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Travel: Kidding Around [The Washington Post]

by Hope Katz Gibbs
Craig Stoltz, editor
Travel / The Washington Post
May 31, 1998

Luckily for us, many readers of The Washington Post Travel section have reproduced. More lucky still, over the months many of them have sent us their favorite tips and tricks for managing travel with their offspring.

Many are versions of the obvious tips we all know too well: When traveling with kids ifs even more important dm usual to be organized (a few tipsters sent elaborate descriptions of to-pack lists, maintained on computer, that “age” with the kids’ evolving travel needs); that pre-readers can be usefully, even guiltlessly, diverted with audiotapes and kid-size headphones; that, for infants especially, what you do and don’t remember to slip into the schlepbag can break or make your trip.

And yes, we know you were wondering. the tip-stream carries plenty of evidence that the Ziploc Fanatics have spawned, ensuring the survival of yet another generation of people who prefer to pack everything, from cotton swabs to entire swimwear ensembles, in the tidy plastic enclosures.

Assuming you’ve managed the basics of organization and planning, we offer the following tips, which represent the more novel and most potentially useful, tips our parent-travelers have sent along.

• To each his own (carry-on) bag: Feel like every trip with kids is Operation Desert Storm? Pete Siler of Herndon controls luggage volume with a simple rule: Every member of the family, including the smallest, gets a carry-on suitcase with wheels Each may pack only what fits in that one bag. No exceptions. Even his 6-year-old can handle a bag with wheels, Siler says. And, when the family gets to its destination, the bags serve as portable dressers, at least for the kids. One hazard: “We look like mother and father duck with all their ducklings,” he admits.

• Activity bags: Eric Weinstein of the District, by contrast, packs more bags than he has to. In addition to the usual suitcases filled with clothes and toiletries, he includes three extra bags. He fills one with everybody’s swimming stuff, and a second bag with everybody’s change of clothes. “When you get to the motel,” says he, “you only need two small bags to get the kids into the pool quickly and back into clothes afterward, allowing you to go to bag No. 3.” Which contains? Martinis, Weinstein says.

• The collapsible cup: Of all the suggestions we received, we found this one a “why-didn’t-l-think-of-that?” revelation. Mary Clark of DC suggests travelers always carry a collapsible cup, mostly to avoid the dreaded mommy-pick-me-up scene at every drinking fountain you pass. This kills the novelty, Clark says, and eventually the kids want to stop only when they are thirsty. Better stuff, the cup also facilitates the administration of that other parental bail-out device: children’s Tylenol. One more intriguing must-carry, this one for the back seat on long car trips: a plastic sand bucket, says Janet Wittenberg of Bethesda. Why? It’s a toy, a stuff-holder, and, um, a handy car-sickness receptacle.

• Sleep-over flights: Judy Schramm and Tom Hrdy ease their kids through long flights with elaborate psychological preparation. Weeks before the flight, Schramm and Hrdy start to tell them a story about what will happen on the trip. “Men you get to the part about the flight,” the couple writes, “tell them they will he sleeping on the airplane. We say they will go to the bathroom, change into their pajamas, brush their teeth, go back to their seats, read a book and then turn out the overhead light and go to sleep. They want to hear the story over and over again. By the time you get on the plane they know it by heart and expect to do exactly what you told them. Once they’re asleep, you can go to sleep, too.”

• Buy their silence: Alexander Fraser of the District sends an idea he developed when his daughter was in the 4-to-10 age range: He tempered her backseat nagging with dimes. She started out with a dollar’s worth, and every time she uttered “Are we there yet?” she lost one. Fraser says his daughter got three “free” asks before the penalties kicked in. Adjusted for inflation, he says, the trick should still work like a charm.

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"I get by with a little help from my friends," says Hope, who gives special thanks to:

• MICHAEL GIBBS, website illustration and design: www.michaelgibbs.com
• MAX KUKOY, website development: www.maxwebworks.com
• STEVE BARRETT, portrait of Hope on Bio page: www.stevebarrettphotography.com

Contact HOPE KATZ GIBBS by phone [703-346-6975] or email.

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