11 Weird and Wonderful Things to do in Seattle

Many times when traveling with kids we want to try to include things that will excite them. Stuff they will remember. Let’s be honest, not all kids want to spend a full day in a museum or on a historical tour. No. Kids want weird. They want wonderful. Heck, to be honest, we all want a bit of weird and wonderful on our trips, right? After all, sometimes that’s the stuff that makes them fun.

The city of Seattle offers many weird and wonderful attractions. Not all of them are well-known. One is merely sitting on the side of a busy road, and another is tucked under a bridge. But if you seek them out, you won’t be disappointed. These sites are not merely for the young, but for everyone no matter how old. They may be fascinating, different, and not something you will see every day. Visiting places on a trip that everyone will think is cool? I call that a picture of a pretty awesome family vacation!

1. The Mystery Coke MachineIMG_6384

A mystery indeed. This 1970’s-model Coke machine is said to be haunted. Sitting all alone in front of a hardware store on John Street, it is always full of a variety of delicious flavors of soda, but no one ever sees it get filled. All the selection buttons are “mystery” buttons so you have no idea what delectable drink will clunk it’s way to the bottom. My kids were convinced the machine would give you the soda your heart truly desired. I ended up with a Grape Fanta, so maybe they are right. It was pretty delicious!IMG_6385
918 East John Street
Cost: $1.00. This machine accepts quarters or dollar bills.
Time needed: 10 minutes

2. Ye Olde Curiosity ShopIMG_6725

Where the weird meets the weirder. This souvenir shop is located right on the water at Pier 54. But souvenirs are not all you will find here. Mummies, shrunken heads (yes, REAL shrunken heads!), swords, and other strange memorabilia line the walls of the store. Kids can grab a book at the front desk and explore the oddities from A-Z while you marvel at the peculiar collections before you.

1001 Alaskan Way. Pier 54. (walkable from Pike’s Place Market)
Website: https://yeoldecuriosityshop.com/
Cost: free
Hours: 10-6
Time needed: Depends how curious you are. 30 minutes to an hour.

3. Gum WallIMG_6871

Yes, you read that right. This wall has become a Seattle institution. For over 20 years, people from all over the world have come to this colorful location to leave a little gum souvenir for the city. The result is a rainbow alley of small spotted confections. As a mom, all I saw was an alley full of germs (gag), but it was still pretty weird and cool.

1428 Post Alley (at Pike Place Market)
Cost: A piece of gum 😉
Hours: always open
Time needed: 15 minutes

4. Chihuly Garden and Glass MuseumIMG_6615

A museum full of vivid colors shining through glass blown art? Yes, please! Chihuly found his calling in glass blowing, and the results of his artistic vision are stunning. You will experience beautiful, unique pieces, vibrant colors, and interesting designs. Take a stroll through the garden and look into the orbs that dot the landscape. Have fun taking pictures of the Space Needle through the colorful glass balls.

305 Harrison Street (you can easily combine this museum with a visit to the Space Needle and/or MoPop). Check out the City Pass for some pretty great savings.
Website: https://www.chihulygardenandglass.com/
Cost: Adult: $24, Senior: $21, Child: $14
Hours: Sun-Thurs: 10-7, Fri, Sat: 10-8
Time needed: 1 hour

5. Beneath the Streets tourIMG_6901

Did you know Seattle is a city built on top of a city? Whaaat?!? It’s true. Back in the 1800’s, the city was built at sea level. As the population grew, people quickly realized having a city at sea level on the water is a pretty terrible idea, because of…well…the sewage situation. When the tide rose, so did the poop. Eww! So city planners decided the best course of action was to merely raise the city up. So, they built the version of Seattle we see today right on top of the old city. It is pretty cool to walk the tunnels and see what became of the old city.IMG_6899
102 Cherry Street. The tour begins at the corner of 1st Avenue and Cherry Street.
Website: https://www.beneath-the-streets.com
Cost: Adult: $19, Senior: $17, Student: $17, Child (7-12): $10
Hours: Winter tours run 10:30-4:30. Check website for current times.
Time of tour: 1 hour

6. Gas Works ParkIMG_7174

If you are a fan of Steampunk, Gas Works is for you. It is what remains of a coal gasification plant that was in operation from 1906-1956. Industrial yet, dare I say, artsy. You may be inspired to take some pretty unique pictures amongst the old towering structures, or on the “Great Mound” with the Seattle skyline in the background.

3300 Meridian Ave. N. Seattle (Lake Union)
Cost: free
Hours: 6am-10pm
Time needed: 1 hour

7. Fremont TrollIMG_7119

Who wouldn’t want to set their eyes upon a massive concrete troll under a bridge? Sometimes finding random things in odd places is what makes traveling fun, right? This troll is huge. 18 feet high, to be exact (thanks, Wikipedia), and is actually clutching a real Volkswagen Beetle! If you’re a planner like me, here’s a side note: it is very easy to combine a visit to both the Fremont Troll and Gas Works Park on the same trip. IMG_7121
N. 36th Street at Troll Ave.-under the north end of the George Washington Memorial Bridge.
Cost: free
Time needed: 15 minutes

8. Ballard LocksIMG_7077

This is a fascinating location for both the old and young alike. I will try to explain this intriguing lock system as simply as possible. The locks connect the Puget Sound to Lake Washington and Lake Union. Sounds simple, right? Well, hold on a minute. The Puget Sound is salt water and Lake Washington and Union are freshwater Not to mention, the two bodies of water have up to an 8.8 feet height difference. Umm, how in the world does that work you may wonder? That’s where this cool lock system comes into play. So I don’t write a novel trying to explain it all, read more about how the locks work here. Crazy cool, right?

3015 NW 54th St
Cost: free
Hours: 7am-9pm
Time needed: 1 hour

Other things we ran out of time to explore but look pretty awesome!

9. Seattle Pinball Museum

Pinball anyone? Check out 25 vintage pinball games. The oldest is dated back to 1934!

Website: http://www.seattlepinballmuseum.com/

10. Archie McPhee Catalog Store

According to their website, Archie McPhee’s is, “widely considered to be a Mecca for connoisseurs of the strange and one of Seattle’s top ten weird destinations, it is truly an attraction without a parallel. It’s a one-stop shop for party supplies, crafts, costumes, miniatures and the weirdest collection of toys and candy that you’ve ever seen.” Need I say more?

Website: http://archiemcpheeseattle.com/

11. UP House

The iconic house from the movie Up exists in real life! You read that right folks. A little old woman named Edith Manfield held onto her home despite the city growing around her. Read about her story here. The tiny house still stands although it is now surrounded by a shopping center. Who knew?

As you can see, a plethora of unusual sites can be found in Seattle. Get out there and explore the city the way you will remember. Journey off the beaten path and check out some things that not everyone gets to see. After all, everyone needs a little weird and wonderful in their life, right?

*As operating times or prices may change throughout the year, please double check these details before you go.

Take A Walk

I lived out my teen years in Hawaii. For a few years, we lived up the road from Pearl Harbor. Like, literally right up the road. You could see the famous harbor’s sparkling water sitting right at the bottom of our hill. Do you think in the 5 1/2 years I lived there I ever went down my hill to visit the historic location? Nope. Not once. The same went for Diamond Head, surfing, and visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center. Ok, I will chalk some of my anti-sightseeing attitude to the lack of coolness I perceived in the role of playing tourist. I was a teenager, after all. But, now that I am grown I view it as a tremendous missed opportunity.

One of our goals in moving abroad has been to see and experience as much as we can in the short window of time we have here. As you may have read, we have already done some fantastic things. Check out a few of our crazy adventures here: Get Lost! (in Nusa Lembongan), Terrific Tucson, 2016: Changes, Chopsticks, and Chicken Feet But, recently we took a step back and realized we were going out having all these amazing adventures in other places, but all the while not fully exploring our own city. Living here for two years found us settling into a routine: going to the same restaurants, shopping at the same markets, and doing the same things each weekend. I didn’t want to look back on this experience as I do Hawaii, regretting not exploring our own hometown.IMG_7397

And what a hometown Shanghai is. At 2,448 square miles and 25 million people, there’s a lot to see! Not only are things constantly changing, but the history here runs deep and can be found in practically every corner of the city. I have learned through our travels over the past two years that many times the best way to really see an area is to get out there on your own two feet. Sure, you could take a drive in a car or a bus and get a feel for the area. But taking a bike, a scooter, or best of all, walking affords you such a richer experience. You can take your time looking at things of interest, or pull over at will and really explore an area that might merely whiz by from the inside of a car. Getting outside allows you to hear the sounds, and smell the smells. I’ll admit though, while it sounds cool, this is not always the best experience in China…imagine smelling what you think might be cooked dog, and the incessant hocking of big, juicy loogies. But my point is, you can just stand in one place and take it all in, allowing your experience to be deeper.

You would totally miss a sight like this if you were driving by in a car…well, maybe that’s a good thing. 😉

That being said, Brett and I have laced up our tennis shoes on a few occasions, pulled out one of our trusty Shanghai Walks books, and headed off for an afternoon of adventure. It has been so enriching walking through neighborhoods, learning about the history, architecture, and life of the area. Our appreciation of this city we call home has become more layered and deep as a result.IMG_7434

We have driven through the neighborhoods of our walks countless times and missed so much of the detail within their walls. Getting out of the car and taking a walk allows us to really learn and experience a small part of this city we call home. I highly recommend you take a walk; whether it be on your next trip, in your home city, or even just around your own neighborhood. Sometimes slowing down to take it all in can offer a rich and rewarding perspective on a pretty interesting little nook of the world you may not have noticed from the inside of a car.

Be sure to check out one of the 5 Shanghai Walks books by Barbara Green, Tess Johnson, Ruth Lear, and Carolyn Robertson. They are very well-written, and the walks are detailed and easy to follow. You can find a link to the first one here: https://www.amazon.com/SHANGHAI-WALKS-Streets-Changing-Fortune/dp/9627872350/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1516603016&sr=8-1&keywords=six+shanghai+walksIMG_7406

12 Things to Bring on Every Trip

Traveling can be tough. It’s stressful to pack your world into a bag and leave home. Don’t get me wrong, I love the whole sightseeing bit of travel, and would never turn down an opportunity to see the world. But the entire packing and living out of a suitcase bit really stinks.

We all want to make traveling easier. For our family, living abroad has led to many travel opportunities. Over the past two years, I have developed some tricks of the travel trade. They have streamlined the whole packing process and even help keep us organized while on the road. I hope they will help you make the tedious job of packing and the frustrating attempts at staying organized while living out of a suitcase more tolerable.

1. A Travel Book

Before you even pull out your suitcase, sit down and organize all your travel details into a book. This makes all of your important information easy to access at a glance. I like to include: an overall itinerary, contact information, confirmation numbers, hotel/airline/house rental/car rental information, things to do in the area, tipping or local customs, etc.

2. Your Medical Information

Similar to the travel book, We have a medical binder complete with passport and visa photos, copies of insurance cards, immunization records, and any allergies or essential medical information. It becomes an easy item to grab in case of an emergency situation, especially when traveling overseas.IMG_6272

3. A Passport Holder

It is always so helpful for us to have a central place to keep all of our passports, entry/exit cards, boarding passes, etc. I develop a bit of OCD when we travel, and tend to check and recheck I have all of our necessary documents. Having all our documents in one easy to carry location makes this process much more manageable.

4. Bag O’ Cords

Successful traveling requires a lot of organization. I have found it very handy to keep all of my charging cords, extra batteries, plugs, adapters, converters (basically anything electronic) together in one bag. It makes it easy to find these items both on the plane and at our destination.

5. Luggage Scale

I cannot tell you how many times we have been on a trip, bought souvenirs, packed them in our suitcase, then wondered if it was overweight. Throwing a luggage scale in your bag will dispel any concerns as to whether or not your suitcase is too heavy.IMG_6254

6. Extra Packable Bag

Along the lines of souvenirs, I also cannot tell you how many times we have been on vacation, bought our souvenirs, then realized they wouldn’t all fit in the suitcases we brought. Or even worse, they would fit, but made our suitcases overweight. So now we just pack an additional duffel bag in our suitcase just in case. I mean, we can’t say no to a perfect memento from our trip!IMG_6258

7. Travel Meds

I get a bit paranoid when we travel, medically speaking. This is especially true if we are going to a foreign country and I don’t know what medications will be available. So I like to think through every illness or injury that could possibly occur and bring every medication we could possibly need. As you can imagine, all the different pills and creams I brought were taking up a lot of precious room and became difficult to find in a pinch. So I streamlined all our pills into small travel pill containers that fit inside one larger case. Although the case fits a lot of different medications, it still fits comfortably in my carry-on, and we have all we could possibly need readily accessible.

8. Travel Toiletries

When possible, buy all of your toiletries in travel sizes. Space and weight are precious commodities in luggage so the lighter, and smaller, the better. Some items like shampoo may be purchased pre-filled, or you can buy empty travel bottles and fill with your own favorite things. For example, I like to fill empty bottles with my brand of hairspray and face wash.IMG_6262

9. Toiletry Bags

Each person in our family gets their own hanging toiletry bag. They are responsible for making sure everything they may need is in their bag. Once we arrive at our destination, I hand out toiletry bags. They hang them in their bathroom, and everyone has their own individual needs taken care of. Of course, the boy’s bags are way smaller than mine. 😉IMG_6256

10. Suction Cup Hooks

These have been so handy if a few of us need to share a bathroom. The worst thing is when you are sharing a shower and can’t figure out who’s washcloth is whose. We bring suction cup hooks with initials on them. They stick right onto a shower wall, and we never get our washcloths confused. Unless of course, my lazy boys don’t follow the rules and leave their washcloths in a ball on the edge of the tub, but that is a different issue entirely.IMG_6264

11. Bags That Stand Out

Pretty much everyone seems to have a black suitcase. To quickly spot your suitcase in the baggage claim, buy one that is an unusual color, and tie a colorful ribbon to the handle. Also, in addition to putting your contact information on a luggage tag, put it inside too. This way if your bag gets lost and the luggage tag falls off, there is still a way for the airline to find you. Finally, take a picture of all your checked bags before they go. I like to do this because I am usually exhausted when we arrive at our destination and appreciate a visual reminder at baggage claim in case I am not thinking clearly.

12. Shacke Paks

I am going to go on a total PSA right now. Shacke Paks have revolutionized the way we travel. I’ll be honest, the first time I looked at these packing cubes, I wondered if they would live up to the hype. I mean, on Amazon.com they have been given 5 stars with over 5,000 reviews. Now that’s saying something! That being said, I felt like I had to give them a try. So at the beginning of last summer, I decided to test them out. By the middle of the summer, I had purchased Shacke Paks for every member of the family. They make packing and staying organized while traveling so much easier. If you are a geeky organizer like me, these things will be right up your alley. When all of your different clothing categories are sitting neatly in little cubes in your suitcase, it is hard not to look at it with a huge sense of pride. In addition, we all have different color Shacke Paks, so I know at a quick glance who’s clothes are who’s. When we arrive at our destination, I hand each person their own Shacke Pak and put them in charge of unpacking and repacking their own things. I’m telling you, you will wonder how you ever lived without these fantastic things! Click on this link for more information and try a few for yourself. If I could be a spokesperson for this company, I would. Pure genius!IMG_6257

There you have it. Use these travel tips, and your trips are bound to be easier and more successful. We’ve done all the hard work for you so you can streamline and organize your trip in no time. Now get out there and enjoy your travel!

The 12-year-old trip

Parents, take note.

Do you like to see your children happy? Do you enjoy creating lasting memories with your children? As in memories they’ll love to remember the rest of their lives? Do you love your children? If you answered “yes” to all these questions, consider following my parent’s example. At least on this particular subject. We can discuss the merit of a few of their other parenting tactics at a different date (totally kidding, mom and dad. Best parents ever).

Read more

Long-Haul Flight Essentials (22 things to pack in your carry-on)

Oh long-haul flight, you are so much fun! Said no one, ever.

This is the last post in a series meant to help you navigate your way through a successful lengthy flight. Using the tips provided, your flight may still seem to take forever, but you should be able to handle the long hours more effectively. And who knows, maybe you will even be able to enjoy it a little. Maybe, of course, being the operative word. Make sure you click on these links to put on the full armor of travel and be prepared for whatever may come your way while on the journey to your destination. 

21 Tips for a Successful Long-Haul Flight, 

How to Survive a Long-Haul Flight with Kids.

I typically begin packing for a trip at least a week before we leave. One aspect of the journey that is sure to get my full attention is packing for the flight ahead. I have evolved from packing a little backpack with an iPod, headphones and a sweatshirt, to filling two bags and still fearing I have forgotten something essential. I always play the “what-if” game. What if it’s cold? What if it’s hot? What if I don’t like the food being served? What if I get sick? What if my luggage gets lost? You name it, the list could be endless. To keep you from becoming paranoid like me, I have compiled a list of things to include in your carry-on the next time you embark on a long-haul flight.

1. Plan ahead

Planning ahead is crucial to any flight. Take some time and think through all the things you could possibly need or want during your flight. Ask yourself a few questions:

  • What will you need to have with you in case your luggage gets lost?
  • Will you be traveling when it is time to take any medications?
  • What are some activities you want to accomplish on your flight?
  • What are some things you could bring to help pass the time?
  • Do you have any special snacks you could bring to treat yourself for your resilience?

2. Travel documents

Think beyond just this plane ride. What will you need on the other end? A passport, visa, driver’s license, etc.?IMG_5297

3. Lounge access cards

If you have one, don’t forget it. The last time we flew, I forgot mine. What a bummer especially when I paid to use the fantastic airport lounge facilities. And the worst part was, I wasn’t able to get my free pre-flight wine. 😦

4. Bankcard or credit card

Make sure to alert your credit card company you will be traveling internationally, so they don’t put a freeze on your account. Also, sometimes it is most convenient to withdraw local currency from an ATM at your destination airport.

5. Currency for your destination country

If this is not possible to obtain in advance, see above.IMG_5512

6. Comfortable clothes and shoes

You are going to be sitting, eating, and (hopefully) sleeping in these clothes for a long time so please, wear something comfortable. I also find wearing a pair of lightweight tennis shoes helps diminish in-flight swelling in my feet.IMG_5510

7. Snacks

Quite possibly the best part of the trip. Think ahead. Do you have any dietary restrictions or sensitivity to foods that will prevent you from eating the in-flight food provided? My daughter refuses to eat any airline meals due to their high sodium levels and overall unhealthiness. She always packs all her own food and snacks and usually throws the flight attendants into a frenzy every time she refuses a meal. As if she would starve to death, right? On one flight she had a flight attendant offer her an entire box of chocolates because he was so worried about her. Hmmm, maybe she’s onto something.

8. Medication

Airports and airplanes are breeding grounds for germs. Plus, the stress of traveling can lead to a lower immune response. Think about it. What if your luggage gets lost or you get sick? Do you have medications you must take? Better to keep them with you just in case.IMG_5507

9. Hand sanitizer

And some good, substantial sanitizing wipes. Before you even sit down, pull one of those babies out and clean your seat, armrests, and tray table. My boys always look at me in horror when I go all Cinderella-like in our seating area. Ok, I will admit I am a bit of a germ-a-phoebe, but I certainly don’t intend to catch the plague from an airplane ride. And if you think that’s bad, you should see me at a movie theater. Haha!

10. A good neck pillow

If you are like me, this is a crucial factor in being able to doze off, even for a little bit. I have tried dozens of neck pillows until I finally found the right one for me and won’t recommend one because it is such a personal choice. Unfortunately, trial and error is the only advice I can offer on this topic.IMG_5511

11. Sweater and/or scarf

Some planes are cold, some hot. You never know. The airline will typically provide blankets, but sometimes even those aren’t enough. And if you are like my husband, your sweater (or scarf) can also double as something to throw over your head for more privacy when trying to catch a few zzz’s. I swear that man can sleep anywhere. I am always so jealous!

12. A change of clothes

When we were on a flight returning home from Lombok, Indonesia, the flight attendant served me a piping hot full cup of coffee. After my first sip, we hit a giant air pocket. The plane dropped suddenly, but my coffee didn’t. Nope, it flew up and out everywhere. It was like a slow-motion scene in a movie. Nooooooo!!!…All over me…and the poor unsuspecting soul next to me. Even if you take all the precautions in the world to not spill anything on yourself, who knows what the guy (or girl) next to you will do. Best to be prepared for anything and everything.

13. A good book

I have said this before, and I will say it again. Invest in a Kindle. It is lightweight and has a backlit screen so you can continue to read even when the cabin lights are dimmed. My favorite book series is Outlander, and at an average of 1,300 pages per book, you aren’t likely to finish before your flight ends. If you do, I will give you my eternal respect and admiration.IMG_5488

14. Word search

Or sudoku, a crossword, deck of cards. Anything that will provide a bit of distraction on your long flight.

15. Headphones

Don’t skimp here people. Invest in some good quality, noise-canceling headphones. They will help you drown out the noises of incessant coughing or bathroom doors opening and closing five thousand times. I wish I could say I was exaggerating, but I’m not.

16. A solid playlist

This may come in handy while playing a game or taking a nap.

17. Toiletries

A long flight can make you feel, well, not very fresh, if you catch my drift. Think ahead. What could you use after sitting in a seat eating, drinking, and sleeping for 12+ hours? A toothbrush, deodorant, face wash, make-up? After all, you may want to walk off the plane looking like a supermodel instead of a homeless person. I typically choose the homeless person route myself, so no judgment from me either way.IMG_5508

18. Laptop or other device

I try to work on a project to help pass the time on a long flight. One flight, I was working on a writing project. Like actual handwriting. With pens, white-out, and highlighters. Hey, I’m old school, what can I say? At the end of the trip, the flight attendant asked me if I was an artist. After shooting him a questioning look, he pointed to my hand. I looked down to see it splotched with green and pink highlighter and “painted” with white-out. Well hey, I may have made a mess but also managed to kill three hours during the flight, so it was totally worth it.

19. DVD’s

Sure, the plane offers a wide selection of movies and shows for your viewing pleasure. However, if you are like me, very little seems to catch my interest. Instead, you may want to consider bringing the complete collection of a show you have been wanting to watch, or a favorite movie. If you are tech-savvy, you could load them onto your computer to view them easily that way.

20. Charging cables

Listening to your awesome playlist and the work you are going to do on your computer will drain the batteries on your devices. Many planes provide ports to charge your devices.IMG_5513

21. An empty water bottle with a tight-fitting lid

This is an excellent way to keep hydrated and monitor your water intake. Ask the flight attendant to fill it, then keep it in the seat pocket in front of you. Try to drink the entire contents and refill a few times throughout your flight to prevent water retention and swelling.

22. Sleeping pills or melatonin

If you are like me, drifting off to sleep in a vertical position is next to impossible. Suffering through a long flight without any rest is brutal. Sometimes popping a pill may help. Just make sure you have tried your medication of choice before your flight. You wouldn’t want to experience a negative reaction to a medication you have never tried before. I know Benadryl is one drug that knocks some people out while making others bounce off the walls with hyperactivity. Not the best-case scenario on a plane.

While this list may not be exhaustive, I hope it will give you most of the tools you will need to make your long flight successful. Just make sure to think through what makes the most sense to you, as well as anything you could possibly need or want. With some pre-planning, you will have a successful long-haul flight and will arrive at your destination refreshed and ready to go.

Special thanks to Peter Petero who reminded me how important it is to walk off the plane looking like a supermodel. Keep working on me Pete, I’ll get there someday. 😉


How to Survive a Long-Haul Flight with Kids.

I have a confession to make. When I am waiting to board a long-haul flight (or any flight for that matter) and see a young child waiting to board the same plane, I fear the worst. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a complete monster. I have had young children of my own on planes. This is probably why I become fearful. I have been that mother trying to no avail to console a screaming toddler. I have had one who needs to use the bathroom while trying to keep an infant on my lap from screaming bloody murder. Yes, I know first-hand that flying with children can be a nightmare for both the parents and the other passengers. So when I see a child boarding the plane, I secretly hope he or she will not be sitting anywhere near my general vicinity and say a little prayer of fortitude for the accompanying parent. I’m just keeping it real here folks. I’m sure you might think the same things. At least I hope I am not the only horrible person who feels this way.

Be afraid, be very afraid. If I saw this brood coming, I would seriously think about taking another flight. 😉


Our family has been taking long-haul flights regularly for the past two years and my kids have become completely accustomed to them. This became blazingly obvious when we were on our last flight from Seattle to Shanghai. As we settled into our seats, my boys asked how long the flight time would be. When I answered, 12 hours, they replied, “oh, is that all?”. Is that all?! Easy Peasy. On a side note, 12 hours is not easy for me. At all. It is still pure torture. My back aches, I am bored out of my mind, and I feel as if the flight will never end. I asked fellow adult travelers for some tips for making long flights more bearable and they had some real gems. You can read them here: 

21 Tips for a Successful Long-Haul Flight, 

Long-Haul Flight Essentials (22 things to pack in your carry-on)

But this post isn’t about you or me. It is about our kids and how to make this portion of your trip go as smoothly as possible. Don’t panic. You will get through this. Perhaps make a few quick enemies in the process, but you will survive. I’M KIDDING! Hey, if you can’t laugh about a potentially difficult situation you are going to cry, right?

Once again I sought out advice from the experts. Those that have been on the front lines. Ex-pats who travel, and travel a lot. They raised their hands and eagerly offered so many incredibly helpful tips. Although my kids are older and relatively self-sufficient on flights, memories of traveling with little ones are still easily and vividly recalled. So read on my dear friend and gain confidence. You’ve got this, and just keep telling yourself, “if this flight goes really badly I will never see most of these fellow travelers again”. Haha!

Don’t panic

Could this be challenging? Yes. Will it ever end? Also yes. You can do this. Just channel your inner calm and know that you and your kids are going to do just fine. And remember, your kids are watching you. If they see you get worked up, they will get worked up too. Just put on a smile, take a deep breath, and outwardly project your zen-like persona.

Assign bags

Pack each child their own backpack with favorite snacks, books, toys, and games. This will give them independence and teach them a bit of responsibility looking after their own bag. If you are an organizing freak like me, separate items into Ziplock bags. This makes them more easy to find AND waterproof. A bonus for when they knock their coveted full cup of Coke off their tray table.IMG_5506

Take your time

Don’t allow yourself to get flustered by an impatient passenger behind you who has got to get to their seat “right now”. I mean really, you will all end up in the same place at the same time. Just keep yourself calm and take your time getting your kiddos into their seat. After all, you have already had enough stress just getting on the plane, right?

Don’t forget the headphones

Sure the airplane offers headphones but often times they won’t stay in little ears. Heck, they won’t even stay in my ears. So get each child their own headphones and try them out before you travel to make sure they are comfortable.

Embrace gaming

Load new games onto devices. Kids will be occupied for hours trying to defeat Bowser or whatever other mythical creature is in their game. I know I just totally dated myself there. Sorry!

Pack some surprises

When I was a child, my mom and dad divorced. I lived full-time with my mom but once a year would fly by myself to see my dad. My mom always used to wrap little gifts and put them in my carry-on bag. I was allowed to open one per hour. I made sure to wear a watch and being the honest kid I was, would wait until the exact moment when my watch would strike the next hour to open my gift. I remember one present was a word find book. To this day I still use word find books at the beginning of every flight. Aww, thanks, mom!IMG_1951

Get mean

Don’t let your kids see any new movies a month before you travel. This way they will have plenty to watch on the plane.

For the young ones

Request special meet and assist (MAAT) service at the airport. This free service will assign someone to help you with your luggage and stroller when boarding and disembarking the plane which is a godsend for parents traveling with young kids, tons of accessories, and only two hands.

Layovers can be fun

Bring balloons to blow up. They won’t take up much room in your carry-on and will keep kids entertained for quite a while. Also, most airports offer kid’s play areas where little-ones can stay busy for a time.IMG_0137

Kid’s meal? Yes, please!

Request a kid’s meal when booking. If for some reason your child is sleeping when their meal arrives you can ask the flight attendant to hold it for you and serve it when your child is hungry.

Expect the unexpected

Pack a Ziplock bag with a change of clothes in each carry-on. You never know what could happen with kids on flights. I have been peed on, pooped on, and even thrown up on. If it’s going to happen, it is going to happen on this flight so best to be prepared.

Run, play, repeat

Keep kids (and yourself) active all day before a flight. Hopefully, they will be worn out and sleep the entire way. Yeah right, I know I’m a dreamer.IMG_3176

Channel your inner MacGyver

Shortly after you board the plane, ask for pillows and blankets. Often times they run out. Tie the blanket to the corners of a tray table and kids will be able to put their legs straight out instead of kicking you as they sleep. And an extra bonus, when they aren’t sleeping their blanket can become a fort for all those action figures you so wisely packed in their backpacks.

Last but certainly not least

The most important tip.
Drumroll, please…Book a ticket in business class and put your kids back in economy. Or better yet, just travel without them. Whoop, whoop! Juuuust kidding.

Most importantly, don’t worry, and try not to stress. With some advance planning, you will have an easy journey with your kids. Take a deep breath. It will be fine, and before you know it, you will arrive at your destination. Perhaps a little battered and bruised, but really ready for anything. I mean, if you survive a long-haul flight with kids, you can pretty much take on the world, right? So go forth and conquer! You’ve got this, you brave parent you!

A special thank you to all those parents out there who have taken (and survived) many long-haul flights with kids. Your tips will become a valuable tool for many travelers to come. Cidonie Richards, Heather Aumann, Farah Rahim, Wendy Yee, Stephanie Zumbolo, Andrea Ballmer, Keli Thakur, and Elaine F.


5 reasons to travel in your 20s

It often alarms me that I have to remind myself with impressive frequency that I’m in my 20s and for all intensive purposes, considered an adult.

Maybe it’s because that block of years between 20 and 30 are so undefined. Just a quick glance at my Facebook page and you’ll see 20-somethings at all sorts of different places in their lives. Some are pursuing higher education, some landed their dream job right out of undergrad. Some are getting married, some are even having kids.

But that’s the great and completely terrifying thing about being in your 20s. For the first time in our lives, there is no plan laid out for us to follow. We have been released into the world to do whatever we feel called to do and lead whatever lives we choose to pursue. Sure, we feel like we have no idea what we’re doing most of the time, but isn’t figuring it out half the fun?

So may I suggest using this strange, unpredictable decade in your life to go out and see a little of the world? If you need some convincing, I’ve got a few reasons for ya.

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