10 gift ideas for traveling parents & kids

The holiday season is almost upon us, and if you're like me, you're already busy making your lists and checking them twice, or you might be fretting over how little time you have to make a list and check it twice.

Here are some gift-giving ideas for traveling kids and parents to help you out:

1. A good book
You can't go wrong if you give someone a good book to read: it's one of the best "activities" to bring along on any trip with children. Two fantasy/fairy-tale titles I recommend is Diana Wynne Jones' "Howl's Moving Castle" (the source material for Hayao Miyazaki's famous animated movie), and J.R.R. Tolkien's classic "The Hobbit". Older kids and adults might enjoy Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" books as well.

2. Travel-friendly art supplies
If your kids are like mine, drawing and colouring is a great way to get them to spend some quiet time, whether you're on a trip or at home. A set of crayons and markers packaged in a handy bag that turns into an art center when opened up, like the Young Artist Studio Desk To Go, would make a great gift.

3. A Child carrier
A good child carrier can be a huge help when you're traveling with kids, or when you're just out and about shopping, hiking, or hanging out at a Christmas market. There are lots of different styles, including the "stand up" Piggyback Rider, and Deuter's line of back-carriers. We used a Deuter carrier when the kids were little, and they were a great help when we were going on flights and had to carry the kids through a big, busy airport.

4. A nice phone/wallet case
Most of us will definitely be bringing our phones along when we travel, and the QCard case turns your phone holder into a wallet. Very handy for keeping credit cards and a bit of cash close by and in an easy-to reach spot.

5. Some fun mittens
These "Vs Mittens" are absolutely adorable and would make a great gift for both parents and kids. Each pair of mittens is made to look like two different creatures: dog vs. cat, lion vs gazelle, frog vs. fly, and so on. There are some great socks as well: check out the vs.stuff website for more!

6. The LeapPad Ultra
This is a kid-proof, kid-friendly educational learning tablet from the LeapFrog company. It works with the company's apps, e-books, games, and so on. It's designed for kids ages 4 to 9. Looks like a great thing to bring along on a flight!

7. A hook-on chair
If you're traveling with a baby or toddler, a hook-on chair can come in very handy. It's also good for when you're visiting someone's house and they don't necessarily have a high-chair available. There are lots of different models available, including the Joovy Hook On Highchair.

8. An easy-to-carry memory
Lots of us need some extra memory when we're traveling, whether it's for documents, photos, or anything else. A USB flash-drive styled as an easy-to-wear bracelet is a great idea and would make a very cool stocking stuffer.

9. A travel alarm clock
I know many people only use their cell-phones as alarm clocks, but for myself, I still appreciate a nice alarm clock that you can easily see in the dark without having to mess around with a phone. There are lots of models available, including the Travel Alarm with LED Light Flashlight and the Lewis N. Clark Nightlight Travel Clock.

10. The travel vest: a booster seat alternative
I just saw this item online recently and I think it looks like a great idea for anyone who travels. To quote the company: the Ride Safer 3 Travel Vest - Booster Seat Alternativeis "safe, convenient, easy, portable and comfortable alternative to booster seats and car seats. More convenient for travel and placing multiple children in the same row of a car. Optimizes vehicle seat belt for correct fit and protection for a child. "

Safe, easy to carry, and easy to pack - all very good things.

10 ways to make air travel with kids easier

    Air travel can be a grand adventure with kids, but it can also be supremely stressful. Here are 10 tips that have helped me and my kids on our trips.

    1. Talk about the trip in detail ahead of time
    This is one of my biggest tips for parents traveling with kids. Talk to your kids about what will happen at the airport, and on the flight ahead of time. Talk about specifics, like checking your luggage, going through security, and getting into your seat and putting on your seat-belt on the plane. It's sometimes hard for adults to imagine the kinds of things that kids will be worried about, for example: What happens to the suitcases when they disappear at check-in? Will I get my backpack (and stuffed animals/blanket/toys) back after it goes through the x-ray machine? What are all the strange sounds on the plane as it's taking off?

    Preparing your kids (and yourself) ahead of time, and being ready and taking the time to answer your child's questions can really help reduce anxiety and make the trip more enjoyable for everyone.

    2. Ask the airline about seating and meals ahead of time
    Make sure when you book your trip that you ask the airline to seat your family together, and also check if there are kids' meals available on board for longer flights. If you're traveling with a baby ask if there are cots/bassinets available for your child, and if you're allowed to bring a stroller, car seat, or other special items on board, or if they have to be checked.
      3. Arrive at the airport in time
      Rushing through an airport with little kids in tow is not an ideal situation for parents or children. Try to get to the airport with plenty of time to spare. This will give you time to find the bathrooms if needed, have a snack or meal before the flight, and you won't be as stressed out by the lineups.
        4. Pack your hand luggage wisely
        Remember the rules about liquids, be ready to remove electronics at security, and have comfort items, books and games within easy reach in case you need them. 
        5. Find the bathrooms
        Going to the bathroom on board is never a lot of fun. Try to get your kids to go before take-off, and once on board, encourage them to go before the plane starts getting ready to land. I don't know how many times my kids have asked to go right as we get on-board a plane, or while we're waiting in the big crush of people right after landing. You can get to the bathroom (usually) even under those circumstances, but it will be easier if you can avoid those high-stress and very crowded situations. Also: changing a diaper on board is no picnic, even if there are change-tables in the airplane bathroom. If your child can stand up, it might be a good idea to use pull-up style diapers for the flight.

        6. Make sure everyone eats and drinks
        Travel fever and the stress and excitement of going on a trip can make both adults and kids forget that they should have a snack and a drink of water. Since hungry and thirsty kids can be a real handful, it's a good idea to remind them to sit down for a snack at regular intervals, both before and during the flight. Go for a meal you know they'll like before the flight, bring some snacks on board you know they'll eat, and don't forget the water!
          Decorating the airline's paper bags on board.
          7. Bring appropriate things to do for the kids
          Some easy to-do activities and games, as well as books, can be welcome distractions on the flight and when you're waiting at the gate. Don't bring anything that's too messy, or too noisy, in order to keep the peace with other passengers.

          8. Bring enough supplies
          This is particularly important if you're traveling with a baby. Bring enough food, diapers, and wipes to last you for the flight and do bring some extra supplies, just in case your flight is delayed. Running out of diapers when you're on the plane can make your trip a lot more stressful.
            9. Remember to bring comfort items & headphones
            If your child uses a pacifier, a special blanket, or has a favourite stuffed animal or toy, do remember to bring those comfort items along on the flight. Also, bringing some child-sized headphones for your child to use on board, for the in-flight entertainment system, can be a good idea. In my experience, the headphones on board are rarely designed with children in mind.
              10. Sleep when you can
              On longer flights it's really important that your child (and you!) get at least a little bit of sleep. Try to get your child to settle down and get comfortable in their seat, snuggle with them, and hope that once the excitement wears off they will be able to get some shut-eye. Get some of that shut-eye yourself too: you'll need the energy to get through the airport on the other side!
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