Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Traveling with kids: 10 things I learned on our latest trip to Sweden

1. Burger King = play areas - Our latest trip to Sweden went via Amsterdam with KLM, which meant that we spent several hours at Schiphol Airport. With about 3 hours to kill between flights, we looked for a good spot to have lunch. We found what we were looking for upstairs in the area called Schiphol Plaza where there's a Burger King as well as a cafeteria offering various kinds of food and drink.

The eating area offered a great view of the planes outside, it was close to the bathrooms, and! there was a small play area. Nothing fancy, but there were some toys and a climbing centre. We found the same thing at Gran Canaria's airport last year. My kids do love some chicken nuggets and fries (probably because they rarely get it...), they love watching the planes, and a play centre is always a good thing when they're traveling, so for us this location was a great combo.

2. Digestives are tasty - My kids found a new favorite travel snack: good ol' Original Digestive Biscuits. Now I need to find a perfectly sized container to hold a package for our next trip...

3. Tobogganing is a lot of fun - The weather was milder than normal in northern Sweden this time around, and there was less snow than we've seen on previous Christmas visits. However, there was enough for tobogganing, and that was all that mattered. There were several nice hills within easy walking distance of my parents' place in SkellefteƄ, and the kids really loved this outdoor activity. Living where we do just outside Vancouver means that tobogganing is not a regular winter-activity at home!

4. I need a new hard-sided suitcase - My old faithful red Samsonite bit the dust last year after 25 years of service. I do quite like the fabric bags we traveled with this time (as long as they don't hold anything breakable), and we do have another old Samsonite, a green monster that my son loves to pull, but I need something lighter that is still roomy that I can pack non-squishable items into.

5. "Is that our luggage?" is a great airport-game - You can play this game while watching the luggage being loaded onto your airplane at the gate. If your bag is black, it will be very challenging. I'm thinking my next new piece of luggage will be a funky bright color.

6. Serving the kids' meals first should be the law - KLM treated us well on this trip. I especially liked how the kids' meals arrived well ahead of the regular meals. This meant my husband and I could help the children with their meals without juggling our own trays at the same time.

7. Someone always needs the bathroom when the food has just been served - I joke about this, but it's the truth. It seems anytime I travel by plane and there are meal trays on all the tray-tables, that's when one of my kids really, really needs to go to the bathroom. Stacking trays, juggling trays, putting trays on the floor... as long as I can keep my balance it's usually ok. I might have also forced a stewardess to take away some trays before she was really ready to do so, but I did apologize and I was desperate.

8. Hail is bad - The 15 minute hail storm we experienced in Amsterdam made us 4 hours late. It had never really occurred to me that even a brief hail-storm might make it necessary to de-ice the plane, or that it would take so long to get that done in Amsterdam.

9. I love my new Kindle - Reading books to the kids at the gate was a lot easier with my Kindle rather than a stack of books in the hand-luggage. Yay for e-readers and tablets! Now, if only airports would be more generous with the free wi-fi... Schiphol offers 1 hour free wi-fi, but at Arlanda Airport you have to pay. I wish more airports would follow the example of my home airport, Vancouver International, and offer free wi-fi.

10. Antibacterial wipes and litterless juiceboxes are still my two must-haves - One day I guess my kids will do OK drinking from regular plastic cups on board, without either spilling or dumping the contents, or wanting to put their apple juice aside for later while they play with their stuffed animals on the tray table (not a good idea). For now however, I'm quite happy to pour their drinks into litterless juiceboxes. And constant wipe-downs with antibacterial wipes make me feel at least a little better about traveling during flu-season. (The wipes work wonders on tray tables too.)

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