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Road Tripping the US with Young Kids: Scenic Byways

American’s scenic byways are a FANTASTIC way to see some of the best the US has to offer when you’re tight on time and/or unable to go on long hikes with young kids.  National Scenic Byways are defined based on having archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational and scenic qualities.  Four years ago, when our oldest was 8 months old, we took a cross country road trip to Vermont and back (while that wasn’t exactly the plan, it turned out to be a beautiful silver lining).  We were fairly tight on time in both directions AND had an infant, so we weren’t able to dedicate time in every area we wanted to see.  And then we discovered the myriad of scenic byway scattered about the US.  Were it not for these thruways, we would have never been able to see places like Shenandoah National Park in Virginia or the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina.  We were able to see dozens of incredible places solely because we could drive straight through and onto our next destination, rather than making a timely loop.

For a full list of US Scenic Byways, visit America’s Byways.

Go explore!

10 Tidbits for Tumultuous Toddler Travel

Like anything in life, the more you practice the better you get.  Even flying with kids gets easier the more you hone your practice.   While most of these things are intuitive, I think that I’ve picked up some tricks along the way.  On our last Hong Kong-San Francisco flight, I compiled the following list:

  1. If you’re careful about ripping open the blanket bag at the top, you can reuse the bag for garbage.
  2. On long international flights, they come by twice with a drink service within the first two hours and then not again for another 5 hours or so.  Ask for red wine at both passes and save for when you really need them – 6 hours in, tired kids, achy knees and a serious case of cabin fever.
  3. Snacks like pistachios are GOLDEN for toddlers – opening them takes time, so you get at least four times the benefit.
  4. iPods for the kids, iPads are too large.
  5. Bring baby wipes – even if your toddler is long out of diapers – there WILL be a juice spill or a dirty face, or better yet, a pee incident.
  6. Look at the seatbelt light before you promise a walk about.
  7. Change diapers standing up on top of toilet seat – don’t mess around with the table for kids who can walk.
  8. The little cups in the bathrooms make for great toys (but are wasteful, so let’s limit this activity) and have the potential of making a cabin-fevered tot a happy-water-filling-and-pouring tot.  And it’s fun to see how many people you can cram into the bathroom.
  9. Use earbuds for yourself so that you can still halfway watch a movie while listening for AND attending to the little’s needs/constant whining (you can keep just one earbud in).
  10. On a long flight with kids coming into the US, where you’re not allowed to bring on water  – ask for an entire bottle of water – some flight attendants will roll their eyes at you, but it’s def worth it.  Oh, and bring smaller [spill proof] water containers to fill up.

Airplane Meals: To Eat or Not to Eat?

Are you a take-what-they-serve-me kind of flyer?  Truthfully, it’s hard not to be these days, with most airlines only offering free food on flights long enough to give you a pulmonary embolism.  Airline food, all wrapped and heated in phthlalate ridden plastic, in it’s often times unidentifiable state, surely isn’t the most appealing part of airplane travel.  My main squeeze (also identified as my husband/partner) is so weary of airplane food that most often he refuses, instead stocking up on super expensive airport food for the flight (but he’s also a business traveler and as any business travel knows – everything is paid with monopoly money – well earned monopoly money).  But not me.  My mother very firmly ingrained the inability to deny free shit, so even though my rational brain says no, my frugal one says, you must.  Now, while you most definitely can not get around the whole heated in plastic part, you can improve the food part.  I’ve tried a number of different options, most in the meat free direction, but none have matched the Hindu Vegetarian meal.  On my last flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong, I shit you not, I enjoyed not one but TWO airplane meals.  ENJOYED.  No gagging it down (or up) necessary.

And so, fellow travelers, this is today’s travel tip:  make sure to opt for the Hindu Vegetarian meal on your next mind-numbingly long flight.

P.S.  This advice is, clearly, only for those who like me, fly bottom-of-the-barrel-next-to-the-toilet, economy.  For those of you who are fortunate enough to fly business or first, I loathe you.

P.P.S. When I say TWO airplane meals, I don’t mean that I asked for seconds as it could be interpreted, but that they offer you TWO meals on the flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong – Dinner and Breakfast.  Laughing my booty off at the thought of me asking for seconds, though.