Travel Essentials for Flying with 2 Kids

As you know, we are flying out tomorrow to go to the Disney Aulani resort in Hawaii. No, I haven’t started packing. But yes, I have done a lot of the prep work that will make packing easier. For example, I have already put together a stash of items to make travel easier with two kids. We fly out at night, so we are hoping (but not betting) on some sleep from the kids during the trip. But we’re arming ourselves with a well-packed backpack for each child.

Travel essentials

  1. PlanetBox Shuttle packed with an assortment of reliable, healthy snacks as well as a few novel treats. We plan to eat dinner at the airport, so we don’t need a full meal on the plane, but snacks are always a good idea. Also a good idea: an empty water bottle per child, an extra bag of snacks for delays or security line-ups.
  2. iPad or phone customized per child. Our kids never get to play on iPads, so this is a treat for them. Though we offer the iPad to Damien in the morning when he wakes up (too damn early), this will be his first time playing apps. We have two iPads, so I’ve customized them per child, with either a movie or tv episodes plus a variety of age-appropriate apps (both educational and gaming).* Don’t forget some kids headphones (though you may want to beware those that limit volume, since planes can be noisy)
  3. New books are great for the airplane, plus they give you most of your nightly reading material for your trip. If you are traveling with devices, you can also install apps such as Reading Rainbow to broaden your library while you’re away. This trip we have a new I Spy for both kids to enjoy, plus a few short story books.
  4. Art supplies are essential in our house. This trip we are packing markers, plain paper, stickers, printed colouring sheets, printed mazes and worksheets from Education.com (or an activity book), plus some dry-erase worksheets from school and our Monster Doodles set. Playdoh would work as well, but Damien likes to throw it, so we’re skipping that this time.
  5. Games like Spot It, Rush Hour or I Spy-related games are small and versatile, as are the variety of Haba tin games. You don’t want to take anything with small pieces on the plane, in case they fall down.
  6. Toys that you want on the airplane should be small, like cars or dolls, but versatile for use in the hotel as well. One great tip I’ve read is to pack painters tape to allow your kids to create ‘rooms’ or ‘tracks’ anywhere you are – hotel, airplane – with minimal mess
  7. A warm scarf or mini pillow in case blankets are not available, plus any lovey that your child may need
  8. Extra clothes in case of accidents, packed in a bag, along with an extra pull-up in case nature calls at an inconvenient time.
  9. Wipes and/or kleenex, since messes are inevitable
The last tip is to try to relax! You can’t expect to keep your child on a perfect schedule in the middle of travel. Make sure you pack a bag for your comfort too, whether it’s warm socks or a pillow, or for younger children a breastfeeding pillow. I know the hard way how uncomfortable it is to hold a squirming 2.5 year old for several hours during the night without any support (which is why we’ll never travel with our car seat again).

*Stay tuned for a review of apps for 2 and 5 year olds! I gathered some tried-and-true favourite apps but also tried to research some new ones. My experience with apps is that there are more ‘hits’ than ‘misses’, so hopefully we have found some new gems!

The Best Christmas Gifts for Men

Every year, there is a lot of chatter about what to buy for the men in our lives. Be they husbands, boyfriends or Dads, men can be hard to buy for! Now, I know each guy has different tastes, but I know we can do better than ties and golf stuff, right?! Following my post on The Best Stocking Stuffers for Guys, I put together this Shopping Guide to the Best Christmas Gifts for Guys that involves both gifts my husband has asked for in the past, or currently has on his wish list, plus a few ideas of my own. 

Gifts guy

  • Bluetooth speaker – my husband asked for (and received) the UE Mini Boom for his birthday. He did his research on options and hit on this amazing bluetooth speaker that we use either in our office or move around wherever we want some extra music! Since it’s bluetooth, you can play from your phone or any bluetooth-enabled device. 
  • Car Tech Toys – there are a lot of toys you can buy for cars, depending on your guy. Whether it’s accessories for the car itself or, in my case, tech gadgets. Our top recommendations include the Portable Smartphone Mount, which clips onto your vents!, an extra charger (variable depending on your car) or an audio cable so you can play music or podcasts or get audio directions directly from your phone 
  • Cards Against Humanity – even for non-gamers, this entirely inappropriate game is perfect as a gift! Bonus: you can give expansion packs in future years!! They make great stocking stuffers ;)
  • BBQ Rotisserie – you can buy a brand-specific rotisserie for your BBQ, but they are super expensive. You may find a universal rotisserie like this one works for you. My husband got this last year and though it doesn’t fit as snugly as a super expensive option would have, it still works. We roast TWO chickens at a time on it!
  • Home Brew Kit – my husband wants to brew his own beer, but space has always been an issue. He recently discovered the Box Brew Kits which are not only super amazing looking, but don’t require a lot of space. If you don’t want to give a DIY kit, I highly recommend a selection of craft beers! You could even invest in a couple of growlers and pre-fill them with a local beer. 
  • Clothes – when it comes to clothes, I like to buy something that will actually get worn, but is nicer than what my husband would typically buy for himself. Wether this is a nicer pair of jogging pants (like Lululemon) or a great sweater (Banana Republic has the most flattering ones in a variety of styles!) or a new fleece jacket or something of that kind. 
  • Pedicure – because, have you seen his feet? Well, he may deny he needs it, but team up to get him to go with another guy pal if you think that will get him there. Trust me, he’ll thank you. There are salons that offer men’s pedicure options.
  • Tickets & Gift Certificates – this one is really personal. Does your guy like sports, theatre, movies, music, trips? Is he a foodie? Scour sites like Groupon for deals, or grab tickets to a coveted event and wrap it up in a larger box. If you have kids, secure your babysitting as part of a “date night” package.

Here’s hoping these gifts are a hit with the guy in your life!

My Kindergarten Essentials Checklist

A couple of weeks ago, we received a letter from my son’s school with a list of “School Supplies” for his entrance into Kindergarten this September. The list only includes a pair of velcro shoes, a paint shirt, an extra set of clothes and a backpack on it. Our school supplies for class are purchased by the teachers out of a shared fund. While the basics are great, I put together my own list of essentials for Kindergarten.

Kindergarten essentials

10 Essentials for Kindergarten

  1. Backpack – there are many cute backpacks out there, but size and fit are a huge factor for me. I wanted a backpack that would be appropriate for a 5-year old’s body and had good strap padding with a chest clip for back and neck health. After a lot of research, I purchased one from Pottery Barn Kids.
  2. Lunchbox – you can purchase a traditional lunchbox and fill it with a myriad of containers and bags, or you could purchase a Planetbox (review here) and be done in one step. I looked into a variety of bento-type systems, and am very happy with our choice. You can purchase a sleeve or carry bag as well, so you can insert an ice pack. If you’re willing to back a Kickstarter bid (US only), the OmieBox looks like another great option to offer hot / cold options all from one box. TIP: your child should know how to open and close all containers.
  3. Water bottle – I’ve lately found our water bottles too small for my 4-year-old, so I purchased a larger volume bottle. I have never had leaks with the Thermos brand, so I purchased their 12oz bottle. Hopefully it’s large enough!
  4. Snack and Sandwich Bags – I have a variety of these including some from lunch skins and pottery barn kids, with other local options including gogobags. I plan to use these for either snacks, packed separately from lunch, or take them with me for after-school pick-up, since I expect full-day K will be hungry work and we’re planning on walking to/from school! 
  5. Insulated Food Jar / Thermos – for days when you want to pack a hot lunch. We have cute thermoses from Crocodile Creek, though if I could do it again, I would purchase a thermos with a wider mouth such as the Klean Kanteen vacuum insulated container.
  6. Snack kit – for days when I want to pack a larger snack, or send a hot lunch in a thermos with some additional food, I purchased the PlanetBox Shuttle. I’m tired of washing a million snack containers, so I have two of these now to simplify day trips and picnics too!
  7. Labels – we have a basic kit of Mabel’s Labels that we’ve been using for a couple of years now to mark bottles, bags and containers as well as shoes and spare clothes. I’ve never had a single label peel off. 
  8. Smoothie Pouch – we often have smoothies for snack. They are great to make ahead and freeze. My favourite brand is the Sili Squeeze (see review here). 
  9. Art Smock – A simple art smock that is easy to put on and covers the full arms helps for kids who don’t like to get messy. 
  10. Love – This goes without saying! It’s a big change and our kids will need our help through it. Take some inspiration from the Napkin Notes Dad and perhaps slip a little drawing or printable in with your lunch bag. I am currently DIYing a dry-erase or chalk magnet for our lunchbox and have a few fun lunch forks and things to bring a smile to my son’s face during the day. 

Foonf Car Seats: A Review A Year Later

We have had the Clek Foonf car seats for both boys since Damien was about 6 months old, so for more than a year and a half now. Prior to that, Aiden was in the Britax Boulevard seat. It had been our intention to keep the Britax and pass it on to Damien, getting Aiden a harness/booster combination seat when he was older. Unfortunately, we started running into problems with our Britax and we just never seemed able to get it tight enough – it was hard to both tighten and loosen, no matter how we tried to adjust it. 

IMG 9157Sleeping in his foonf just today!

We have now had the Clek Foonf for over 1.5 years and have had no issues loosening or tightening the straps – it’s still just as easy as when we purchased the seats, despite all the sand and grit and crumbs that get trapped around the straps of any seat. 

The foonf was a new seat at the time we purchased them, and we were definitely impressed with the look of the seat, it’s safety features and the fact that it is recyclable. We also wanted a seat that would last both boys a long time, as we don’t plan to move to a booster even when Aiden hits 40 lbs, the booster minimum. Damien, in fact, is still rear-facing, as he’s not yet 30 lbs and doesn’t seem to mind. The rules were different when Aiden was young, and he was much fussier in the car, so we turned him forward-facing closer to 1 year. Such different kids. 

The narrower profile of the seats was definitely something that appealed to us, and we have no issues with either seat pushing the driver or passenger seats forward too much. If you needed to, you could line 3 of the Clek seats in one row, possibly even better with their newly released slim Fllo system.

We will be able to use the foonf seats until the boys are 65lbs or 49” tall, so we’re good for a while, neither boy is very large! :)

The PlanetBox Rover Makes Lunches Fun

Aiden will be heading to Kindergarten in September and I’ve been giving a lot of thought as to what and how I’ll be packing his snack and lunch. I’ve been lucky to stay at home with Aiden, so his options for lunch have always included the ability to warm up, toast or cook something. Even at preschool, he’s offered a hot lunch each day. All of that will soon change. 

Photo 4 copy

PlanetBox Rover Lunchbox Review

I have been testing the PlanetBox Rover Complete as our lunch solution for a couple of weeks now. My Journey to choosing the PlanetBox is included below, but now I’ll share with you how the choice solves many of my lunch planning challenges. 

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PlanetBox makes a variety of lunch and snack boxes, the most popular being the Rover. If you purchase the entire PlanetBox Rover Complete, you get the carry bag in a choice of colours. The carry bag has a generous pocket for a water bottle, a strap and handle for carrying, and a large velcro pocket (which I plan to use for the school snack). The interior of the case has a pocket where you could place an ice pack.

The interior of the PlanetBox is very generous, rounded on both top and bottom so you can even fit bulky items like bagels. The capacity of the box is one of the highest on the market. While it may be more than a Kindergartener will need, lunch is Aiden’s biggest meal of the day and I’d rather pack too much than too little.

The Complete set comes with the Dipper set, for wet or messy foods. The Little Dipper is perfect for dressings or dips (we’ve used it for honey for apples) and the Big Dipper is perfect for yogurt or wet fruit. Both Dippers can fit in the box when closed, though I’ve also used the Big Dipper in the exterior case pocket. 

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The PlanetBox Rover is a single piece made from stainless steel. The exterior comes plain, though you can buy a variety of Rover Magnets to decorate them (the Complete comes with one set) – I’m pretty sure the Train design will be going in Aiden’s stocking next year! We also added our Mabel’s Labels to the magnet. 

The clasp on the lunchbox is easy for Aiden to open and to close. He can also open and close the Dippers with ease. The entire box easily slides into the lower rack of our dishwasher for cleaning and the rounded corners of each compartment seem to help it get really clean. 

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Does Aiden like it? YES! He always asks for lunch in his “tray”, and it really forces me to give him a greater variety of food. Typically his lunches had 3-4 items on it (he’s never loved leftovers for lunch), so this usually gives me an excuse to add in the extra veggie or fruit. 

Do I like it? YES! I love having things organized and the tray forces me to be creative, which I enjoy. I know school lunches will become boring all too quickly! The smallest compartment is a nice place to add a treat – it’s the smallest portion, to remind you to balance the meal. I was very pleased that our entire bread fit in the largest compartment, as I know some people have trouble with that. Will we use it every day for school? We will see. I expect that on days I send hot food in a Thermos, I’ll still use our other lunch box and containers. 

Purchase Details

The PlanetBox Rover Complete, the full set, sells for USD$59.95, plus shipping, and is one of the more expensive bento sets on the market. That said, I think the size and sturdy construction makes it something that our kids will be able to use for years to come. 

If you are looking for meal ideas, PlanetBox has a fantastic meal planning app on their website, though you can also find inspiration on Pinterest or Instagram (I love the weelicious lunches). 

My Journey to the PlanetBox

For years, we’ve been packing our snacks or lunches into our Pottery Barn lunch boxes in a variety of containers, mostly using the Wean Green containers since they arrange well and can be opened easily by little fingers. That said, I was TIRED OF ALL THE DISHES. The top of our dishwasher is perpetually crammed with containers and trying to find the right combination of containers to fit the lunch box can be annoying. 

For many months, I’ve been researching bento boxes to offer a better alternative to lunch packing. Most bento boxes, however, didn’t solve the CONTAINER OVERLOAD I was feeling, as many still involved the arrangement of smaller containers into a larger tray. The ones that did work, like the Pottery Barn Bento that I was considering, had reviews of the plastic breaking and I couldn’t figure out how to insert items that may be wet (yogurt, watermelon). Some bento boxes seemed to big or oddly shaped or too small. I worried about how to pack lunch and snack – in one box? A second container? I spent far too many hours researching options and reading reviews. 

In steps the PlanetBox, the only bento that met all my requirements: easy to clean, multi-compartment, decent size, easy for kids to open and close. As a bonus, it came with several other amazing features, as you could read above. I am actually looking forward to testing out the lunch box properly once Aiden goes to school in September!

Want to check my progress? Follow me on Instagram as I share some of our more fun lunch creations. 

Disclosure: I received the PlanetBox Complete for a review, though I was already planning on buying it! All opinions are my own.