Monday, March 23, 2015

April Vacation - Packing and Lugging

 WAY too much stuff...

As any parent knows, kids require a lot of stuff. My son is still in diapers 100% of the time, so right off the bat, I need day diapers, night diapers, and swim diapers. There's half of my suitcase right there! So despite having lots of suitcases of varying sizes, I decided on a matching set of Nautica suitcases, one for me and one for CW. I rot them at TJ Maxx/Marshalls

I got the medium one and smaller one. I have a suitcase the size of the large one, but thinking about dragging that around made my back and shoulders hurt, so I went with the medium and small. I like this set one, because they match and I'm a bit OCD about that kind of thing, but also because they'r eon 2 wheels. I have suitcases on 4 that you push around upright, but I have found that when you need to pull them sideways, the wheels kind of suck in that regard. With the two wheel design, I can also stack the suitcases.

Convenienly enough, the smaller one fits perfectly sideways on top of the other one near the handle or tethered to the front. While I'm usually not great at foresight, the idea of dragging all this luggage through Logan while also trying to keep a 4 year old at bay forces one to ponder the future.

On top of the two pieces of luggage that will be checked, I'll also be bringing a few pieces of carry-on luggage. I plan on one for me, one for him, and an extra one with diapers and changes of clothes. I want to have two of them easily accessible, one for me and one for him. In trying to make things easier, I ordered this rolling backpack for his stuff. First of all, it's adorable and he loves Curious George, but also, it has wheels and a strap in the back. I'm not sure if he'll pull it or for how long, but the wheels will help him if he does decide to take ownership of his bag. I got it at Amazon, but Toys-R-Us also has the bag.

According to the research I did online, the under seat storage space of the JetBlue A320 at the window is 17" wide by 17" long and 9" tall. This backpack is 18" long by 13" wide by 4.5" tall. So, it'll stick out 2 inches, but that won't be an issue. I will be packing his snacks, busy bags, DVD player, DVDs, and diapering stuff in this bag, so I have to be able to access it.

The little carryon will have a change of clothes for him, a change of clothes for me, and all the diapers. I have been out in public when I've been puked upon and there is nothing worse than being covered in puke with no change of clothes. If he gets himself so worked up that he throws up, I need to have a spare set of clothes as does he. If I pack the little bag with all his diapers, that'll save a huge amout of space in our checked bags. Additionally, I'll use this bag when we go out so that I'm not leaving my Coach bag in the stroller when I have to leave it behind to go on rides.

Getting Ready to Fly

Nothing Like a Good Book
My biggest anxiety for this vacation is CW on the plane. No matter how much preparing I do, the sound of the engines can't be described, the length of the flight can't really be explained, and the hustle and bustle of the airport cannot be fully realized, but we can try. I bought the book, "The Noisy Airplane Ride" by Mike Downs and David Gordon. We read this on a regular basis and make lots of noise and while reading it.

Making it Personal
To make the experience even more personal, I created a PowerPoint presentation that we read KeyNote on my iPad. In it, I put pictures for every step of the way, from packing our bags, getting up early while it's dark, navigating the airport lines, putting our bags on the conveyor, and buckling in our seats all the way to chewing gummies when we land, getting our bags, going to the zoo and Sea World and Legoland and then going home. I even pulled the exact things we'll see like pictures od JetBlue lines and planes, Logan airport in the exact lobby where we'll be, animals we'll see at the San Diego Zoo and Sea World, and pictures of our hotel in San Diego. I'm hoping by him seeing pictures, he'll get a little accustomed to what we'll see on our vacation.

Practice Run
I signed us up for the April 11th Wings for Autism event taking place at Logan airport. I got my confirmation and I'm looking forward to attending, mostly so I can see where his sticking points may be. I think he'll be excited to get on a plane. He's going to love to see all the people and say hi to all the kids. Waiting in line will be tough for him as will putting the bag on the conveyor. He has trouble with this at the grocery store, so I'll be curious to see how he'll do at the airport.

More to come...

Part 1
Part 2

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

April Vacation Planning Part 2

So, now...the flight is booked, some safety things have been put in place, the mini van with car seat has been reserved, and I've secured a stroller rental once I get there. What's next?

Besides the overall anxiety of traveling across the country with an unpredictable autistic kid, the next thing on my list to tackle was going to be activities on the plane. Boston to San Diego is a long haul for anyone, but when you're going on 4 and the furthest you've been is a car ride to Vermont, this was going to be a challenge. I envisioned a complete meltdown where the plane would make an emergency stop or a quick u-turn to toss us both off the plane. So, activities were paramount.

As with anything I do these days, I immediately went to Pinterest, Etsy, and Google and did a variety of searches for: busy bags, DIY toys, toddler projects, etc.

Testing, testing...1, 2, 3
One thing I did do was to make the item, test it out on him to see if he liked it and them put it away in a secret spot, not to be seen again until the airplane. I was worried about making things he'd care little for and then be stuck on the plane with boring activities. While many people say to wait until the trip for your child to see anything so that it's new and exciting, I really didn't want to be stuck on a plane with activities he didn't care about.

Here are the ones I actually decided to make:

Stories on a Stick
I like the idea of little puppets on tongue depressors to tell a story. I found these three on the Preschool Printables blog. Lots of great printables, so check them out.
Preschool Printables: Free That Cat Puppet Sticks

Becuase my son loves Daniel Tiger, I printed out this image and cut the characters out on my Silhouette Cameo and pasted them to tongue depressors along with a picture of the trolley. I plan on finding or writing a little story to go with them. I'll keep you posted on that.
While these were drying on my desk, he wanted to play with them so badly and kept picking them up and wandering off with them. Into the stash they went.

Magnet Fun
He already has the Curious George magnet play set and I plan on bringing it with us on the plane. It's not really big, perhaps the size of a half sheet of paper, but the pieces are small and I found out the hard way that when dropped, the magnets pop off and go everywhere.

Since I already had the metal case, I made more magnets to play with. I used the mini wooden shapes that are already painted and sealed from Michaels and I glued a magnet to the back. Pictured is a different project with the shapes glued to a dowel. I didn't do that, just glued a magnet to the back.

I did go a little crazy and bought every package of shape. They are small and you can get 3 for $1, so I got them all.

If you do this, I strongly suggest NOT using neodymium magnets. They are too strong for this project and little hands and tend to pull out of the glue and stick, without the shape, to the metal.

Gone Fishing

I loved this idea of fishing with magnets, so I made a set for my son. I didn't follow the pattern so that all the fish were the same size or anything like that. I cut out two fish shapes (eye-balled it), and then glued a paper clip to the inside so that a little loop was sticking out the top. 

Like this, but using felt...

SINGING TIME IDEA: Fishing game...paper version...with downloadable templates (this would be fun for the grandchildren- maybe made out of felt or fabric... when we don't know what to do, we can go fishing for ideas... like make cookies, or take a walk, etc.)Then I used a neodymium magnet and glued it using E5000 glue to the tip of a dowel and let him pick up the fish.

I tested it out first. He loved just picking up as many fish as possible and walking around with them. You have to be careful of kids running with the dowel. You can always make the fishing rod with string and short stick.

Once I saw how much he liked it, I put this in the secret place.

Felt Fun??
I saw so many activities with felt that I knew I had to make some of these. I have to say while they are adorable and I figured he'd enjoy them, these were not the big hit I expected them to be.
Fun snowman crafts - Snowman Felt Board by Amanda Formaro CraftsbyAmanda.com

I made this one and tried it out. He liked it for about 3 minutes.

Felt Board- Tutorial

While I didn't go to this amount of detail, I did make some cars, a road, tress, and house. Again, he had about 3 minutes of this before he wandered off.

Lastly, I made roads like these and packaged them up with some new cars. I didn't introduce him to this activity since this one will be for the hotel room. I don't want to be picking up cars that roll away the entire flight. I know he'll like the cars, not sure about the roads.
Good idea for a felt board

We're still 4.5 weeks away from our trip, so I will be making more activities for him for the plane ride.

Next time...more planning.

Part 1
Part 3

Friday, March 13, 2015

Count Down to April Vacation - First Installment

Trip to Southern California: April 2015

So, here's something a little different from my usual creative posts. I will be traveling with my son in April. We're going from Boston to San Diego and this will be his first plane ride. Here's the catch, he's autistic. I'm so stressed about the trip that I'm afraid my anxiety will rub off on him and make him freak out more and then neither of us will enjoy the vacation. Not good.

4/19 - fly from Boston to San Diego
4/20 4/22 - stay in San Diego (Sea World and San Diego Zoo)
4/22 - pick up friends at San Diego airport, drive to Carlsbad to stay at Legoland Hotel
4/23 - 4/25 - Legoland and Sea Life aquarium
4/26 - fly back to Boston

In preparation, I've been over-planning our trip. Going over every detail again and again and trying to guess what his sticking points will be. In some ways he's easy because he falls into the mild to moderate part of the spectrum and he's such a happy kid. He likes to say hi to everyone and he has a big vocabulary, so he'll name everything he sees and some things he doesn't dragons, cows, and monkeys. Where he's delayed is in his communication skills. He can't tell you if he has a headache, if he's tired, if he has a leg cramp, or if he had a bad dream. He will go through a litany of things trying to name the one thing that's affecting him. Like if he wakes up in the middle of the night, presumably from a bad dream, he'll ask for cookies, music, milk, the cat, blankets, Nana/ get the idea.

My strategy is to keep him busy the entire trip. My next few posts will be about the things I'm doing to try to alleviate the stress we'll likely both be feeling.

Months before leaving...

I've read both sides of the argument for and against direct flights. On the one side, people say that breaking up a trip will allow a child not to have to be contained for an extended period of time. On the other side, breaking up the trip will uproot a child and perhaps cause more stress. I went with a direct flight because I figure once I get him on the plane and situated, I don't want to break that up. We may have to walk around the plane or he may want to sit on the floor and play in his seat, so be it.

I'm a big JetBlue fan and even though the cost was ridiculous (my son is too big/old to sit on my lap and needed his own seat,) we're going direct. The TV at every seat was a big plus as well as slightly wider seats. Boston to San Diego will be a 5+ hour flight and I probably don't know what I'm getting into.

Wrist leash...
Since I will be lugging bags, typing into kiosks, talking to gate agents, waiting in the terminal, and going through TSA, there's no way I could hold my son's hand the whole time and do everything else, so I purchased the Gripsterz wrist leash ( What I like about this is the velcro strap that goes on his wrist and the fact that the length is adjustable. There is a plastic ring for a child to hold onto, but my son would never hold it, so the strap on his wrist is preferable. Just in case, I didn't want to wait until our trip to find out this is just a gimmick, so I tried it out. While it doesn't keep him from grabbing things close to him, it does keep him from running off and that is what I really need.

CARES harness (
My son is little for his age, like really little, but I didn't want to lug a car seat and I didn't want him in just a lap belt, so I purchased the CARES harness from It cost maybe $70, but it's one of the only ones that is FAA approved. I think he'll do better in a 4 point harness as that's what he's used to in his car seat and stroller.

Car rental...
I reserved a mini van for when we're in San Diego and Enterprise has a car seat rental that can be included (for an extra cost.) It's a bit more expensive, but worth it so that I don't have to lug one with me and we can just get in the car and go once we get the car. I also went with Enterprise because I can pay with a debit card. While other car rental companies have better rates and cars, I don't have an unsecured credit card, so my choices were limited. I've rented from them numerous times and I've always had a good experience.

Stroller rental...
Here's another area where I was trying to limit the amount of stuff I'd have to lug around with me, so after some research, I found a company called Toddler's Travels in San Diego ( I rented a stroller from them called the City Mini. The weekly rate was $45, but with delivery and taxes and such, it was around $85. Well worth it so I'm not struggling with an umbrella stroller in the airport, if you ask me.

Those are just the first few things I took care of. Like I said, I'm completely OCD about planning this trip. More to come...