer the wipes on flights, rather than the sanitizing gels. Gels count as liquids, which can be a problem in airport security. Also, the wipes can easily be used to clean up small spills, wipe sticky faces as well as hands, and they can be used to clean tray-tables and armrests.

Ice-packs help keep the food you're bringing nice and cold. I keep a supply of them in my freezer so they're always ready to go into snack-bags or lunch-kits. A frozen juice-box or water-bottle will do in a pinch as well!
Note for flights: Ice-packs will count as liquids, so it's probably better to avoid bringing them on flights.

Small coolers
My kids both have insulated lunch kits that they bring to school, and I also have several small coolers that I use when we head out for hikes, picnics, the beach, or long drives. I don't usually bring one on board when we travel by plane, because it's just too much hassle with the ice-packs. Still, they're very handy to have for any other kind of travel. Some brands, like the PackIt Freezable Lunch Bag are actually freezable themselves, and don't require an extra ice-pack. I might be picking up one of those for future travel!

International Women's Day - 5 books about women who traveled far

Today is International Women's Day, a day that: "celebrates the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future", to quote the event's official Facebook page. That makes it a very good day to recommend some books to read about women explorers, pioneers and travelers.

Here are 5 such books that are well-worth reading:

Touching the Earth
This book by Canadian astronaut Roberta Bondar includes some absolutely stunning photographs, and also this amazing woman's thoughts on space and Earth, the environment and humanity. Highly recommended reading.

Jane Goodall: 50 Years at Gombe 
Jane Goodall is such an amazing woman and scientist, and her book about how she first journeyed to Africa, and about her years in Gombe, doing research on the wild chimpanzees there is a must-read. 

History for Kids: The Illustrated Life of Amelia Earhart 
This Kindle-book is for kids ages 7-9. It has lots of pictures and easy-to-read information about Amelia Earhart, her life, her flights, and her disappearance.

Unsuitable for Ladies: An Anthology of Women Travellers
This anthology includes travel stories from all over the world, and spans centuries of travel writing.

Women of Discovery: A Celebration of Intrepid Women Who Explored the World
This is another anthology, including stories of: "the valiant tenth-century Viking adventurer Unn the Deep Minded and seventeenth-century Spanish conquistadora Catalina de Erauso."

If you want to read more about some fantastic women around the world and through the ages, you can check out my IWD posts from previous years:
Copyright © | by: Me