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Southwest Oversold Flights: How Not To Get Bumped

September 24, 2014

How Not to Get Bumped From Your Southwest Flight

If you read this blog often, you will know that I am one of Southwest Airlines’s biggest cheerleaders when it comes to traveling with kids.  I think Southwest offers a superior product for traveling families and have chosen to fly Southwest a lot more in recent months with my own children.  A few weeks ago, however, I had a situation occur on Southwest that made me (temporarily, at least) question my undying devotion to the airline.  This happened because Southwest oversold the flight on which my family was scheduled to fly from ATL to SFO on August 18, 2014.  For more than a few brief moments at least, we were at risk for being bumped off our Southwest flight.

Background: What is an Oversold Flight?

What is an oversold flight, you ask?  For those of you who don’t travel often, it is exactly what is sounds like: a situation in which an airline has sold tickets to more passengers than the flight can seat.  Most airlines do it (JetBlue is one of the rare exceptions for U.S. domestic travel to have a policy that it won’t overbook).  Cranky Flier has a great post detailing why airlines do it and how overselling works.

Some frequent flyers actually try to book themselves on flights likely to be oversold.  In oversell situations, they can volunteer to give up their seat and travel on a later flight in exchange for a travel voucher.  I’ve certainly taken advantage of offers like this myself in the past, but I don’t recommend doing so with young children.

In oversell situations, they are usually enough volunteers who take the compensation and open up enough seats for those who really need or want to take the original flight.  But there are times when there are not enough volunteers and someone must be involuntarily denied boarding (IDBed or “bumped”).

Southwest Airlines Bump

What Happened On Our Southwest Oversold Flight

So how did my family come to find ourselves scheduled on an oversold flight at at risk for bumping, you ask?  It all relates to Southwest’s unique boarding process.  I usually try to check in right at 24 hours before our Southwest flights to get “good” boarding passes (Southwest boarding procedure explained here).  But I don’t worry too much about it if I miss this window.  Why?  Because Southwest boards families with kids ages 4 and under between groups A and B regardless of boarding pass number.  Even checking in at exactly 24 hours in advance, I can rarely beat that boarding position.

On our return from this trip, I didn’t check in at 24 hours before the flight.  Instead, I went to check in as we started our drive from Alabama to Atlanta to catch our flight home – about 5 hours before the flight.  As I clicked on the Southwest app, I knew we had a problem when the app wouldn’t give my family boarding pass number assignments.  Instead, it said that the number of allotted boarding passes had been reached and I had to go to the airport to be accommodated.  I knew what that meant — the flight was oversold.

After a brief moment of panic, I quickly tweeted to Southwest Airlines to see what could be done.  After some back and forth, it was clear I was out of luck.  The Southwest representative told me to get to the airport as fast as possible, where a ticket or gate agent could help me.  As someone without a boarding pass number, he wrote that we were indeed at risk for being bumped, despite the fact that we had booked the flight many months before.  My husband put the pedal to the metal and we made a beeline for ATL.

When we got to ATL, we decided to divide and conquer.  My husband and 5 year old daughter dropped my infant son and me at the check-in counters while they went to drop the rental car.  The plan was for me to try to get seat assignments for all of us while checking our bags.  Unfortunately, the counter agent was only able to get one of the four of us a boarding pass.  He told me that we could get the rest from the gate agent (there were still some showing as available), but the sooner that I got down to the gate, the better my chances.

I raced with the baby through the TSA line at ATL (luckily we got to do the family lane since the baby was in a stroller), jumped on the air train, and ran down to the end of concourse C.  You know what happened next, right?  There was no gate agent there.  It was still an hour and a half before the flight and Southwest hadn’t staffed the gate yet.  Sweating and starting to fume at the ridiculousness of it all, I finally found a nearby gate with a Southwest agent who wasn’t too busy.  Best of all, she got boarding passes for us.  We were safe and on the flight.  Later at the gate, we heard the gate agent asking for several volunteers.  Ultimately, the gate agent did get enough volunteers to make sure no one was involuntarily bumped from our particular flight.

But was all that really necessary?  I don’t understand why no one in the Southwest chain of command could help me up until that point.  There were still boarding passes available to be claimed, but no one could give them to us until we got to the gate.  It was just needlessly stressful.  Not my usual experience with the airline.

Southwest Airlines Involuntary Denied Boarding

My Takeaway Message About Southwest Oversold Flights

So why do I tell you this cautionary tale?  So you don’t repeat my mistake.

It was a total surprise to me that Southwest puts those who check in “later” and can’t get a boarding pass first in the line for involuntary bumping.  And if I (a frequent Southwest flyer) didn’t know about the need to check in very early to minimize bumping risks on Southwest, the average traveling family isn’t going to know this either.  The purpose of this post is to make sure all traveling families out there know to check in early on Southwest even if it doesn’t get you a better boarding pass number than family boarding.  Even at nearly 5 hours before the flight, we were (unknowingly) in a bumping danger zone.

In the end, there is no way to know how “at risk” our family was to losing our seats and being IDBed.  I also I think Southwest could publicize the fine print on the issue of oversold flights much better.  Perhaps the airline doesn’t do this because they are able to accommodate everyone the vast majority of the time.  But that certainly didn’t give me peace of mind for several hours on this journey.

Check. In. Early.  

Have you ever been on an oversold Southwest flight?  Were you successful in getting a seat eventually or were you bumped?  Share your experiences in the comments.

Friday Blog Roundup: The Best of the Disney Blogs, September 19, 2014

September 19, 2014

Disney Blog Roundup

At the end of every week, I usually publish a list of the week’s best stories from the various family travel blogs I read.  Because this is a special DISNEY week at Trips With Tykes, we are doing things a little differently today.  Today’s post highlights the best Disney-related stories and posts I’ve seen in the last several weeks from both family travel bloggers and Disney-specific bloggers.  Hope this  adds a little bit of pixie dust to the end of your week.

  • Free Walt Disney World Souvenirs for Kids (and Adults): Buying souvenirs on Disney vacations can really blow your travel budget.  In this post, Kids On a Plane offers some great ideas for obtaining free souvenirs likely to make you and your kids happy at the end of your trip.
  • Disneyland IS better than Disney World: It can sometimes be dangerous in Disney circles to take a side in the Disneyland vs. Walt Disney World debate.  But Solo Mom Takes Flight isn’t scared!  In this post, she presents her reasons for preferring the original in Anaheim.  Although I grew up going to Disney World and have great childhood memories there, I have to agree that I think there is something really special about the original.
  • 10 Cool Experiences at EPCOT: EPCOT was probably my favorite Disney park growing up because I’m both a science and travel nut.  The park’s two halves matched both of my major childhood interests!  In this post, RWeThereYetMom highlights some secret EPCOT attractions and experiences for those who want to know all the park has to offer.  Can’t wait to experience these on my next trip.
  • Frightful Fun to Have During Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland: I love holidays at Disneyland, but Halloween is especially awesome.  If you are going to be making a Disney trip this month or next, be sure not to miss all the Halloween attractions and tips on from local OC TravelingMom Amy.
  • Halloween Events at Disney Parks ~ 2014: If you are going to any Disney park this fall, make sure you know what Halloweeen experiences are available to you.  RWeThereYetMom published a comprehensive list this week of all that Walt Disney World and Disneyland have to offer.
  • 4 Reasons Why You Should Sail with Disney Cruise Line: A Disney cruise is one of the few Disney experiences my family has not done yet.  I don’t need any convincing to go on a Disney cruise whenever the opportunity presents itself, but if you are on the fence, here are some reasons from TravelingMom writer Cheryl.
  • How we Saved 65% on our Upcoming Disney Cruise Vacation: Disney cruises are more expensive than most other cruise lines, and for good reason.  But that’s no excuse not to try to save as much as possible.  Saving for a Dream shares her cruise money saving tips.
  • Adventures by Disney’s “Frozen” Tour of Norway: Adventures by Disney is probably Disney’s least known brand.  But it’s the one that intrigues me the most!  Midwest TravelingMom Andrea had a chance to go with Disney guides to Norway and walk in the path of Elsa and Anna.  Pretty cool.
  • Kids Into Disney Trading Pins? Here’s How I Get Them Wholesale: Even though my family are all Disney nuts, we have not really gotten into Disney pin trading.  Thanks to The Deal Mommy’s advice on how to get Disney pins for cheap, we may have to start on our next trip.
  • Top Tips for the 2014 Epcot Food and Wine Festival: This festival kicks off today, and The Disney Food Blog has all the best tips for enjoying it to the fullest.
  • “Frozen” Attraction officially coming to EPCOT’s Norway Pavilion: The Disney Blog has the big Disney news of the week — that the popular and slight eccentric Maelstrom ride in the Norway Pavilion at Epcot is soon to close.  In its place will be a new ride based on the movie, Frozen.  I’m a big Frozen fan, but I have to say this decision has me torn.  I loved the wackiness and weirdness of Maelstrom as a child and am sad I can’t ride it one more time.

Disney Week: Throwback Thursday #TBT

September 18, 2014

In honor of Disney Week here at Trips With Tykes, I thought it would be fun to share some of our family Disney vacations of old for Throwback Thursday.  Both my family and my husband’s family have made many trips over the years to Disneyland and Disney World, and we have watched the parks expand and evolve before our very eyes.  Enjoy!  (And don’t laugh too much at us!)

Disney World 1980s

My husband at Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom, early 1980s

Breakfast with characters, WDW

My sister and I eat breakfast with Goofy at the Walt Disney World Polynesian Resort, circa 1990.

Fanny packs at Walt Disney World

Remember fanny packs? How embarrassing. Me at WDW somewhere in Epcot near the Japan Pavilion, early 1990s.


Mr. Toad's Wild Ride - First Ride

My daughter’s first ride on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disneyland, February 2011.

Review of the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel

September 16, 2014

Review of the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel

One of the highlights of our Hong Kong Disneyland vacation this past May was our 5 year old daughter’s makeover into Princess Belle from Disney’s Beauty & the Beast.  This magical transformation happened one afternoon at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel.

If your family has traveled to Walt Disney World or Disneyland, you are probably familiar with the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.  Here, little girls are treated to makeovers where they can dress as their favorite princess.  Our daughter was a bit too young for the experience on our last Disneyland vacation in Anaheim, but we knew she was the perfect age on this trip.

Hong Kong Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique

The Hong Kong Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique Experience

The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique experience at Hong Kong Disneyland turned out to be a big hit and well worth the cost ($1380 HKD or $178 USD for the full package as of May 2014).  The entire session took a little over an hour and started with dress selection.  As of May 2014, the characters available included Belle, Tiana, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Minnie Mouse, Rapunzel, and Tinkerbell.  Our daughter initially had her heart set on Cinderella, but found the trim in the dress too itchy.  We tried on a few more and finally settled on Belle as the proper hybrid between beauty and comfort.

Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique

Dress choices Hong Kong Bibbidi

Princess dress choices as of May 2014

After our daughter donned her dress, she hopped into the makeup chair.  The makeup colors for each princess were coordinated perfectly to match each dress.  Our daughter loved Belle’s sparkly yellow eye shadow and shimmering lip gloss.  Nail polish was part of the makeover as well.  The finishing touch was a glamorous hair style to match the entire ensemble.  The package offered included a hair piece, but our daughter wasn’t a fan so we left it off and instead opted for a classic bun.

Hong Kong Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique Makeup

In hair and makeup at the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel’s Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.

After the makeover, your little one is treated to a photo session that would make any celebrity jealous.  Two photographers worked with our daughter for 20-30 minutes doing a variety of sweet and silly poses in multiple locations.  They were both great at making her smile and have a good time, despite the length of the session.  We were laughing as much as our daughter was the entire time.

Photo Session at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique Hong Kong

Ready for her closeup at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in Hong Kong Disneyland

About 10 minutes after the photographers were done, we were presented with a huge stack of prints to view for purchase.  The photos that we perused were truly gorgeous. I’m not sure if our photographer happened to be a diamond in the rough, but the quality of the photos was the best I’ve ever seen for a child’s photo shoot.

One 8 x 10 photo was included in the package price, but you are also given the option to purchase the entire printed collection along with a photo book.  We inquired about the cost of the entire stack and found it was $2300 HKD.  We did the math in our heads and then both mentally gasped — that is $297 US!  That was obviously not in the budget, no matter how gorgeous the photos.  There was no sales pressure, but we were a bit bummed we couldn’t take a few more photo souvenirs home.

My only critique of the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is that there were no cheaper photo package options available.  As gorgeous as the photos were, we were simply not prepared to pay nearly $300 US for the rights to them.  We would, however, have paid $50, $75, or maybe even $99 for some additional prints or the rights to a few of the digital images.  I think Hong Kong Disneyland is really missing out on a opportunity, but perhaps their regular visitors have a bigger budget than we do.

Belle Hong Kong Disneyland

Tips for Your Hong Kong Disneyland Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique Visit

If you are considering booking the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel, here are a few tips we picked up along the way:

TIP #1: Make a reservation in advance.

About a week before our trip, we called to make a reservation and that proved to be a good decision.  During busy times of year, the boutique can definitely fill up quickly.  We visited during an off-season and noticed that the boutique was able to take some walk-ins during the time we were there.  Because we had made a reservation, we had preference over all the walk-ins and didn’t have to wait at all for a makeover specialist or photographer.

Note that you have to call directly to Hong Kong Disneyland to make a reservation at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, so make sure you call from a phone that has reasonable international calling rates.  All the representatives who answer speak excellent English, so don’t worry about communicating your request.  You can also make dining reservations at the same time, so be ready to book your Enchanted Garden character meal too (review coming soon!).

Hong Kong Bibbidi Boppidy Boutique Belle

Our dramatic daughter Belle strikes a pose.


TIP # 2: Have your daughter try on the dress she thinks she wants for a few minutes before you make a final selection.  

Our daughter found a few of the dresses beautiful, but not that comfortable.  If your little one wants to walk around in the park all day after her makeover, you really want to make sure you find a dress that doesn’t scratch.  Once you cut the tags, the dress is yours, so be certain before you make that final decision.

TIP #3: Don’t fret about the upsell.

Even though you are offered photos to purchase at the end of your session, there is no sales pressure at all.  There’s no need to fret about turning down the additional purchasing opportunities, but it is always nice to be prepared so you can budget for them in advance of your vacation if you really want them.

Has your child ever been made over at a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at a Disney park?  What was your experience?

Hong Kong Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique sign

It’s Disney Week At Trips With Tykes!

September 15, 2014

Family With Mickey Mouse at Disneyland

As my family starts preparing and researching for our next big trip (Disneyland in November), I thought it would be fun to dedicate a week here at Trips With Tykes to all things Disney.  We are big Disney fans in our family.  We try to visit Disney as much as we reasonably can while still seeing many other kinds of destinations in our family travels.

Everything you are going to see on the blog this week is going to be a celebration of Disney.  Every day, I’ll have a new Disney-themed post for you.  But the pixie dust won’t stop there.  The Trips With Tykes social media channels are going to be sharing even more Disney fun, so make sure you are following me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.  Look out for some really fun Throwback Thursday photos of Disney trips I took as a child (embarrassing but cute!).

We’ll end the week on Friday with a Best of the Disney Travel Blogs post instead of my usual Best of the Family Travel Blogs post.  Bloggers: if you have an unfinished Disney post waiting in the wings, hurry up and get it published this week so I can feature you!  I’ll be sharing anything Disney-related that strikes my fancy that has been published in the last month or so.

To get Disney week kicked off right, be sure to get caught up all the Disney content I already have on Trips With Tykes:


Disney’s Aulani

Hong Kong Disneyland

Family with Snow White at Hong Kong Disneyland

Friday Blog Roundup: The Best of the Family Travel Blogs, September 12, 2014

September 12, 2014

Friday Blog Roundup: Sept 12, 2014

Another Friday, so let’s get down to it!  Here are some of the gems from around the family travel blogosphere this week:

  • Where To Put a Car Seat on an Airplane?: Points With a Crew explores the question of where car seats go on airplanes.  Since most seats are bulky and can block egress, it seems like the right answer in most cases is the window seat.  But it turns out you can put them in middle seats too, as long as no one is sitting in the window seat.  As with everything car seat related on planes, your miles may vary.
  • How to Be Prepared If Your Flight is Cancelled: Triathlon TravelingMom shares some excellent tips for dealing with flight cancellations (which are never fun but that are even less fun when traveling with kids!).
  • A Parent’s Guide to Traveling with Asthma: Suitcases & Sippy Cups travels with a child with asthma and so can you.  Thoughtful and helpful tips to make things easier when facing challenges like asthma on the road or in the air.
  • Today’s Hint: A Travel Tip for When Kids are Too Big for Strollers (Think Scooters): Hint Mama contributor Eileen Gunn shares a creative tip for traveling with preschoolers.  Scooters!  My now 5 year old daughter has never been much of a scooter fan, but this is a good reason to make sure our little guy learns to ride in the coming years.
  • Save the Date for Family Travel for Real Life 2! 3/7/15 in Charlotte, NC. See You There?: I’ve mentioned a family travel conference, Family Travel for Real Life, several times over the past few weeks.  It was hosted by Dia The Deal Mommy in DC in August.  Looks like it was such a success that she’s already planning a second one.  If you are interested in funding your family travel with frequent flyer miles and points and also learning lots of other money saving family travel strategies, this is the conference for you.  Really hoping I will be able to attend this one!

Note: Every Friday, I share the best-of-the-best family travel news stories and blog posts that have been published during that week.  Featured posts are usually consistent with the theme of my blog – the logistics of travel with young kids.  If you have a post that you think would be a good fit, please email me or tweet me!

What is Your 9/11 Story?

September 11, 2014
Pentagon Damage from 9/11

Photo credit: TSGT CEDRIC H. RUDISILL, USAF (Wikimedia Commons Public Domain)

Everyone has a 9/11 story.  The terrible day 13 years ago is seared into our collective memory.  We all remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard about the planes crashing into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and then into a field in Pennsylvania.  Some lived it horrifically in person in New York or DC.  Others lived it by losing a friend or family member who happened to be on one of the flights or working in the World Trade Center or Pentagon.  And many millions more lived it through the horrifying images on TV and in the conversations they had with their children about the event.

My 9/11 story isn’t particularly remarkable, but it was formative for me.  In 2001, I had just graduated from college and I had moved to Northern Virginia to work at a Washington DC law firm as a paralegal.  I felt a bit like a modern day Mary Tyler Moore with my first apartment and first job.  Since I was determined to impress in my new job, I was at my desk early on September 11 as I had been every day for several weeks.  Before most people had arrived at the office, I heard a small crowd gathering in the office of a partner down the hall.  He was one of just a few people in the firm who had a small television in his office.  I went to look at all the commotion and saw images of smoke coming from a single tower of the World Trade Center.  In these early moments of 9/11, the news anchors were reporting that a small Cessna had crashed into the tower and many wondered if it was all some sort of tragic accident.

After a few minutes of watching the news, I went back to my office and tried to start the work day.  A few others stayed in front of the TV and watched the news develop.  They saw as the second plane hit just 17 minutes after the first.  Word of that second plane strike spread immediately in the halls, and we all knew that what was happening was terrorism and not an accident.  I immediately called my mother on my cell phone – the last call I would be able to make all day as the cell networks were quickly jammed.  As I hung up with her, I remember her saying to me “you just be careful living there in DC.  The next thing you know they’ll be hitting the Pentagon.”

I still remember her prophetic words, because just a few minutes later, that is exactly what happened.  The Pentagon was hit next.  I worked on the 12th floor of that law office in DC (which is as high as DC buildings get due to height restrictions), and we could see the smoke rising from the Pentagon in the distance.  We were in shock at what was unfolding just steps from our door.  And we worried that other DC sites were potential targets too.

After the Pentagon strike, things became chaotic in DC.  My office was just a few blocks from the White House and also not that far from the Capitol.  Bridges and tunnels were closed and rumors were spreading that the Metro would also be closed indefinitely.  Since I lived in Virginia, I was concerned I could not get home that day and also desperately wanted to get further from the major government buildings.  We still didn’t know if there were other planes coming.  A friend of mine who worked at the same office was in the same position, but had a sister attending Georgetown University with an apartment there.  We decided to set off for her sister’s apartment on foot because we knew we’d rather spend the night there than in the office.

Hitting the streets was eerie.  Some people were scrambling to get home, but we saw more police, first responders, and National Guard than anyone else.  This was in stark contrast to the scenes I later saw from the New York streets which were crowded with civilians.  Mercifully, just as we were walking past McPherson Square Metro stop, someone emerged from the Metro entrance and said that it was open.  I jumped on the first train for Northern Virginia and made it home to Arlington in minutes.  I spent the rest of the day, like most Americans, glued to the news and trying to get in touch with family and friends.

As a travel blogger, I think it is crucial to remember 9/11 and acknowledge the anniversary of one of the most tragic moments in aviation and American history.  The legacy of 9/11 lives on in the way we fly today.  Keep telling your 9/11 stories, no matter how ordinary they might seem.  It is important that no one forgets.

Friday Blog Roundup: The Best of the Family Travel Blogs, September 5, 2014

September 5, 2014

Friday Blog Roundup

Happy first week of September!  I hope many of you had some nice holiday weekend travels last weekend for Labor Day.  For once, we stayed home for the long weekend.  Our family is settling into a school routine with our little kindergartener.  We are, of course, planning our next big fall trip as well.  If you need a little travel inspiration to help you do the same, here are my usual Friday recommendations of great family travel blog posts and other articles I’ve spotted this week.

  • Ten Tips for Traveling with Toddlers and Not Having a (Grownup) Meltdown: Jessica of Suitcases & Sippy Cups offers some thoughtful perspective and helpful hints for traveling with toddlers.  This post could not be any for timely for me, as I’m weeks away from having a toddler on my hands again.  Our son turns 1 later this month and is showing all signs of walking very soon.
  • What’s the Right Age for Disney?: Fellow writer Sarah of Solo Mom Takes Flight takes the position that families should consider Disney trips earlier than the conventional wisdom might suggest.  As someone who took my first child to Disneyland when she was 22 months old (and who is going to take baby #2 when he is 14 months old this fall!), I definitely agree with her position.  Seeing the Disney magic in the eyes of toddlers and preschoolers is pretty special.
  • Today’s Hint: The Seats to Book When You’re Flying With a Lap Baby: Jennifer at Hint Mama offers up a great hint for improving your chances of snagging an empty seat for your lap child without actually buying a seat.  I have personally preferred to book a seat for longer flights once my little ones were crawling (about 9/10 months and up), but it sure is nice to luck into an empty seat when I haven’t done so.  With airplanes fuller than ever, you certainly can’t count on an empty seat, but you can increase your chances on flights that don’t go out full with this tip.
  • Child Travel and Sedation: To Medicate or Not to Medicate: Jetlag & Juice Boxes explores one of the biggest debates of child travel – whether to sedate your child for travel.  I’m firmly in the no sedation camp.  As long as parents are prepared with food and entertainment and are prepared to work hard on a flight to supervise and control their little ones, there is no need for Benadryl.  I think my pediatrician would agree.
  • Booking Airline Tickets for a Baby: What You Should Know: Down the Wrabbit Hole just went through the arduous process of booking her first international trip for her with a new baby.  This post offers some great commentary on all the traps for the unwary that exist for flying parents these days.  She’s clearly done her homework!

Note: Every Friday, I share the best-of-the-best family travel news stories and blog posts that have been published during that week.  Featured posts are usually consistent with the theme of my blog – the logistics of travel with young kids.  If you have a post that you think would be a good fit, please email me or tweet me!

Hong Kong With Kids: A Quick & Easy Guide

September 4, 2014


Quick & Easy Guide to Hong Kong With Kids

My husband and I traveled to Hong Kong this past May with our 5 year old daughter.  We found Hong Kong to be a great city for travel with children.  It was our daughter’s first time out of the country, and Hong Kong delivered just the right mix of exotic adventure and familiar comforts.  If you are contemplating visiting Hong Kong with kids, here are my recommendations for making your trip as successful as ours.

Getting To Hong Kong With Kids: Air Travel Options

If you are coming from the United States like we were, it’s a long, long flight.  Our flight to HKG from SFO was 13 hours.  From the East Coast, flights clock in at about 16 hours.  Doing this long of a trip with kids requires some serious preparation.  Our daughter at 5 was at a great stage for making the trip without much fuss, but it would have been a bit of a different story a year or two ago.

Cathay Pacific

Our daughter, ready to board Cathay Pacific from SFO to HKG

Plenty of major airlines serve Hong Kong, but you should give a serious look at flying Hong Kong’s hometown airline, Cathay Pacific, if you are coming from the U.S.  U.S. based carriers like United just won’t have the same level of service and amenities (for SFO based flyers, check out my comparison of the three non-stop flights from SFO to HKG and why I chose Cathay for this trip.)  Many other Asia-based airlines, like Singapore Airlines, are a good choice as well.

HKG Airport Ground Transportation

All the information I read prior to my trip recommended that visitors take the Airport Express train from the airport to Central Hong Kong upon arrival.  Traffic in HKG is notoriously bad and the train supposedly cuts some serious time off the trip during peak traffic hours.  After reading extensively what taking the train entailed (and having my husband take it  when he arrived a few days before my daughter and I), we decided against taking the Airport Express.  We instead opted for a taxi and I’m glad we did.

When you are traveling with small children and several pieces of luggage, taking this train is just too complicated.  The train drops at a central point in the city, but you then have to navigate with kids and bags to shuttle buses that run various routes to the hotels.  If you have tweens or teens and a reasonable amount of luggage, then this might be an option.  For little ones, no thanks.

Additionally, if you are headed to a Hong Kong Disneyland or a Disney hotel, you should definitely take a taxi as Disneyland is just minutes away and the cab fare is quite cheap for such a short distance.

Transportation While in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Subway

Hong Kong’s Subway, the MTR.

While in Hong Kong, we definitely tried and relied on any and all forms of transportation – ferries, taxis, MTR (subway), trams, and our own two feet.  We did it all and I recommend that you do the same.  Riding the clean and efficient subway is an activity all unto itself for small children.  We marveled at how extensive the underground system of tunnels in the Hong Kong subway was.  There were shops and restaurants galore in the tunnels, which then all connected to massive shopping malls and many businesses and hotels.  You could go for days without ever setting foot outside in Hong Kong.  This is, perhaps, the point given the heat and humidity on the streets.  We were sweating a lot in early May; I can only imagine what it is like in July or August!

Kid-Friendly Sights and Activities

Tea at Peninsula Hotel

Mom and daughter dressed up for tea at the British Peninsula Hotel.

Our family was in Hong Kong for six days and we couldn’t even begin to do all that the city had to offer.  A lot of the sights and activities in Hong Kong are fun for both kids and adults, so my husband and I were excited to be able to find so many options that appealed to us that were also a good fit for our 5 year old.

Here are some of the highlights of our trip that I’d recommend to other families traveling to Hong Kong:

  • 1) Hong Kong Disneyland: A can’t miss for the young and young at heart.  Read my post on Hong Kong Disneyland and my review of the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel for more information.
  • 2) Ngong Ping 360: Ride a gondola (the glass-bottomed crystal cabin is worth the extra cost) to see a gorgeous monastery and Buddha statue.  Located on Lantau island, Ngong Ping 360 is not far from Hong Kong Disneyland and easily accessible by MTR.  If you have a bit more time to spend at Ngong Ping, consider traveling on to Tai O fishing village as well.
  • 3) Tea at the British Peninsula Hotel: With its British background, Hong Kong hotels adhere to the fine tradition of British afternoon tea.  The classic high tea experience in Hong Kong is at the Peninsula hotel, although many of the luxury hotels offer excellent alternatives.  Waits can be quite long at the Peninsula, so try to go on a weekday and arrive about 30 minutes before tea time to minimize your wait for a table.
  • 4) Peak Tram: Kids and adults alike will enjoy the view of the city from Victoria Peak.  The funicular tram ride is half the fun.  Arrive early to avoid lines and wait for good weather, as the view is often blocked if there is any fog in the area.  Avoid the shopping malls and tourist traps at the top and just enjoy the view.
  • 5) Star Ferry: The Star Ferry crosses the harbor from Hong Kong island to the mainland in Kowloon.  This is a great option for transit as well as for entertainment.  If you ride it at night, you can enjoy the city lights too.

Have you been to Hong Kong with kids?  What tips would you share?  What were your favorite attractions?

Peak Tram

Our daughter clearly had a great time at the Hong Kong Peak Tram.

Ngong Ping 360 with kids

Another excited little traveler ready to climb the steps to Ngong Ping’s giant Buddha statue.



6 More Tips for Changing Diapers on a Plane

September 2, 2014

6 More Tips For Changing Diapers on a PlaneMy husband and I have changed dozens of diapers aboard airplanes in our travels.  Last week, I wrote a post on with 6 tips for changing diapers on a plane.  Believe it or not, I have even more tips to make the airplane diaper changing process easier and less… well, messy!

Now that you’ve mastered the basics, here is a more advanced lesson, with 6 more tips for changing diapers on a plane:

1) Consider using overnight diapers on airplanes.

Since many airplanes don’t have changing tables, your goal should be to do as few diaper changes as is reasonable on board your flights.  If your baby has a soiled diaper, you likely shouldn’t and can’t wait to do a change.  But for only wet diapers, you can buy yourself a little more time between changes by using overnight diapers, which are more absorbent.  Remember to add a little extra diaper cream pre-flight if your baby is prone to diaper rash.

2) Have a small “to go” diaper kit so you don’t need to bring your huge diaper bag into the lavatory.

Airplane lavatories are very small and there is simply not room for you, your baby, and a large diaper bag in there.  Many travel diaper changing pros, including my friend Jennifer at Hint Mama, recommend bringing a small removable diaper kit with you.  It doesn’t need to be fancy.  A Ziploc bag with a few diapers, travel-size wipes, and perhaps some diaper cream will do.

3) Outfits that you don’t need to take off over your baby’s head are best.

My children always managed to have some of their worst diaper explosions at 30,000 feet.  This meant we had to change their clothes in addition to diapers while in the air.  If you’ve ever tried to remove a soiled onesie over your squirmy baby’s head, you probably know that it can get quite messy.  Trying to do this in a cramped airplane bathroom is risky.  The best way to avoid this potential mess is to use outfits that snap all the way up the front (like footed sleepers or front-snap creepers) and that do not require over the head removal.

4) Bring a small toy to keep baby’s hands busy during diaper changes.

Airplane bathrooms aren’t known to be the cleanest places in the world.  In order to prevent your baby from touching every surface he or she comes into contact with, it is a good idea to have something to keep little hands busy (especially for older babies and toddlers).  Make sure this toy or distraction is fully cleanable in case it gets dropped.  Better yet – have something disposable.

5) Flight attendants can (almost always) provide you with a plastic bag for diaper disposal.

Disposing of a soiled diaper in the airplane lavatory trash can really stink up the place.  It is good form to travel with diaper disposal bags (Ziplocs again work well, as do special diaper disposal sacks) to be courteous to your fellow passengers.  If you forget or run out, ask the flight attendant.  Flight attendants are usually happy to provide you with a plastic trash bag from their supply.

6) Take a moment for mirror playtime in the bathroom.

I usually like to get in and get out of the tiny lavatory with my baby as quickly as possible.  But on some occasions, a bathroom trip for a diaper change can be extra entertainment.  Why?  Babies usually love to stare at themselves in the lavatory mirror!  Let your baby take a look and play for a few minutes, especially if it helps him or her get accustomed to the tight space.  But (obviously) don’t dawdle too long if there is a line.

Share your other airplane diaper changing tips in the comments.  Have you had any airplane diaper changing horror stories or successes to report?  Also, if you are planning to fly with a baby for the first time, be sure to check out my post Top 7 Tips for Baby’s First Flight.

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