A few weeks ago, I kicked off a new series of posts interviewing friends and family about their experiences traveling with kids. Before I ask additional friends to do it (and also because my “About” page on this blog is pretty bare), I thought I’d subject myself to the rigorous interview process. Hope this gives you a little insight into my travel experiences and goals.
1. Tell us about your family & travel patterns.
My husband I live in the San Francisco Bay Area with our three (and a half) year old daughter. We are lucky to have two major airports within close range of our house (OAK and SFO) and several others just a little bit farther away (SJC, SMF, MRY, SCK etc.). We travel to see family that is scattered across the country on the East Coast and in the South, and we also like to travel to more exotic destinations when we can. We are also big Disney fans; our daughter just made her third trip to Disneyland this fall.
2. Last trip you took with your kid(s)?
The Big Island of Hawaii. We went for a week with extended family and stayed at the Mauna Lani Resort. Our daughter spent most of the week in the ocean or pool, but my husband and I managed to take advantage of family babysitters to take a helicopter ride and scuba dive at night with giant manta rays.
3. Best travel with kids experience?
Seeing our daughter meet Mickey Mouse at Disneyland for the first time was pretty magical. She was just 22 months old, so her vocabulary wasn’t advanced enough to explain the experience. But she looked up at him with an expression that could only say “I’ve been waiting my whole life to meet you!”
4. Worst travel with kids experience?
We’ve had one truly awful flight with our daughter when she was 17 months old. She was just super-squirmy, tired, and fussy. We did everything in our power to keep her entertained and quiet, but we were pretty stressed out. We brought her infant carseat on board so she could sleep in her purchased seat, but on the particular airline we were on, it prevented the seat in front of our daughter from reclining. There was a thirty-something man in that seat who was just an absolute jerk about the whole situation to us even though we were very apologetic. And when we got up to change her diaper mid-flight, he deliberately reclined his seat knowing the circumstances.
Also, this is not that awful in the grand scheme of things, but we had one flight when my daughter was an infant where we must have had to change her diaper 8 times in a 5 hour flight. She just pooped and pooped and pooped. I was down to my last diaper with an hour to go in the flight and praying that we could make it home before we needed another one! (Important tip: bring lots and lots of extra diapers!)
5. Three most useful items in your airplane carry-on bag?
- Wet Wipes – I wipe down the tray tables, arm rests, and even the window shade immediately upon sitting down.
- iPad – TV shows and movies are a lifesaver for toddlers.
- Snack trap – great way to prevent spills of toddler snacks in enclosed spaces.
6. Best trick you’ve used to save money on family travel?
I just check rates obsessively. If I have my eye on a trip, I start checking many months in advance and check every week (usually on a Tuesday when sales are announced). If I see a good deal, I snag it. My best flight snag yet is SFO to Charlottesville, Virginia for $283 roundtrip. Doesn’t get much cheaper than that for a cross-country trip to a small regional airport.
7. Do you use any travel-related credit cards? Would you recommend them and why?
Yes! I’m a big fan of travel credit cards and have earned lots of bonus signup miles already that have saved my family a lot of money on travel. Right now, between my husband and I, we have the United MileagePlus Explorer card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card, and Marriott Rewards Premier Visa. We have our eye on the Starwood SPG Amex as our next card. We are also considering the Chase Ultimate Rewards card in the near future, and we are always on the lookout for a good signup bonus for Delta or American miles.
8. Favorite airline amenity?
JetBlue and Virgin America seatback video. And this is a little thing, but I really love that Southwest has cups with lids and straws to avoid kiddo spills.
9. What change or improvement to the air travel experience do you wish for most?
I certainly have quite a laundry list, but my top suggestion would be to reform the TSA liquids ban (or at least have the TSA apply their current rules consistently). I’m sick of being patted down for having a juice box!