Category Archives: Traveling

Reader call: Car seat rage

The other day I schlepped my cats and both boys almost a mile in the snow to the vet (uphill both ways), and wondered "Why don’t I live someplace where I can just have a car??" But then I got this email, and felt like a jerk for my car-free self-pity:

"Please help….my child hates being in a car seat and facing backwards. She’s only 7 month old, so turning the seat around is a long wait. She can manage if someone sits in the back with her, but if no one there she throws tantrums. I’ve tried toys, singing, holding her hand while driving, but nothing seems to work. this winter is extremely cold, and its impossible to walk outside for long periods of time, so the idea is to go to the mall. But with this problem its even harder to drive to the mall than slippery roads and cold wind blowing in our faces. Please suggest something that I can do to make her more content with not having someone next to her for 15min drive."

I can remember a 6-hour drive with a 6-week-old screaming almost the whole time. But that seems to have wiped my car seat rage memory. In previous posts on this topic people have suggested that the baby might be carsick facing backwards, and that that may be contributing a lot to her anger. I’m not sure what the solution would be. You could try the Sea Band wristlets. I’d walk into the health food store and ask if they had anything homeopathic (not herbal) to alleviate motion sickness and try that. You could try a remedy like dramamine, but some kids react badly to it.

Readers? Any other suggestions, either of ways to deal with the screaming or to stop motion sickness if that’s contributing to it?

Q&A: Toddler losing his latch?

Heather writes:

"I don’t think you’ve addressed this before, and I’m having a hard time finding any info elsewhere. I have to attend a conference this summer and will be gone for 6 days. My son, at that time, will be 18 months old. I don’t intend to wean before that time, and I don’t intend to take him with me. I was wondering how long it takes for a kid to "forget" how to nurse or how to get a proper latch. I intend to pump during that time to keep up my supply, but wonder if he may wean himself in 6 days (which I am sort of ambivalent about, but would probably be sadder than happier). I was also wondering if there are some "data points" on the lengths of time women have been gone from their babies at different ages and what the effect was on nursing."

I’m not sure if there is much info about toddlers losing their latches out there. I know when I weaned my first son (at 2 1/2 years+), after about a week my mom (the former La Leche League leader) said to me casually, "Oh, and you know at this age they just forget how to nurse if they haven’t done it in a few days."

Um, OK.

So I thought that might happen when I was away from my younger son for two nights when I went back to work when he was 22 months, but it didn’t–he just ramped the nursing waaaay up. (Seriously. He was down to once a day for maybe 5 minutes, and I thought we were almost through, but then I went away all day M-F and he picked up the nursing to 3-4 times a day for longer sessions. I thought he was literally never going to stop nursing, and I would have to eat my own words about "you won’t have to FedEx your kid bags of breastmilk at college." But then miraculously he just forgot to nurse for a few days in a row while we were at my mom’s a few months ago, and that was that.)

So I definitely think there’s an age at which they forget how to latch if they don’t do it for a few days. But I don’t know what that age is. In my experience, it’s somewhere between 22 and 34 months.

Anyone else have data points about toddlers losing their latch?

And does anyone want to share experience about being away from a baby or toddler and how it affected nursing? None of my work trips affected my son’s nursing, but he was between 22 and 30 months when I went away, and the trips were all 2-3 nights long.

I suspect that it’s as much about your child’s personality as anything else, but would love to hear others’ opinions on that, too.

Staying healthy during a trade show

My business trip last week was to a conference for my industry. I was a vendor, spending three long days demo-ing my product in the exhibit hall. I was talking to a woman at a booth near me who’d never worked a trade show before, and realized I had a bunch of tips to stay healthy during a long show, so I thought I’d pass them on to you, and ask you for your tips, too.

The tips can be divided into two categories, personal management and exhibit management.

Personal Management:

1. Bring 2-3 pairs of shoes to your booth each day and change every few hours. It doesn’t really matter how comfortable the individual pairs are–it’s the switching that helps fight foot and leg fatigue.

2. Drink a lot of water. It’s super-easy to forget to drink water, but standing all day in forced air can make you feel really strange and sickly if you don’t keep hydrated. Plus, if you’re drinking enough water you’ll be able to stretch our your legs more often because you’ll have to leave the booth to go to the bathroom.

3. Eat vegetables. Sometimes you’re kind of hostage to whatever they have to eat in the conference center, but if at all possible, walk out of the conference center for lunch and find some place that will give you at least a serving of vegetables for lunch.

4. Get out of the conference center at least once each day. Otherwise you’re like a veal in a pen. Take turns leaving with the other person in your booth. If there is no other person in your booth, bring up item # 12 below with your boss.

5. Don’t go nuts at dinner. Yes, this city is famous for its barbecue or pizza or whatever, but you don’t need to stuff yourself with it. Do you want to feel sick on the show floor tomorrow while you’re supposed to be talking to potential clients? If you do overdo it, try to stay up for a few hours afterwards so you don’t go to sleep right after eating. That’s how the sumos gain bulk–by eating and then going directly to sleep.

6. Ration alcohol. Again, it’s really tempting to drink like a fish when you’re out after the show each day, but draw the line at one or two. Dehydrated and/or hung over is not fun on a trade show floor. And the lighting in convention centers is bad enough; you don’t need any extra help making your skin look pasty.

7. Run. You’ll feel so much better if you do some exercise each day. Bring along a pair of athletic shoes. It’s counter-intuitive, but your feet, legs, and back will hurt *less* if you run or walk briskly around your hotel (outside, if weather permits) for 15 minutes or so in the morning before you go to the show. I also try to do 15 minutes of T-Tapp in my room to help my system stay healthy.

8. Bring a trashy novel or some other indulgence you don’t usually have time for. Take advantage of the fact that you’re out of the usual routine to do something you don’t normally have time for, like reading trashy novels or solving back-to-back sudokus.

9. Stay focused. What’s your team’s goal for the show? 8-10 hours of just standing in a booth sucks, but 8-10 hours of working toward a measurable goal is doable. (If you have no goal, see item # 13 below.)

10. Find a local place and befriend it. Strangely enough, for both of the last two shows I did I ended up spending some quality time a locally-owned coffee shops near the convention centers. It was really nice to be able to say "See you tomorrow" to the barrista, and feel like I had a little connection to the city in the midst of the daunting institutionalism of the professional conference experience.

Exhibit Management:

You may not have any control over this stuff, but if you have any influence these things will make your show experience more pleasant.

11. Choose your shows wisely. You and your team know what you want to get out of exhibiting at trade shows, even if you’ve never discussed it. Carefully evaluate whether or not you’re getting that from each of the shows you do. "Because we’ve always done this show" is not a good enough reason to spend that much money and force your team to leave their families for 2-3 nights just to have to play catch-up when they get back to the office. Just because a show works for others doesn’t mean it’ll work for you, and a small show can be a goldmine if it’s the right show. Define your true goals and evaluate from there.

12. Staff your booth appropriately. The magic formula for trade show booth staff is that you need one person for every 50 square feet of space. So a 10 by 10 needs two people, a 20 by 10 needs four, etc. Yes, it’s cheaper just to send one person, but it’s too much work for one person, and what if that person is occupied and not able to give full attention to someone who could have become a major client? And your booth staff needs to be able to leave to go to the bathroom and to walk out to get lunch and see some natural light.

13. Define SMART goals for your show. Your team should agree on and write down your SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, reasonable, time-bound) goals for each show. If everyone working the show knows what the goals are, you can all stay focused. Which means working will be working, and not working will be more relaxing, and you’ll all stay in better shape. If you exhibit at a lot of shows and are thinking either "What is she talking about??" or "I know we need goals but don’t even know how to start," the guy who runs specializes in trade show marketing and sells training stuff to help you start exhibiting to your advantage. A show I did brought him in to talk to exhibitors for free and it turned our show performance around.

14. Put in the work before the show starts. If you do your legwork (OK, mousework) before the show, you should be able to get the right people to come to your booth specifically to see your product. That way you don’t have to stress the whole time hoping people will just happen by.

Now that I read through this list, it seems like some of these tips are applicable to people attending conferences, too, not just people exhibiting at them. Staying healthy and defining your goals will help anyone get so much more out of attending any kind of professional development event.

Do any of you have any tips for attending or exhibiting at professional conferences/trade shows?

Business travel suggestions for leaving kids

Overheard on the bus. One old lady to another: "You have five grandsons! How many do you really need?!"

Laugh? Cry?

Too much to do, and not enough time, so you guys are getting the short end of the stick.l Sorry about that.

Can we talk some more about business travel and leaving your kids? I haven’t traveled in months, but have to go away for three nights next week. It’s getting harder and harder to leave my 2 1/2-year-old. He gets more and more upset that I’m gone.

Here’s what I’m doing already:

  • Leaving in the morning instead of the night before, so that I can see the kids and have breakfast with them.
  • Calling every morning so they hears me before they starts their day. Then calling again before they go to bed.
  • Talking about where I’m going ahead of time and finding pictures on the internet so they can picture it in their minds.

What else do you have? I only have to go every few months, but it’s beginning to really suck, even when the actual trip for me is fine.

Q&A: children of the opposite sex in restrooms

Nikki says:

"I have two boys,
one is nearly 4 and the other just 14 months.  I’m wondering at what
age they have to start using the men’s public restrooms or locker rooms
and how you possibly get up the courage to send them in there alone.
Luckily my husband is usually with us when we’re shopping or some other
place that the older one might need to go to the bathroom and there aren’t
family restrooms.  However, I take my son to his swim class at a time when
Daddy can’t go and I can’t imagine sending him into the men’s
locker room by himself any time soon!  We already get strange looks and
both women and girls moving to other rows to change their clothes.  There
is no sign posted about it but I thought I’d seen signs at other places about
boys over 5 not welcome in the girls locker room.  I understand the reason
for an age cutoff from a girl’s point of view, but the protective mommy
point of view is interfering.  Any advice?  Can we only do swim
classes when Daddy can go?  And only shop where there are family
restrooms?  Help!"

I can’t believe people are already giving you strange looks about a child who’s still only 3! That just seems so extreme and nonsensical to me.

I don’t really know what to do about bringing a child into a public restroom at the middle kid age. (For the record, I don’t consider 3 or 4 to be an age at which anyone should be upset about seeing a kid of the opposite sex in a restroom. I do think a 12-year-old can probably go into a public restroom alone, depending on the situation. The years between 4 and 12 are what I mean by "middle kid age" in this case.) My older one is 5 1/2, and I have no plans to stop bringing him into public restrooms with me any time soon. He’s allowed to go into the men’s room by himself in certain places that are technically public but known to us (church, school, my office, etc.), but in truly public places there’s just no way. If anyone gets upset about a 5-year-old in the ladies’ room at an airport, I’ll invite them to come up with a solution that keeps my son safe and still allows everyone to pee in a closed stall.

I do think locker rooms are a different story. People are out in the open, in full view of each other, changing clothes. So I can understand that people might feel uncomfortable being nude in front of a 6-year-old of the opposite sex (but a 3-year-old?!) or feel it’s not right for a child to see an adult of the opposite sex with no clothes on (a bigger problem IMO). But it’s the responsibility of the gym or pool to have a family changing room available for this situation. If they allow children to come and swim or exercise, they have to have a family changing room. If they don’t, I wouldn’t go there, and I’d let them know exactly why. It shouldn’t be your responsibility to come up with a male to accompany your child to swim lessons (what about single moms, two-mom families, or families in which the dad has to work when swim lessons are happening?).

The best-case scenario for locker rooms, in my opinion, is 1) having a family changing room easily available, and 2) having the rules clearly posted about what ages of kids of the opposite sex are allowed in the locker rooms. This makes everything clear, so everyone knows what to do and no one feels insulted, offended, vulnerable, or embarrassed.

Experiences? Advice?

Q&A: in-laws selling funny cigarettes

Happy Thanksgiving, Canadians!

Alice writes:

"Fall and the Holiday season are approaching. I’ve agreed to spend Christmas with my husband’s family this year a few states away. We’ll be bringing our two-year-old and three-month-old daughters. I’ve only been to my in-laws once before, two years ago with an infant. You can imagine my surprise when on Christmas morning, as we all sat around in our PJ’s, there was a knock at the door and my mother-in-law sold a bag of weed to the visitor.

I knew that my in-laws are frequent smokers (several times a day, every day) but I didn’t realize just how much traffic there was in and out of the house for the purpose of acquiring marijuana. My husband (who is ironically in law enforcement) ignores the entire issue. Thankfully asking them not to smoke (cigarettes or pot) in the same room as the babies is not an issue as they at least go outside or to another part of the house.

In preparation of our visit, I’ve made two requests to my husband. I have asked that we get a hotel room and that there are no transactions while I am in the house with the kids. My husband has agreed to the hotel but I’m quite sure he has not mentioned the embargo to my mother in law.

To me this seems like a no-brainer. However, this is an incredibly sensitive topic in my household. These are my husband’s parents and he wants them to share our daughter’s lives as much as I want my parents too. I have approached this topic gently in the past and I’ve also approached it very poorly in anger. I need suggestions on how to set boundaries and how to explain to my husband why I will never feel comfortable leave the children alone with his parents."

This is actually my first pot-related question. (I’m kind of surprised someone hasn’t asked me about smoking while nursing, but who knows.) However, this is not my first in-law-related question, and they all seem to fit the same pattern: Why do they do these freaky things, and how can I get them not to do them around my children for the few days we visit them?

Why do they do these freaky things? Well, I guess pot is better that crystal meth, no? Aside from the fact that the smoke is bad for your lungs the pot itself is not unhealthy*. The impaired judgment, illegality, and inertia are the bad things about it. I guess once you get really into that slacker lifestyle, and can make money selling it, it’s just hard to give that up to go legit. Even if it means you’re spending a lot of time high.

How can you get them not to do it while we’re there? It sounds to me like your solutions are perfect. The hotel makes sense to keep your kids safe and you from blowing a gasket, plus then they can continue their business without having to shut down for the entire time you’re there. But they certainly shouldn’t be dealing pot while your kids are there.

As for convincing your husband that you don’t want your kids exposed to pot-smoking, I think you’re going to have to emphasize the impairment issue. Basically, would he leave the kids around people who were drunk all day? It’s the same thing. Would he want the kids in an house full of strangers coming in and out to buy alcohol? (The strangers in and out creeps me right out and makes my "Danger Will Robinson!" sense go off strongly.)

Whatever compartmentalizing he’s doing between knowing what he does about drug houses from his law enforcement work and loving his parents, he needs to really look at this objectively. I’m not sure how you can help him break through the "my parents love us and don’t want to hurt us" barrier to see that, regardless of their intentions, they’re exposing your kids to real danger, whether from unknown people or just from impaired judgment.

Do you think it would help to ask your husband what he’s going to tell your 2-year-old when she asks (and she will ask, if not this year then next year) what her grandparents are doing, who those strange people are, what that funny smell is, and why her grandparents are so loopy and eat so many pretzels? It would also help if you emphasize that you like his parents and want them to know their grandchildren, but you have to protect the kids first, so you can’t just leave them with his parents, and his parents need to show some kind of good judgment in ceasing with the dealing for a few hours when they’re with their grandchildren.

Any suggestions for Alice? I guess I’m not sure exactly what to say if her husband can’t let himself connect with the idea that his parents are endangering his kids.

* Despite what Nancy Reagan told us, they really can’t prove that the THC does anything bad to anyone. Negative effects of pot are from the smoke. Having said that, I have no desire to do it anymore, but it was interesting while it lasted.

Q&A: the annual “summer air travel nightmare” question

Emily writes:

"We are taking our 18-month-old son overseas soon. I’ve readthrough your archives and feel relatively equipped to deal with his jet
lag and the unfamiliarity of a new place, once we get there. But the
trip itself will be brutal. It involves 2 red-eyes in a row: a
too-short one at midnight to get from our home in the west to New York;
five hours in the airport, and then an 11 hour flight which leaves at
11 am and lands at 5 am the next day in the new time zone. Then we have
to tough it out until we can sleep that night.

How do I help my son get through this flight? We will try to
get him to sleep early beforehand, so that he gets some rest before the
airport and the first red-eye. During the layover we will run around
and stretch our legs as much as we possibly can. But 11 hours on a
plane, including both some daytime and a night’s rest? I am planning to
bring his PJs and bedtime books on the plane so that we can try to
replicate our going-to-sleep routine mid-flight. Various pediatrician
and parent types have suggested Benadryl, but I am reluctant to give
him unnecessary medication. He still nurses avidly, so that’s a help.
He has flown plenty of times before, but never for more than 5 hours at
a time. Anything  you and your readers can suggest would be greatly,
greatly appreciated."

The good news is that this will be the worst trip of your life, travel-wise. So that’s something.

It sounds like you’ve really thought out the whole thing and have identified the trouble spot. The 5-hour flight probably won’t be a problem, since he’ll probably sleep for an hour or so. And then the layover in the airport should be doable, with all the runningrunningrunning he’ll do. (Although with that much time it might actually be worth it to research someplace close to the airport and go outside, so he can get some sunshine and fresh air while he runs. If you post which airport you’ll be at in the comments the New Yorkers in the crowd will help you find a park or something close by.)

It’s really that 11-hour flight that’s going to kill you. If you’ve got as many activities as you can schlep (including a bunch of small new ones he’s never seen before), and you can replicate the bedtime routine, that’s probably as good as it’s going to get. Try to stuff him full of food to make him sleepy when it’s time, and hope you get good flight attendants. (I find that flight attendants make or break the flight, much like the nurses in the hospital make or break a labor and delivery.)

My only opinion on the Benadryl is that you MUST give it a trial run before you use it on a plane, because it makes some kids zonk out but it makes other kids hopped up and unable to calm down for anything.  So if you’re thinking of trying it, make sure you know if it works the way you want it to, or you could make things 100 times worse for yourself (and everyone else on the flight). I don’t have a problem with giving it in theory, but can also understand why you wouldn’t want to.

Who regularly travels that far with kids? I know there are some regular readers who fly to India and the Middle East from the US. I’ve never flown more than 5 hours with my kids, so am basically useless with the detailed practical tips. Is there something really obvious that I haven’t talked about?

Q&A: baby or vacation

Sarah writes:

"I’m going to be 30 in September and I’ve been married for 4 years. Myhusband and I are happy & employed and have decided to start
"trying" in August.

I really want to have a child & the
desire has increased over the past six months, but I also really want
to travel to Europe, especially London and Italy where we know people
& have never visited. We were told by a married family member with
kids to delay having children and "just travel." I would if we could
afford an expensive vacation & it would be a stretch, but we could
swing it. On the other hand, three of my under 30 friends have had
trouble getting pregnant, with all of them having to see specialists.

I’d love to travel to Europe, but I’d hate myself if I delayed having children and then had
difficulty getting pregnant.

As a married person with two kids, what is your advice?"

This isn’t something anyone else can decide for you, of course, but it certainly won’t stop me from giving my opinion. Before I do, let me say a few things that probably should be said before we all play "what would I do if I were in Sarah’s shoes?".

1) If you’re going to have problems getting pregnant, waiting two months to start isn’t going to make or break having a baby (it could take you more than two months to get in to see a specialist). So if the decision is to start trying in August or travel for your birthday in September, it’s not going to make much difference in the scope of things to wait to start trying until October. Or move your trip to July. Or start trying on your trip.

2) You can still travel after you have kids. Yes, it’s easier without them, but when you have one you can still go plenty of places (especially if you have a good backpack). Don’t listen to all the doonsayers. Perfect is the enemy of the good, so if you can deal with having things not be as simple and spontaneous as they were before you can still have a great time traveling once you have kids. (My favorite destination with a kid: Puerto Rico. Everyone we met loved kids, the food was toddler-friendly, it was easy to drive around, the rainforest was perfect for hiking with the toddler in the backpack, and kids love the beach. But don’t ask me for hotel recommendations, because we stayed with a family friend.)

3) If You’re goign to have to wait and save up for a trip to Europe anyway, why not just start saving now, see what happens with getting pregnant, and then go when you can afford it? Unless you’re hugely pregnant or the baby is under 5-6 months old you can go to Europe and have a great time with or without a child. You might be overthinking things, and will find that they’ll resolve themselves if you just stay loose and start working toward both things.

Now, having said that, if I were you I’d go to either Maine or San Francisco this summer, and start trying in August. Then if I wasn’t pregnant yet I’d go to either Costa Rica or Italy for Thanksgiving. If I was pregnant I’d go to Austin or New Orleans for Thanksgiving.

Who else wants to play?

My Q, Your A: business trip tips

So I’m going on a business trip for a few days next week. (I’ve set posts to autopost, so assuming technology works and I didn’t misschedule them, you should have a new post every day, even while I’m someplace else.) Some of you may recall that my first three days of work were a business trip. That was a little strange. But now I’ve been at my company long enough to actually know what I’m doing, so I’m thinking this might be a good time to share ideas about being a parent who travels occasionally on business.

My only tip (and I learned this from my mom, who figured it out when my dad was travelling on business when I was a kid) was to try to call in the morning to talk to your kids, so that they get that early-morning contact to start their day off. I’m planning on calling in the morning for them and in the evening for me (’cause I know that’s when I miss them the most).

What else do you have? Tips on dealing with missing your kids and staying in contact with them? Tips for the actual travel? Best wheelie suitcases? Where you can find a bottle of volumizing mousse for straight hair that’s 3 ounces or less?

(And I’d tell you where I’m going, but I have to socialize with the other people on my trip every night so I wouldn’t have time to see anyone anyway or go to the places you’d recommend.)

Update and a question for you

Remember Zaimah and her upcoming trip to Pakistan? She wrote in to update us all:

"Dear Moxie and Readers,

We just got back from our trip to Pakistan and I wanted to let you all know that your the tips from your comments and suggestions were very helpful and we used them. We also realized that there were just
certain things you can not anticipate and so you have to be a lot more flexible than usual. SInce we were staying with family the whole time we had a few days of growing pains but by the end we had all reached a
happy middle ground. Anyhow, it was a good trip overall and I am happy to say we survived it with minimal scarring.

Thanks once again."

Well, that’s a relief. I always feel bad for the readers who are dreading some future event, because you really just never know how it’s going to go for them. Updates are comforting, so if anyone else wants to update us, feel free.

Now a question from me to you: I know that when a woman weans a baby, her body stores up calcium really easily (I’d find a research link, but I’ve been doing my taxes and am fried). My younger son is slowing down on nursing (although he went from once a day to twice a day when I went to work), so I’m thinking I should be actively supplementing with calcium to catch the window when he does wean completely. So what’s the best form of calcium supplementation to be taking? The one that’s most easily/completely absorbed, I mean.

(This is also useful info for women who experience a dip in milk supply at the beginning of their mentrual period each month. Extra calcium supplementation for those few days helps even out supply.)