Kids and jet lag: What I’ve learned

Posted by Stacy Baas on April 21, 2017 0 Comments

So you’ve got a trip coming up that involves a big shift in time zones. Maybe you’re going from West Coast to East Coast, or East Coast to Hawaii, or even visiting another continent.

We’ve been lucky enough to have done all of the above with our little traveler, and while that gives me just one point of reference, I have learned a few things along the way that might be helpful for you as you face a middle-of-the-night marathon or the middle-of-the-day doldrums with your kiddos.

Here is my must-do list for jettisoning jet lag:

Get on local time: Particularly when my daughter was a baby, I thought it was crazy to switch her to local time on a trip only to have to go through the whole process again when we got home. But, as hard as I tried to keep her on “home time,” I found that she eventually switched to local time anyway, which just served to make me feel crazy and disoriented myself. So, now we start from day one and push ourselves to go to bed as close to a “normal” local time as possible. It still takes a few days to get us there, but it makes for a smoother trip in general, and saves my brain the hassle of doing time conversions all day.

Use light and dark to your advantage: When it’s daytime, keep the shades open and get outside into the natural daylight as much as possible. When it’s nighttime, unplug the nightlights, close the shades tightly, and if your kids will do it, give them little sleeping eye-masks to wear.  While I’ve never gone to these lengths before, I know people who travel with their own blackout curtains. Darkness really does tell a body it’s time to sleep. And light – even a sliver from a streetlight or nightlight - tells us to get our bums out of bed.

Play through the mid-day poop-out: There inevitably will come a time during the middle of the day when your child will desperately want to sleep and shouldn’t. That’s exactly the time to pull out the most fun activity you’ve got in your back pocket (ideally something active) and get them immersed in it. On a recent trip to England, our daughter would start begging to go back to bed around 9:30/10am. Once we figured out that was her “witching hour,” we planned daily trips to the playground to get us through. It worked! If she made it over that hump, the rest of the day flowed smoothly from there.

A middle-of-the-night snack: Particularly if you’re traveling far enough that a regular mealtime would fall in the middle of the night at your new destination, don’t be shy about feeding your little one a snack if they wake up in the night. Sometimes a wake-up is just our bodies telling us that it’s time to eat, and a few crackers, fruit or even a little sandwich can do the trick. Plus, there’s something special about sharing a snack in the middle of the night that just makes being up together a little more party-like than painful.

Melatonin rules: I am a big fan of melatonin, even for little ones (we started using it when our daughter was about 2 years old). For a long time, we used the liquid melatonin so we could give a small dose to our daughter before the new time zone bedtime, and now that she is a little older, we use melatonin gummies, which make sleep inducement feel like a treat. Now the whole family takes two gummies before bedtime on a trip!

Benadryl, if you must: As big of a fan as I am of melatonin, I’ve never been a big proponent of Benadryl as a sleep aid for kids. But for big time changes (6 hours or more), I will use it on the first night to ease the transition. However, I’ve heard some horror stories about it amping some kids up, so I would advise giving it a try before leaving for your trip. And of course, it’s a medication, so use all of the other precautions listed on the bottle, as well as your pediatrician’s guidance.  

Get your own sleep: The best weapon you have in combating your kids’ jet lag is overcoming yours as quickly as possible. Use all of the tips above for yourself, and add in a little Tylenol PM or other sleep aid of your choice if you can. Take turns doing wake-up duty with your partner if you can, so that neither of you must endure all of the sleeplessness, and both of you can enjoy your trip.

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Revolutionizing the roadtrip: Podcasts for the whole family

Posted by Stacy Baas on November 16, 2016 0 Comments

road trip kids

For the past few years, podcasts have revolutionized my commute. I went from dreading (or not exactly looking forward to) long drives on my own, to planning out what podcast I would listen to next. It started, as I think it did for 90% of podcast-listening Americans, with Serial. I was hooked. Then I moved onto This American Life, a radio show that I had loved for years, but never seemed to catch when it was on. I was so glad to be able to listen on demand. I started downloading sermons that I missed on Sundays, and peppering in Malcolm Gladwell's incredible Revisionist History. My car time had completely changed from a chore to a deeply satisfying part of my week. 

That's why I can't believe it took me so long to bring the podcast phenomenon to our family drives. Living in California, every drive includes amazing scenery as well as unpredictable traffic. When my kiddo is in the backseat with her head down over the iPad, I just feel sad that she's missing out on the beauty outside her window. But no car ride is a short one, so keeping her occupied is important - for her sanity and that of the grownups in the car.

Just before our last road trip (4 hours each way down and back up the Northern California coast), I finally had the bright realization that surely someone out there was making podcasts for kids and families. And of course one Google entry later, I was inundated with choices. I downloaded a hodge-podge of options for our first outing, as my daughter's taste in media is always unpredictable (she loves American Ninja Warrior and Kids Baking Championship but refuses to watch kids' movies...go figure).

On our outbound trip, we had a few misses. The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel, a cool serial "mystery," was just a little over my 6-year-old's head. We'll try that one again next year. Same too, for World of Wonder. Really interesting interviews with people from different countries around the world, but probably better for the 8-and-up crowd. 

Finally, on the way home, we landed on Brains On!, a science podcast for kids that examines different phenomena (bodily functions, volcanoes, how airplanes fly, etc.) from a variety of angles. It's snappy, upbeat, and crazy informative, with a "mystery sound" feature in each episode that my daughter loved. My husband and I were entranced as well. The episode on farts was truly fascinating (did you know that the average person passes gas 15 times a day?), and each one that followed taught us something new and made us giggle at least once, often several times. 

We broke up our science lessons with a few enchanting (and beautifully read) stories from the Stories Podcast. Drawing from legends, folk tales, fables and more, these are increasingly rare stories that deserve a modern audience.  

Before we knew it, we were almost home, more relaxed after a road trip than I think we've been, well, ever. And the iPad didn't see a moment's use. 

What podcasts have you tried with your kids? Share your hits and misses in the comments section below. 

 

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Maui wowee - Honua Kai resort

Posted by Stacy Baas on February 19, 2013 1 Comment

Our nearly 3 year old is a generally happy kid. Easy-going (mostly), optimistic and pretty content. But I know when she’s really happy because that’s when she starts to sing. Not a performance, but singing to herself – often mixed up lyrics - just barely above a whisper. Something like:

“A-B-C-D-E-F-G-how I wonder what you are. One for the master one for the dame, one for the little boy who lives down the lane. Now I know my ABCs…”

It’s her purr. When I hear it, I know that life is good.

I tell you this because she sang for 6 days straight while we were in Maui last week. It was such a good trip – mostly because of where we stayed – that I feel I have to write about it.

First, you need to know that we’re not really resort people. On our travels we’ll book a few days here or there, but eventually we start to feel a little trapped on a resort. VRBO is our usual go-to, because we like to have a home-like atmosphere and a reason to get out and explore. But the last time we went to Hawaii we realized that the resorts have the best access to many of the best beaches, so we decided to give one a try this time. However, we still wanted a condo-like experience – at the very least a suite – so  we could put the kiddo to sleep and still be free to stay up, drink wine and watch Real Housewives. But when we looked, the suites offered at most beachside hotels were WAY out of our price range.

Then we found Honua Kai.

I’ll start with the rooms. Every room is either a one-, two- or three-bedroom suite, so the idea of having a refrigerator or (heaven forbid) a cooking appliance other than a microwave in the room isn’t treated as an upgrade. And the suites are awesome. Not total luxury, but nicely appointed, spacious, clean and comfortable. The kitchen has full-size, brand-new Bosch appliances and every suite has a washer/dryer which got a lot of use on our watch. The bathrooms are nice with walk-in-showers (great for the preschool set) and deep soaking tubs (great for tired parents). We booked a one-bedroom, but arrived to find out we were upgraded to a two-bedroom, which just meant we had another place for my husband to spread out his belongings.

Next, the location: I don’t know a lot about Maui, so I didn’t know if Kaanapali beach would be OK, good or great. Turns out it was perfect. Gentle waves, long sandy beaches, a beachwalk for morning runs, and views to Moloka’I and Lana’I in the distance. We had several whale sightings while we were playing on the beach. There were a few small storms while we were there, but that just meant RAINBOWS. The most incredible, hang-around-for-a-couple-of-hours rainbows. I saw the rainbow’s end for the first time in my life…on the front lawn of the resort. Then I saw a dude walk through it. I don’t even know if he realized it, but I bet later he was all, “Man, I feel different. Somehow more colorful.”  Yep, that was our location. 


Kaanapali Beach, with views to Lana'i.


Double rainbow above the resort lawn.

Oh, and super close to Lahaina (which means Star Noodle for all you Top Chef fans out there), down the street from a grocery store, a short walk to the Royal Lahaina Luau…you get the picture.

And then the resort. All I can say is whoever designed it knows what it’s like to be a parent of a 3-year-old and desire a vacation that makes your kid happy without being Disney themed. Koi ponds (with a daily feeding that kids can participate in), big lawns, not-too-hot hot tubs, wading pools, lap pools, a waterslide, waterfalls, and waitstaff that deliver drinks straight to your deck chair. There is even a “quiet pool” for people who unwittingly show up without kids or are simply trying to escape theirs for a bit. We had so much fun exploring, and our little person just loved being able to try out her swimming skills in so many different, interesting venues. 


Daily koi feeding.

As for food, the on-site restaurant was beautifully positioned for sunset views and while resort-priced, was delicious and comfortable. The on-site A’ina Market had a perfectly curated selection of pantry-fillers, kid-favorites and vacation-only treats. Their coffee comes from the plantation across the street and by all accounts from my coffee-snob husband, was great.

There was a kids’ club that we peeked into and never used. But I can see that being a fun rainy day diversion or a great babysitting service for parents-only snorkeling excursions, etc. There’s also a spa and additional restaurant in the works, which we didn’t miss during our stay but would be happy to see if we go back.

Lastly, the people. Everyone at Honua Kai was super friendly, even the security guy who reset the smoke alarm after I left a piece of toast under the broiler while I went downstairs for a swim. (Sorry, Honua Kai! I’ll use the toaster next time!) And the people who stayed there were invariably warm and generally nice to be around too. On vacations like this one, I often want to be an introvert, but I found myself looking forward to socializing with folks at the pool. 

When we left, our daughter asked, “We come back to Hawaii soon?” And my husband answered, “Yes, hopefully very soon.” The true sign of a successful vacation. Aloha!

 


Pool view.
 
Ample seating for cherished loved ones. 

   



 

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The ten commandments of couch surfing

Posted by Stacy Baas on January 15, 2013 0 Comments

Last year, we logged 45 guest nights at our house. 45! 

That means almost an 1/8th of our year was spent with another person (or 2) sleeping on our air mattress and sharing our dinner table. Luckily, as I look back at the year and the steady stream of visitors, I can say those 45 nights were some of the best of 2013.

I think with a track record like that (I didn’t total up years prior, but they are likely on par with 2012), I have some authority when it comes to saying what makes a good – and not-so-good – house guest, so I’ve compiled here my own personal Ten Commandments for being a great couch surfer.

Commandment #1: Thou shalt organize your own airport transportation. Particularly if you are flying in after 10pm, before 6am, or during rush hour. Your host is likely to offer you a ride, and you are welcome to take her up on it if it comes your way. But she’ll secretly be delighted if you magically show up on her doorstep.

Commandment #2: Thou shalt BYOB (bring your own breakfast). Again, your host will likely have something available, and possibly be ready to cook, but if you show up in the kitchen with a banana and a PowerBar, he’ll happily pour you a cup of coffee and nix the omelet and French toast plans.

Commandment #3: Thou shalt make your bed. Every day. It’s not a big deal if you don’t, but it’s so nice to walk past the spare room and see a neatly made bed. In the case of couches and futons as sleeping quarters, those get disassembled and reassembled every night. No exceptions.

Commandment #4: Thou shalt have a plan. You don’t have to have a full itinerary for your visit (in fact, please DON’T do that), but at least have one activity in mind that you would like to do. Chances are your host would like to do it too, and will be relieved to have a surefire win among the visit’s planned activities.

Commandment #5: Thou shalt make or buy one meal. Feeding an extra body for 2-10 days can be a lot of work, even if it just means agreeing on take-out. At our house, we love it when a guest wants to cook for us. We get a chance to relax and hang out in the kitchen, and they get a chance to show off their skills. Everybody wins.

Commandment #6: Thou shalt take a little time on your own. Every day. Everybody needs a little down time, including your host. We call it “toes up” around our house: when everyone retreats to separate corners and relaxes in whatever way suits them best. Read a magazine, take a nap, or put those toes on the ground and head out for some fresh air.

Commandment #7: Thou shalt make yourself at home. Really. Certainly, you should ask before you start rummaging through your host’s cabinets, but if you know where the coffee cups are, feel free to pour yourself a cup. The same goes for cleanup. If you’d put it in the dishwasher at home, then do it at your host’s house too.

Commandment #8: Thou shalt love your host’s family. While our guests purportedly come to see all of us, they are often really just visiting one of us. If you’re visiting a friend who happens to have three kids, be sure to pay attention to – and spend some time extolling the virtues of – said children. If you’re there to see your daughter, make a point to spend some quality time with your son-in-law too.

Commandment #9: Thou shalt leave before your host is happy to see you go. Short version: don’t stay too long. Go out on a high note and you’ll have your host clearing his calendar next time you want to plan a visit. Stay a day or two too long and the invitation won’t be so readily extended next time.

Commandment #10: Thou shalt return the favor. “I’d love to have you,” are some of the nicest words. And when said with honesty, not obligation, can lead to some of the best memories.

 

OK, all you houseguests out there…What are YOUR commandments for being a great host? I need to know, because this year’s gaggle of visitors is due to arrive any day now, and I need to up my game this year.  Feed ‘em to me in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

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Grown-up getaways: Part 2

Posted by Stacy Baas on November 20, 2012 0 Comments

Today: More thoughts on (happily!) leaving your kids to go for a grown-up vacation. Part 1 was about making sure your kids survive the time apart, and this installment is all about guaranteeing you enjoy yourself too. I know, who needs tips for enjoying themselves? I did, on my first time away from my daughter. I’d forgotten what it was like to be away from her, and I needed some help getting re-accustomed to the world of both-hands-free travel. A few things that eased my separation anxiety and helped me get back in the groove:

Embracing the joys and ease of traveling sans children. Everyone thinks flying is tedious, stressful and exhausting before they have kids. Then kids come into the picture and that feeling is multiplied by 100. Suddenly, the idea of flying alone sounds like a spa day. It’s all about perspective.

Do you love a good gossip magazine? Buy 3 and toss them in your TravelTote when you board the plane. An overpriced Bloody Mary on the flight? Go for it. A shoe shine in the airport? Why not? Take advantage of the small pleasures of traveling – they’re the ones you won’t get the next time you’re on the road with your kids.

Do something you used to do before you had kids. For my husband and me, it’s hiking. The Zo(e) in Zo&Co is too big to carry and too little to walk farther than a ¼ mile. So whenever my husband and I get time away together, we try to hit a trail. It’s easy for us to fall into the rhythm of it, and before we know it we remember what it’s like to be alone together. What’s the thing that makes you feel like you?  Do it. If you don’t accomplish anything else on your trip, you’ll have fed your soul.

Stay up past your bedtime. One of the crazy things I realized about a year into being a parent is that I was never outside after dark. The universal rule of parenthood seems to be that you put your kids to bed and then you collapse on the couch. And even when you do go out after dark, you can’t stay out past your babysitter’s curfew. It’s time to remind yourself how interesting the world is after dark. It’s more mysterious, exciting and even, yes, romantic. So push on past 11pm, then…

Allow plenty of time for sleeping in. Unless your kids are in their teens and effectively sleeping ‘til noon every weekend, you are likely not staying in bed past 7am most days. This is your big chance. Put in the ear plugs, don the sleep mask and don’t plan any morning activities before 10am. Sweet, sweet bliss.

Now it’s your turn…what are your best tips for travel sans kids? Tell us in the comments below.

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