The editors have compiled questions and selected responses from the PAMP Forum on BigTent. Comments have been edited for space consideration.
We will be flying to the east coast this Christmas, and will spend quite a few hours in the airports and the flight. I am nervous because [our 22-month-old] is mobile and pretty demanding now. Any tips on how to entertain him, and what to bring?
“A window seat always worked for our son since he was about 6 months old until now (he is 4). He can sit still for a flight all the way to Asia if he gets a window view of the world. My sister uses a DVD player and gets special videos for the flight.”
“Sometimes a box of Band-Aids is a great source of entertainment. It takes a while to unwrap each one, and you can stick them around your seat and on your mom. Making a ‘tent’ over their seat with a blanket is also temporarily fun. For slightly older kids, some lengths of string and masking tape is also a useful addition; you can rip up the in-flight magazine and make a collage right on the tray table, or hang the pictures from the walls.”
“Here are a few more suggestions: pipe cleaners and tape in multiple colors; a couple new books and several toy catalogues which he would look at for a very long time! We also put together a couple of photo albums: (1) pictures of trucks from around town and (2) pictures of HIM (that ever-important subject), especially with the family members we were going to visit.”
“We found that colored tape is a lifesaver on airplanes. You can give the child the tape, you can tape things to the ceiling over their head and let them bat at them, or you can actually use it to tape things! A tip a mom told me ages ago is to have a little bag of toys (e.g. small packages of Play-Doh, a little magnifying glass, one of those balls that you can squeeze that has “fur” on it). At any rate, you take each of the toys and wrap them in tinfoil! It takes a little time to unwrap and keeps the child occupied. You might want to think about books on tape.”
“Kepler’s has a rack of $4 small, light paperback books. We picked up several of these, which kept our son entertained for a while. Some have stickers, too. Also, we like the magnetic playsets, especially the ones in tin boxes. And a few new matchbox cars / small trucks never hurt.”
“My son loves the Doodle Pro travel size for drawing and Leapfrog fridge magnets, as well as flash cards.”
“For us, food always worked. I didn’t worry about them eating a real meal and just kept feeding snacks (goldfish, cheese, fruit, etc).”
“At that age we also got some small construction trucks, a short rimmed tray, and some Cheerios, and my son had a great time driving the trucks around the tray bulldozing the Cheerios or putting them in the dump truck with a loader. When the Cheerios wore out, we’d sometimes try ice too.”
“I used to get those mini-boxes of Froot Loops cereal and bring a piece of string (wrap tape around the end). The kid can thread the Froot Loops on the string to make a necklace (good for at least 15 minutes) and then eat the necklace once it is strung (good for at least another 5-10 minutes).”
“We have been flying long trips since our children were born—transcontinental and domestic—and here are some tricks we’ve used:
–Superman Exercise Flash Cards for Kids can be used in the airport and adapted for the plane. They are a series of fun-kid exercises and games to go with the exercises. You can probably buy them online. It is a small deck of cards so, easy to pack.
–Those fine motor skill boards that have latches, locks, hooks to figure out. You can also make your own, if you are so inclined.
–Stickers, Band-aids, no-mess coloring books.
–The moving sidewalks are always a big hit.
–Don’t forget to bring whatever sleep-aids your child needs; planes often make kids sleepy.”
NEARBY GETAWAYS BY CAR
We are planning a one-week family vacation in December. We are not able to fly or be in high altitude, but we are looking for something at the beach within convenient driving distance. We have already been to Mendocino, Big Sur and Monterey. Maybe somebody has a good idea for a place and/or family-friendly hotel?
“How about Santa Barbara? It’s about 5 hours from here. There are lots of rental cottages/houses there, making it convenient for families.”
“I love Santa Barbara as well! It will be too cold to go in the water, but the beach is fun on a sunny day—just to play in the sand. The downtown is great, fun places to eat, shops and bookstores. We also went to the Marine Center. (If you buy a membership, it is also valid at the SF Exploratorium and at Happy Hollow).”
“You could head north to Sea Ranch (near Gualala) & rent a house there. The weather would be wintery, but you could go for walks, play on the beach & retreat back to a roaring fire. Depends what you’re looking for. A closer-by family friendly hotel by the beach is Seascape in Aptos near Santa Cruz.”
“San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, and Cambria are all supposed to be fun, and they’re a quick trip down 101. I always got a kick out of Solvang (on the way to Santa Barbara) as a kid.”
“Stinson Beach or Bodega Bay is really nice and close. Going south another option is Cayucous, which has a nice reasonable hotel right on the sandy beach.”
“Although less known, you might consider Redding. It is a 4-hour drive north (2.5 hours north of Sacramento on the I-5). It is a gorgeous city surrounded by purple mountains. The weather is usually in the 40s during December. Info here: http://www.visitredding.com/visitors/attractions/. Hotels are very affordable there.”