9 Trips to Take Before Your Kid Turns 9 in Canada

9 Trips to Take Before Your Kid Turns 9 in Canada

Canada has some awesome destinations made for families with kids below 9, whether you’re on the coast or inland. Here are some of the top locations in Canada for the whole family.

Royal Tyrell Museum – Drumheller

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Dino kids will love the this interactive museum with its collection of 130,000+ fossils. Canada’s main center of palaeontological research, the museum lies just 6 km (4 mi) from Drumheller in Alberta. Located ideally in the Late Cretaceous Horseshoe Canyon Formation, it houses permanent exhibits that cover the cretaceous, palaeozoic, and triassic periods. Immense yourself in the world of fossils, ancient reptiles and mammals. Kids can walk the length of the world’s largest known marine reptile–21 meters long–or explore the world of woolly mastodons and sabre-toothed cats.

1500 North Dinosaur Trail, AB. Tuesday to Sunday, 10am-5pm.

Black Creek Pioneer Village – Toronto

Take a step back in time to the reenactment village of Black Creek. With historic buildings, skill demonstrations, period costumes and hands-on activities for the kids, this is a spectacular introduction to the world and lifestyles of 1867. Try your hand at archery dodgeball or axe-throwing, or learn about the spooky history through haunted walks. Check their calendar for special events like live musical performances and haystacks. Not in Toronto? – there are several similar places all over Canada: Upper Canada Village, Muskoka Heritage Place and Fort William Historical Park.

1000 Murray Ross Parkway, Toronto, ON. Monday to Friday 10am-4pm, 11am-4:30pm Saturday and Sunday.

Whistler Blackcomb – Whistler

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A well-known winter escape, Whistler is THE place for powdery slopes, breathtaking mountain views and engaging snow activities. Whistler Blackcomb is one of the largest ski resorts in North America, where kids can boost their skills at skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, tobogganing and ski jumping. Book a chalet-style pedestrian village at the base of the mountains.

4545 Blackcomb Way, Whistler, BC. Monday to Sunday, 10am-5pm.

Marineland – Niagara Falls

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Marineland is a fantastic place to take the kids to meet belugas, killer whales, dolphins, walruses and other marine mammals. First opened in 1961, Marineland is just a short stop from the world-famous Niagara Falls. They also boast their fair share of rides and attractions like roller coasters, ferris wheels and more.

7657 Portage Rd, Niagara Falls, ON. May 19 to October 7, 2018.

Canadian Children’s Museum – Gatineau

The Children’s Museum is a special attraction made just for kids. Opened in 1989, kids of all ages are welcome to run around, play and try their hands at arts and crafts, toy car races, cooking with clay, and theatrical performances. Don’t forget to pick up a Children’s Museum passport, so your little ones can collect their stamps as they pay visits to all the corners of the world.

100 Laurier St, Gatineau, QC. Monday to Sunday, 9:30am-5pm

Toronto Zoo – Toronto

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One of the largest zoos in Canada, Toronto Zoo boasts more than 460 species, from the short-beaked echidna to Bennett’s wallaby. Praised for its interactive, educational exhibits, you’ll want to head over to the Discovery Zone, to climb on the tree house slide, dig for dinosaur bones and interact with alpacas and rabbits. In the summer, be sure to hit Splash Island, two awesome acres of fun in the water.

2000 Meadowvale Rd, Toronto, ON. Daily 9:30am-4:30pm.

Vancouver Aquarium – Vancouver

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British Columbia’s beautiful port city boasts amazing exhibits of 50,000+ aquatic creatures at their aquarium. Watch the mesmerizing manta rays or come see the adorable sea otters at play. There are loads of fun shows too, like the Dolphin Trainer Talk, Meet-A-Penguin, and Shark shows. Ask about the unique Family Sleepovers, where participants explore the galleries and participate in fun tours after closing hours!

845 Avison Way, Vancouver, BC. Daily 10am-5pm.

Ontario Science Center – North York

The cool science center is interactive, with an awesome Planetarium and Kidspark, a learn-through-play arena that’s fun for all ages. The center frequently hosts Day Camps for 5-12 year olds, to delve deep into biology, chemistry, bubbles and pirates! Check the calendar for special events and to keep tabs on the rotating art and science installations.

770 Don Mills Rd, North York, ON. Monday to Friday 10am-4pm, Saturday to Sunday 10am to 5pm.

Centreville – Toronto

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Surrounded by 600 acres of parkland, this summer island escape offers more than 30 rides and attractions, and 14 food outlets. Centreville was made for smaller kids–with adorable rides like the 1907 antique carousel, teacup rides, mini golf and paddleboats. To get there, hop on a ferry from 9 Queen’s Quay West in Toronto. You can also enjoy a picnic in the sun or rent bicycles to explore the rest of the island.

Centre Island Toronto. Monday to Friday 10:30am-7pm, Saturday and Sunday 10:30am-8pm.

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Obsessed with Filling Up Your Kids’ Time? You Shouldn’t Be.

Obsessed with Filling Up Your Kids’ Time? You Shouldn’t Be.

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Soccer games, piano lessons, trips to the zoo zoo, summer camps. Add that to school and homework and you have one busy kid. Feeling lately like you have to keep your kids occupied at all hours of the day, lest they feel bored? Recent studies suggest that it might actually be more beneficial to let your kids be on their own and to cultivate chances for boredom.

Boredom can be Valuable to Kids

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First of all, boredom gets a bad rap. In the age of smartphones and tablets, to be bored is a sin. Gone are the days when people sit idly and let their minds wander on the commute or while simply sitting under a tree. Now we’re constantly engaging with virtual worlds, or staying engaged in busywork. This constant pressure to occupy oneself can lead to abnormal levels of anxiety and depression–and kids follow the examples we set. We’re teaching them that there’s something wrong with being quiet, sitting still, resting, staying unoccupied.

But low-intensity emotions, such as being calm or restful, are just as important in daily life. Meditation and stillness encourages productivity and creativity, and helps to replenish energy and attention. Children who are taught that stillness is a virtue may find more value and satisfaction as adults in mundane activities, such as taking a walk–and thus lead more content lives.

Kids are more Creative when they’re Bored

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Countless studies have shown that people are more creative when they’re bored — and that’s true for kids to. When minds are bored, they start to daydream, which sparks creative inspiration. An idle mind naturally searches for solutions to boredom, and helps children redirect their focus and attention to new goals.

In her creativity podcast, “Magic Lessons,” bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert recounted how her mother would send her and her sister out to play so she could sew in peace. Left to themselves, the girls would concoct stories and imaginary worlds, and both went on to become writers.

Kids Develop their Personalities when they’re Bored

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My mom used to say, “Only boring people get bored.” She meant to encourage me to use my own inventiveness to solve my boredom problem. If you spend your whole day entertaining your children, they’ll never learn how to entertain themselves. You take away the responsibility of occupying themselves, and they become dependent on you to entertain them, to solve their problems, instead of looking within.

Leave them to their own devices, however, and children will quickly find their own ways to explore the world around them. When a child says, “I’m bored,” ignore them–they’ll find something on their own. They’ll follow their own curiosities, develop their own interests, and find new ways to solve problems. They won’t be dependent on you to entertain them, instead, they’ll pay more attention to the world around them.

You may think that you always need to be with your kids, but there’s no link between how much time you spend with them and how they turn out. They need to learn how to handle things themselves–because you won’t be around forever.

It’s great for Parents, too

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Letting your kids have time on their own also gives you time with yourself and your significant other. Getting some “me” or “us” time throughout the day is important for the wellbeing of yourself, your relationship, and your family unit. If you focus all your attention on the kids, you neglect your own welfare and that of your partner, and open yourself up to all kinds of stress and anxiety. And if you’re not happy, your kids won’t be either. Take some time for yourself and for your spouse–it can be the best thing for everyone.

Boredom is a Virtue during Travel

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So the next time your kid says, “I’m bored,” especially on a trip–don’t stress out. Ignore them and walk a little behind them. Step a bit behind, so that the child doesn’t focus so much on you. Their attention will gradually slide away from you the parent and into the world around them. If they’re a bit older, let them explore on their own: while you’re waiting at airport security lines, during long journeys in the car, walking on cobblestone roads in old towns. Encourage them to discover what’s new on their own, and the world will open up to them.

When our children become adults, we won’t be there to entertain them, to fill up their schedules. So let them be bored. Let them sit with themselves and discover who they are. Let them learn how to motivate themselves and look to themselves for initiative and creativity. They’ll find their own ways to venture out into the world.

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5 Top-Rated Kid-Friendly Hotels in Toronto for Thanksgiving Vacation

5 Top-Rated Kid-Friendly Hotels in Toronto for Thanksgiving Vacation

When planning a family vacation, the destination is everything. Luckily, Toronto is full of amazing attractions, fun restaurants, live shows and kid-friendly hotels, so between the CN tower, Ripley’s and Canada’s Wonderland, you won’t have any problem keeping your kids entertained. For many, the perfect hotel is a key factor of keeping the kids engaged and your sanity intact. With Thanksgiving coming up soon in Canada, what better way to treat your little ones than with a fun getaway in one of the country’s most vibrant cities?

Here are 5 top-rated kid-friendly hotels in Toronto for Thanksgiving Vacation: 

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Four Seasons Hotel Toronto

60 Yorkville Ave

See Toronto in style at with a luxury getaway at Four Seasons. At fifty-five stories, this is no hotel to dismiss–offering a warm, sophisticated interior with an international flavor.

The first hotel in Canada to be awarded both the AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star ratings,  Four Season balances elegance with accessibility. Located in trendy Yorkville, you won’t be far from chic boutiques, charming Victorian façades and glamorous restaurants.

The hotel also goes out of its way to welcome its youngest guests, whether it’s by greeting the kids with milk and cookies at check-in, arranging a family dinner, or setting up a babysitter so you can catch that live tour. Four Season also treats kids with complimentary kid toiletries and a complimentary in-room movie with popcorn!

The skylit indoor relaxation pool also invites children of all ages with its underwater music. The ninth-floor pool even offers special Family Swim Hours during weekends and holidays, from 9am to 12pm, and from 5pm to 7pm.

Why they will love it: plush child-size robes to cuddle in

Why you will love it: heated indoor pool to melt all your stress away

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Hotel Le Germain Toronto Mercer

30 Mercer St

This cozy property offers elegance coupled with a relaxed, contemporary finish. You can almost smell the attention to detail, in the flower vases, the wall art, and the complimentary cappuccino bar! Did we mention there’s a double-sided fireplace? Bring the kids up for the view on the Rooftop Terrace, or show them how to putt on the putting green.

Le Germain offers a number of suites that all come with continental breakfast, Egyptian cotton sheets, toiletries, Bose stereo system, and swing-out workstations. Each room is stocked essentials for both babies and children, a humidifier for sensitive noses and a DVD player along with a selection of DVDs. They’re also dog-friendly so you can bring along your kids’ best pal!

Located in Toronto’s entertainment district, your family won’t be very far from Ripley’s, Canada’s largest indoor aquarium with more than 16,000 marine creatures–plus the biggest shark collection in North America.

Why they will love it: children’s books they can devour

Why you will love it: a lounge-library with super-comfy sofas to sink in

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Cambridge Suites Hotel

15 Richmond Street East

The comfortable Cambridge Suites is a great choice for families, with ample space for bedding and fully equipped kitchenettes so you can dine in come dinnertime. Located in downtown, it’s an easy hop to the Queen Subway Station, the underground PATH shopping network, and the Financial and Entertainment districts.

Indulge your family with spacious sleeping quarters, two-room suites and a pull-out couch. The Executive Suite boasts fluffy pillow top mattresses, double goose-down duvets, premium amenities and a complimentary hot breakfast buffet. You can even order a baby cot before arrival or bring your own as there’s well enough room! Quiet hours start from 11pm so you don’t have to worry about neighbors waking the kids. Each bathroom has a tub and the living room has a microwave and fridge.

Head down to the lobby for Social Hour, daily from 4pm to 6pm, with special beverages and complimentary hors d’oeuvres. If you don’t feel like cooking, catch dinner at a nearby eatery or the onsite Portico Restaurant.

Why they will love it: a room of their own, separated from mom and dad

Why you will love it: Complimentary wifi throughout the hotel so you can download books on your Kindle

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Chelsea Eaton Hotel

33 Gerrard St W

Chelsea Eaton goes all out when it comes to kids. The Family Fun Zone includes an indoor swimming pool, with a gigantic corkscrew waterslide that loops around the hotel. For the little ones, the Kids Center will keep them engaged with crafts and cute bunnies. For the teens, head down to the Club 33 Teen Lounge, complete with arcade games, flat-screen TVs, Xbox 360s, foosball and a pool table.

All rooms are family-friendly, some with kitchenettes, others with safe balconies so you can admire the city’s skyline. For a real treat, book your family in the Family Fun Suite with kid-friendly amenities, including space for 6 guests, a kitchenette and kid’s corner with DVD, LCD flat screen TV and xbox.

For food, grab a quick breakfast and lunch at the Market Garden on the Go, or dine on fancy international cuisine at the T| Bar.

Located right on the Dundas Square, Chelsea Eaton is a close walk to fun activities like the Toronto Bicycle tours, the Haunted Walk, and the Pirate Life Adventure theatre Cruise on Centre Island.

Why they will love it: the awesome pool to while away the hours!

Why you will love it: fresh, local ingredients at the Market Garden restaurant

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Westin Harbour Castle

1 Harbour Square

When it comes to kids, the Westin Harbour Castle packs a huge adventure in terms of outdoor entertainment. Located on the waterfront of Lake Ontario, the hotel boasts an indoor swimming pool overlooking the lake, courts for tennis and squash, and a Westin Kids’ Club stocked with a Wii, board games and DVD player. The Westin also offers connecting rooms and babysitting services, available through the concierge.

Service is spot-on, and world-class chefs spin out delicious healthy meals daily, whether you’re enjoying a casual breakfast at Mizzen Restaurant (kids 5 and under eat free!), sitting down for an authentic Italian dinner at Toula restaurant, or grabbing a coffee to go at  the newly refurbished Harbour espresso bar. 

Modern and clean-cut, the Castle is also just steps away from the entertainment district and Downtown Core via PATH, as well as the family-friendly Harbourfront Centre. If the weather’s nice, hop on a ferry for some biking or canoeing action on the Toronto Islands, or cruise the harbour on the Tall Ship Kajama.

Why they will love it: an adventure-filled welcome bag for the kids at check-in

Why you will love it: The Westin’s lakefront spa to relax

Gear to make Travel with your Little Ones Easier

Gear to make Travel with your Little Ones Easier

“Be Prepared” might be the motto of the Boy Scouts, but it’s also one that all parents live by. Preparing the right gear can be a lifesaver when you’re out on the road with your little one. Whether you need to keep them warm, cool, clean or entertained, your kids will enjoy the trip more if you pack for each step of the way. From collapsible booster seats to ride-on suitcases, here are 11 tried-and-true items you can bring along that’ll make your trip that much smoother.

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  1. For Chilly Babies: Infant Thermoball Bunting by Northface

Price: CA$145

Keep infants warm from head to toe! The ultralight bunting traps hot air for reduced heat loss and increased warmth and keeps your little ones cozy. Thermoball special insulation features small round synthetic fiber that is closely clustered to mimic down clusters, trapping heat within small air pockets. This means high warmth even when it gets wet!

Includes asymmetrical full-front zip, fold-over mitts at arm cuffs, foot booties at feet, and contrast Sherpa lining throughout. Comes in bright cobalt Blue, metallic Silver, and bellflower Purple, with sizes 0-3M up to 24M–so your little ones can be snug as a bug in a rug!

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  1. For Messy Monsters: Table Toppers by Neat Solutions

Price: CA$24 for 60

These useful disposable placements stick-on nearly every surface. They protect tables from messy kids and protect kids from germs when eating out. Even if your baby loves to throw placemats all over the floor, the sticky bottom ensures that it keeps in place. Award-winning and eco-friendly, each placement is colored with different themes like Sesame Street and Disney. Each package includes 60 placements measuring 12” x 18”, so you can throw them out when your muncher is finished!

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  1. For Nodding Infants: My Little Snugapuppy Deluxe Rock ‘N Play Sleeper by Fisher-Price

Price: CA$90

The easily portable sleeper is designed to cradle the baby perfect while she sleeps. It’s tilted slightly, with cuddly fabrics, mesh sides and ultra-plush puppy head. Rock the baby off to sleep gently with this soothing and supportive “bed.” Lightweight, machine-washable, and collapsible, meaning it’s perfect for those long trips.

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  1. For Breastfeeding On the Go: Pump-in Style Breast Pump with On the Go Tote by Medela

Price: CA$274

This double-electric breast pump is designed for moms who pump several times a day, every day. With its built-in battery pack, cooler bag and space for milk bottles, it’s made for moms on the go. Welcome to 2-Phase Expression technology with one-touch button that produces more milk in less time. Includes single knob speed/vacuum adjustments and removable cooler bag, contoured ice pack and four breast milk bottles with lids. It’s a doozy in price, but so worth the splurge, doing wonders for your sanity. Plus the microfiber bag looks fashionable enough for you to strut around in style.

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  1. For Boosting the Butt: Grab and Go Car Booster Seat by Mifold

Price: CA$48

This super compact and collapsible car booster seat fits right into your kid’s backpack. This durable seat works differently than most booster seats—instead of boosting the child up, it pulls the belt down into the perfect position for your 4+ kid under 100 lbs. The friction fabric prevents slipping and the aluminum is aircraft-grade, and Mifold claims that it’s 10x smaller than a regular booster! Dimensions 10” x 5” and guess what?—it’s even dishwasher safe.17328206_Alt01

  1. For Cradling the Napper: Sneck Travel Pillow by BubbleBum

Price: CA$48

This plush pillow pod system is perfect for those little travelers who nod off in the car or plane. This comfy pillow combines soft nylon, fleece material and foam pellets, designed to cradle your kid to sleep.  Rest on it as is, or attach it to the car headrest or seat buckle with Velcro and an adjustable nylon strap. The pillow features an elastic mesh pocket to store small items on the go!

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  1. For the Sightseer: Kelty Tour 1.0 Frame Child Carrier by Kelty

Price: CA$230

We’ve addressed the hiking carrier on this blog before and with good reason! It’s such a hit with families worldwide who love to take their little ones on their backs. You can explore a lot further with this carrier, and your kid will enjoy watching the world from above their shoulders. Hike into wilderness or simply walk sightseeing around the city. It’s comfortable and secure, with a 5-point harness system and a sun hood. Includes hefty storage for packing wipes, diapers and changes of clothes.

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  1. For the World Explorer: Mios Stroller from Cybex

Price: CA$960

Let’s face it–strollers can be a pain. They’re bulky, heavy, and difficult to maneuver over many streets. Hot summer days and an uncomfortable stroller quickly become tiresome.  But the Mios Stroller offers fun and functional support while boasting a lightweight design. It has a reversible seat, huge sun canopy, and a breathable mesh back–plus it’s foldable with one hand. Whether you’re sightseeing a historic site or strolling down the promenade, you and your kiddo will be surely be thankful for the airy convenience of the Mios Stroller!

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  1. For the Thirsty Toddler: Formula Dispenser Combo Pack by Munchkin

Price: CA$3.60

This handy container divides three 8-oz servings of formula in three BPA-free chambers. Made for on-the-go feeding, with a snapping lid that keeps it from leaking. Just pour your powdered formula in one dispenser, mix with water and you’re ready to go!

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  1. For the Backseat Artist: Toys Artist Studio Car Valet by Alex Brands

Price: CA$59

This awesome pack includes space for all your kid’s crafty items: crayons, scissors, pens, juicebox, paper and more. Simply attach to the rear of the front seat, and fold down for easy access to supplies. It will keep them occupied for hours with two removable zippered pouches, 2 net pouches, a fold-out work area and built-in frame on the front to showcase their masterpiece. You won’t find them asking, “Are we there yet?” any time soon.

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  1. For the Airborne Trooper: the BedBox by JetKids

Price: CA$242

While those long, boring hours at the airport with the BedBox: a suitcase, ride-on suitcase and leg rest, all rolled into one. The suitcase easily converts into a ride-on suitcase that can be used by kids ages 3-7. Parents love ride-on suitcases—they’re fun, Once on the plane though, the third feature really pays off. Sitting in one seat for a long time can easily wear down kids, and the Bedbox’s leg rest—a fold-out, hand-washable mattress with side cushions—is designed to let them stretch out and sleep better on the plane. The leg rest’s height and length is adjustable in order to fit most standard economy seats—just note that it’s only to be used when the plane’s high in the sky! The BedBox weighs only 3kg, fits up to 20 liters of clothes, and features an awesome 360 degrees swivel in the front, for smooth maneuvering.

9 Essential Tips for Travel with Young Kids

9 Essential Tips for Travel with Young Kids

Your bags are packed and your family’s all revved up to go. Congrats! If this is your first time traveling with your young child ages 2-5, you might be nervous. How will you keep them happy and occupied? Will they have enough to engage with at your destination? Will you be able to manage them while also sightseeing and having fun yourself? This young age is a time for transition–so your little one’s going to be walking, talking, voicing strong opinions, climbing over everything–so they need a lot of attention. There’s a lot to consider about the journey and the destination before you even book your first flight or car rental.

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1. Consider the Destination

Guaranteed–it will certainly be a challenge to take a 2-year-old who likes to jump, hop and clamber over everything to a destination that doesn’t prioritize child safety. Traveling in Thailand or Costa Rica, for example, can be a nightmare if you’re stuck in-between traffic, navigating chaotic streets and/or don’t have proper seat belts. Instead, you may want to opt for a location with more structure and child-friendly facilities like elevators and playgrounds. Maybe your family can fly to nearby Montreal or France or even Japan this time, and save the more chaotic locales until they’re a bit older.

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2. Opt for a Road Trip

I’ve hinted at it here, but a road trip can be a million times more comfortable journey than an airplane trip. For one, you can stop whenever you want–allowing little ones to run all over when they get antsy. You can also control the indoor environment. So those toy blocks ended up on the floor? So what–you don’t have to worry about them rolling around some stranger’s feet (as may happen on a plane). Each person also has their own small space, which means they can nap a bit more comfortably than they would on a plane. Road trips are flexible and even-paced, and depending on your trunk space, you can fit a lot more luggage in the back! So in the battle between cars and planes when traveling with your small child, cars definitely win!

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3. Pack for Them

On long road trips or flights, keep your kids occupied with plenty of activities. Try to plan fun projects in 15-minute increments, so if they get bored (and they will!), you can move them along to the next thing to keep them entertained. Pack storybooks, magazines with colorful pictures, magnets, stickers, drawing tools and book, and snacks. Offer foods that require a lot of attention–like raisins, strawberries, grapes and cherry tomatoes. Pack that fairy-tale book you’re sure they adore, but also bring along new books and toys–like a new set of crayons–so they’ll be distracted with their new goodie for some time. Make sure you take them out one at a time so things don’t go flying around everywhere.

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4. Pack for You

A backpack carrier is a great accessory where you can plop your kid for a while. The Kelty Pathfinder 3.0 Kid Carrier is a flexible and adjustable lookout point for your little one, provided they’re still small enough to fit! They’ll be able to see their new surroundings with ease. Pack a stroller you can push around and let them nap while you sightsee. Skip the car seat, it’s more convenient to pick up one at the car rental office.

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5. Bring a Tablet

We’re fortunate to live in a day and age of that electronic life saver of parents, the tablet. Cartoons, movies, and games will wheel away a sizeable chunk of the trip. Tablets are small and containable, but unless you have upgraded storage, limited space. Just make sure to download all videos and games the night before, and that they have their own handy-dandy pair of headphones. Some recommendations I’ve downloaded onto my own kid’s tablet are the collections of games by Sago Mini World, Fiete, Mimpi, and the Endless Reader app. And whatever you do, don’t forget to charge the battery! No tablet? No problem! Play family games in the car, like “I Spy,” or help them with some mess-free crafts in the backseat.

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6. Breakdown the Journey to Your Kids

If it’s your kids’ first time ever for a long trip, you may want to explain each step of the journey to them. Try to include them in advance so they know what to expect at the airport, especially the security screening process. Tell them not to worry–they’ll get their beloved blankie back, the nice security man just needs to look at it. If you’re on a road trip, explain that they’ll need to use their bathroom breaks as they come, because who knows when the next one will come!

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7. Choose your Travel Time Wisely

Your child’s sleep and play schedule could be disrupted by a long commute. Try to plan the actual transportation–whether driving or flying–when your child is sleeping or nearly asleep. The early morning hours or the evening, when the little ones are nodding off, is an ideal time to hit the road. Depending on the route, they may wake up before you get there. Make rest stops when they’re away so everyone can stretch and take a gander at their surroundings.

 

 

 

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8. Keep the Routine

Once you arrive at your destination, let the kids adjust to their new place. Whether it’s Grandma’s house or a hotel room, young children need time to figure out their surroundings and set up their space. You can use home routines to help them adjust to an unfamiliar place. Try to stay consistent with a few things that you enjoy to do as a family at home, and which aren’t time-consuming: eat breakfast and dinner at the table together, or do morning exercises like stretching or coloring. This allows you to maintain some sort of structure day-to-day while also being spontaneous. Keep bedtime routine the same as home–keep to the same schedule as much as possible, and bring along a nightlight or blankie. If you usually read them a story at home, pull out a new book you bought on the trip and read it aloud.

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9. Try New Adventures

Kids ages 2-5 interact with the world with pure innocence and curiosity. You may find your 3-year-old adventurer chatting with a street seller even though they don’t speak the same language. They may wander all over the city ruins and marvel at the peculiar colors of the ice cream. This is the time when they’re at their most curious, so expect loads of questions. Seeing the world through their eyes, you may start to appreciate the world, and little simple things, as they see it. Mirror their behavior and take the time to notice more. If you show that you’re adventurous and curious about the world, the kids will be encouraged to pursue their own spirit of adventure. They’ll adapt and blossom into inquisitive, independent travelers as they get older.

Ages 2-5 is the perfect time to cultivate your little explorers, ensuring that they blossom into brave adventurers. Make their transition from the home to the outside world as painless as possible, and they’re guaranteed to surprise you.

Our Picks: The 3 Most Family-Friendly Airlines

Our Picks: The 3 Most Family-Friendly Airlines

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Keeping kids entertained at 30,000 feet is no easy task, especially on a long-haul flight. Infants need changing, 5-year-olds need coloring books, and teenagers need their own TV screen for games and movies. Finding the right family-friendly airline can really make all the difference in the skies! Unfortunately, with more airlines charging for small things like seat assignments and meals, flying just isn’t what it used to be. Luckily, we’ve broken down three airlines that still go the extra mile keeping your family travel light-hearted and stress-free.

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OUR INTERNATIONAL CHOICE: EMIRATES

Emirates hasn’t been voted the 2017 Best Airline in the World by Tripadvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards for nothing. This exceptional airline tops the charts in service and quality, and this virtue extends to their family-friendly policy.

Among Emirates’ many comforts, they offer advanced seat assignments, free stroller checked luggage, an extra bag for nursing, and change tables in toilets. Baby food, a children’s menu and special snack box are available for kids up to 12 years of age.

Little flyers receive different perks based on their age range. For infants, there are bassinets, soft toys and baby formula handy on board at no cost.

Kids Toys

Toddlers and younger kids are treated to a “We Fly With Me Animal” to cuddle during the flight. The special in-flight kids’ magazine, Fly With Me Monster, comes with collectible fuzzy toys, blankets and Sketcher seatbelt critters. Generous parents can also pick up Quicksilver wallets, backpacks, brightly colorful headphones and storybooks.

On some planes, flight attendants pass out the free Lonely Planet-inspired kid’s pack, crafted to inspire your budding adventurer: a travel journal, a magazine with puzzles and activities, colored pencils and an eye mask.

The award-winning, inflight entertainment system ICE delivers 100 games, 60 movies, 90+ children’s TV channels and selected music. Select from a huge range of much-loved chart hits, movie soundtracks, musicals and age-appropriate podcasts. Or enjoy a friendly battle with a sibling with an interactive game of chess or Tetris.

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Kids can choose from over 50 Disney classic films and more recent hits, from 101 Dalmatians and Cinderella to Finding Nemo and Toy Story. So your child can’t live without Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon? On Emirates, they don’t have to. Flip to the Airshow channel for breathtaking live views from the plane. On the double-decker A380s, the tail fin camera allows incredible glimpses of the aircraft speeding through the clouds.

The Skysurfers frequent flyer program, for ages 2-16, even awards points for those future jetsetters. Apply these miles to future flights, bookshop gift certificates, or the Wild Wadi Water Park in Dubai.

Emirates’ service-first policy extends even before you board. At their Dubai hub, families can pick up complimentary strollers at special family check-in points. Wander into the first- and business-class lounges for their dedicated play areas and video game consoles. Lounges also offer a mother and baby room where you can change and feed your infant. The kicker? Families always board first, a lifesaver for parents with lots of luggage.

OUR TRANSATLANTIC CHOICE: VIRGIN ATLANTIC AIRWAYS

“Boredom is banned” Virgin Atlantic’s website states, and they sure mean it, from the kid-friendly food to the KiD backpacks crammed full of hands-on goodies. Before boarding, the gate staff hands out these free packs, designed to keep kids busy on board and take the stress out of family travel. Each waterproof bag contains a child-sized eye mask, warm socks, sunglasses, baseball cap, travel journal, activity book and a rainbow pen. Some flights even hand out the children’s book The Great Hot Air Balloon Adventure by Stephen D. Holmes.

Virgin Atlantic is one branch of the Virgin brand that really goes all out when it comes to your child’s safety and well-being. Flight attendants will provide a special infant seat, shaped to fit each seat regardless of cabin class. The airline also provides baby cots, complimentary diapers, bottles, baby food and changing facilities on all flights.  

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The airline also enlisted Top TV chef Lorraine Pascale to create delicious and nutritional meals just for young passengers. Lorraine is known for her healthy, light dishes with a touch of class: mac and cheese with pancetta, crispy tender chicken strips with potato wedges and crushed peas, sweet and sour pork balls with sunshine rice and Mum’s chili con carne with calypso rice.

Virgin has got the kids’ snacks covered, stocked with ice cream, jam sandwiches, cheddar cheese, raisins, fresh fruit yoghurt tubes and dinosaur pasta. Even the baby gets his or her own menu. Just note that special menus need to be ordered online at least 48 hours before you fly.

Each seat is equipped with its own seatback TV, allowing your kids to flip through channels, movies and games at leisure. Age-appropriate entertainment features parental controls. You can rest easily knowing that your child is surfing family-friendly channels.

Note that these amenities are not universal among the Virgin brand, they’re unique to Virgin Atlantic. However, Virgin America also offers priority boarding for families with children ages 5 and under (after first-class).

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OUR CANADIAN CHOICE: WESTJET

WestJet may be a low-cost carrier but this certainly doesn’t mean it sacrifices quality. This budget airline doesn’t bother to nickel-and-dime you, instead it’s chock-full of amenities to keep your kid happy all flight long.

Westjet’s policies strive to be child- and parent-friendly. They have pre-seat selection available, and prioritizes seats for families traveling with young children. Guests of 12 years or older can travel with an infant under two years in their lap at no extra charge, so say goodbye to those pesky lap child fees. Child and infant equipment, such as car seats or strollers, can be checked in addition at no charge.

WestJet Connect streams more than 650 hours of kids’ movies and tv shows to your seat. On select Boeing 737 flights within Canada, they even offer free live satellite seatback television. Kids can choose from fresh sandwiches, and even vegetarian and gluten-free options. On international flights, passengers pre-purchase hot meals of their choice. All kids are offered complimentary juices and snacks for the duration of the flight, so keep those popcorn chips and pretzels coming!  

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Runner-Up: JETBLUE

A close runner-up on our list is JetBlue, the airline that keeps the onboard entertainment hopping, with Cartoon Network, Animal Planet, Nickelodeon, and 36 other free DirecTV channels to choose from. Kids can also jam to their favorite tunes on Sirius XM Satellite Radio. On flights one hour or less, your younger adventurers can enjoy free reading printables from Soar with Reading and PBS Kids (print before you head to the airport!). Flights longer than two hours will screen at least one child-friendly movie.

Not all airlines are created equal when it comes to family-friendly skies. Luckily, a few airlines still know how to pamper parents and kids – which as we all know makes a huge difference in your family’s overall travel experience.

Flying with a Baby? 7+ Things to Bring on Board

Flying with a Baby? 7+ Things to Bring on Board

It’s no secret that traveling with a baby can be a bit nerve-wracking. You may feel bogged down by your huge packing list, or apprehensive about dragging your precious cargo onto a plane for a few hours and just maybe wake up the other passengers. Babies love routines and introducing them to the ever-changing world of travel can be a challenge. You encounter all sorts of new trials when traveling with babies, such as extra luggage or weight you haven’t accounted for. Your baby may get fussy or cry to no end. Fellow passengers can be intolerant or flight attendants unhelpful.

But guess what: it doesn’t have to be as painful as you think! As with most things, the key to traveling with a baby is good planning and preparation. Pack lightly and mindfully. Stick to the bare essentials of what your baby actually needs. There are plenty of products out there designed for baby travel that just take up space and weigh you down! Here are 7+ things you do need to bring on your flight to make sure your baby stays happy and your sanity stays intact.

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A DIAPER BAG THAT DOUBLES AS YOUR DAY BAG

Chances are that you have a versatile diaper bag that keeps all your diapers, bottles, and non-baby-related knick-knacks that you usually pack in a purse or carry-on. But you’ll be traveling with this bag every day, all day, for the next few days or weeks as you traipse around a new city. Why not get one you’re proud to show off? There are loads of beautiful and stylish bags that can work with your own style–Timi & Leslie’s Charlie Diaper Bag, for instance, is a bag going undercover as a fashionable purse. On the practical side, make sure it’s spill- and leak-proof, made of easily cleanable materials. The perfect diaper bag should be well-organized, so you can instantly grab that wipe when you need it. The more front and side pockets to cram in sippy cups and toys, the better. Choose zippers over magnets or velcro–less likely to open randomly and spill their contents all over you. Insulated bottle pockets are a huge bonus to keep your water cold for those hot days.

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A LIGHT AND WASHABLE TRAVEL COT

Buying a good travel cot is almost a science. It should be lightweight, safe, and take 2 minutes (tops!) to assemble. Don’t rely on hotels to provide one for you–it’s a bit of gamble if their cots are outdated, stained, or non-existent! Many moms swear by the Babybjörn Travel Cot, with its washable fabrics, mattress comfort and at 6kg light to transport–definitely worth its high price point! And you can use it for years until your baby’s three years old. If you’re on a budget, the Dream ‘n’ Play Travel Coat from Hauck, with its fold-up mattress, is easy to assemble.

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A COMFY BABY CARRIER OR SLING

You say goodbye to your stroller with the rest of your luggage–but you still need to get your baby through security and onto the tarmac. Here’s where a baby carrier or a sling comes to the rescue. Many lightweight cloth baby carriers offer excellent back support, keep your hands free, don’t take up much room. Best yet, your baby will be more comfortable the closer they are to you. Slings act similarly, and can also substitute as a blanket, change pad or nursing cover. Make those unending security and immigration queues a breeze.

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A COZY AND VERSATILE SWADDLE

If you don’t have a sling, make sure to pack a swaddle. Swaddling your infant is a great way to keep them comfortable, warm and secure. Recommended for newborns to 3-4 month olds, a versatile saddle should be soft, warm, breathable and lightweight. These all-purpose wraps can double as blankets, play mats, wipes or nursing cover. If they get too hot, you can easily remove the swaddle. The Woombie is a popular choice because it’s ergonomic with an easy one-zip design.

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TOYS THAT DON’T MAKE A SOUND

Even babies need some entertainment for the road. Pack their favorite toys and books that you know they like–this is not the time to try new trinkets! Make sure the toys are quiet: soft books, stuffed animals and plastic slinkys are great. Tactile toys like plastic keys or calculators are fun to suck on, bite and press. Colorful stacking cups can fit neatly in your diaper bag, and can keep your little one occupied putting the cups in each other and taking them out again. Pick up some reusable gel window stickers, so you can plaster your seat window in colorful characters. Whatever you have, just make sure your toys don’t have a million little pieces that will invariably end up on the floor.

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SPARE CLOTHES FOR THEM–AND YOU

Face it–babies throw up and poop on anything they can–including you. Bring extra clothing for your baby in case they make a mess–at least one full outfit. Leave any shoes in your luggage, you won’t need them for the flight. And if they’re not walking yet, leave those adorable booties at home! Also bring an extra shirt for yourself, so you don’t end up looking like baby target practice. Better yet, wear two layers so you can just take one off in case it gets the dribbles.

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SNACKS GALORE

Hungry babies can be a handful–so if they’ve begun eating solids, keep them entertained with snacks. Bring nonperishable snacks like dried fruit, sliced cheese, cereal, small crackers and raisins. Pack them in airtight lunch boxes so they don’t make a mess. Don’t forget your baby spoon! Pack a few smoothies and fruit purées that come in squeezable pouches. The TSA permits breast milk and juice in quantities less than 3.4 ounces in your carry-on bag. If your baby drinks formula, bring the powder in bags and mix it with bottled water on the plane.

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OTHER BARE NECESSITIES

Of course don’t forget those everyday necessities: diapers (recommended one per hour), baby wipes, pacifiers, breast pump if needed, plastic bags for dirty diapers or clothes, medications if needed, bottles, and a lightweight stroller (for the checked-in luggage). Pack a light blanket or sweater because sometimes the airplane can get chilly! Bonus points if you bring a plastic bag for baby wash, diaper cream, and baby moisturizer.

As a final note, under any circumstances don’t forget a positive attitude! A positive mindset goes a long way. It’s easy to stress out and dread the plane ride, but if you’re nervous, your baby will be nervous. So take a few moments before the flight to relax, adjust your thinking, and remember–you’re about to embark on a fun adventure with your cool baby buddy!

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