Simple Green Me

Cultural reporter for KUTV 2News and adjunct yoga/meditation professor blogs about wellness, green living, downsizing, simplifying, better travel✨and more. Offering mindfulness, meditation, goal-setting and decluttering coaching!


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8 tips for easier travel with a toddler

   
Even though it’s now a bazillion times harder (packing for two is just the BEGINNING), having a baby didn’t cure the travel bug. So, when you must drag a now-toddler first on a 13-hour road trip, then a 2-leg plane journey, I hope you find these ideas save you at least a couple Xanax (because we all know we need more than PATIENCE to cope with a small megalomaniac).

ROAD TRIP

1. Bag of Goodies – place an easily-accessible basket of goodies next to the car seat. 

  
A) books

B) fake wallet full of loyalty cards (a clear winner)

C) sound-maker toys

D) wooden “thinker” toys or single-piece/all-in-one puzzles

E) an empty wipe package full with cut-cloth squares (it was also a winner! As long as you don’t mind picking them up and putting them back in every time).

D) crayons and hard-back notepad (the crayons themselves eventually become entertainment…biting, eating, snapping in two…)

E) snacks, snacks, and more snacks! As many different finger-foods as you can muster! I liked sandwich crackers,  pretzel sticks, seed-bread, veggie pouches and the occasional sucker. For a month, at each visit to the store, I’d put another snack in the cart.

   
2. Sitting next to him or her – he was so much happier and calmer when I sat in the back with him! 

3. IPad with his or her fave flick – I don’t allow games yet (I have weird phobias) but I will let him watch a few non-lame movies. We bought and downloaded his fave movie “the Boxtrolls” (14.99 – good thing we just needed one!), and he was cool and calm drinking it in a few 20-min intervals at a time. 

PLANE TRIP

When you are flying solo with a toddler, or even with help, two plane rides and a layover can seem like a death wish! And it could be…but this is what made my experience actually pretty darn pleasant.

1. Family restrooms – your own private safe-haven to refresh/relieve yourself, change diapers, sanitize, and just play for a few minutes in peace! He liked climbing on the “baby seat” and the changing table, and washing his hands.

2. Eat – my toddler and I are used to restaurants (he’s not well-behaved, but I know what he’ll be like and what he usually needs), so it seemed natural to grab dinner during the layover. It fed us, took up time, and he made lots of friends with the servers. Plus, I got to have an adult beverage (tequila only – the sole alcohol that doesn’t make me feel sluggish and depressed)!

3. Yoga – there’s plenty of open space in the airport, so movement like yoga, stretching, stomping, dancing, etc helps get the wiggles out before the plane!

  
4. Machinery – escalators, moving walkways, elevators…you know what your toddler likes.

5. On the plane – it’s hard to keep your toddler entertained on the plane. I found “can you find the ___” game using the flight magazines to be helpful! Snacks, too. And the iPad. It really is like the only option for a cramped plane ride with a hyper 20-month-old. 

Hope this helps you prepare for your parent-tot trip! And rest assured that all this preparation pays off, and that the hard moments where you feel like breaking down are at least twice as infrequent as seeing your child experience a new place, and new memories. 

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5 things yogis always bring on airplanes 

This is a post on how to survive air travel. I say, “survive” because: if you’re monkey-barring it from redeye to redeye (SLC to JFK to Reykjavik, Iceland for me), your body and mind are very much in full-on survival mode. But instead of imploding with dehydration, fatigue and mind-exploding annoyance, a few simple tricks derived from yogic principals of self-care can help you keep you sanity, physical health, and most importantly, sense of humor (proof these work: I just belly-laughed after waking up on an airport floor over my “bed:” A spread out coat with a jumbled up scarf as the pillow). So remember to bring the following items next time you travel!

 
 1. GOOD GEAR

I don’t know why I resisted the travel pillow for so long (too tourist you?). I thought I had it all figured out by piling my coat on the tray table and face-planting into hopefully an hour or two of lame plane sleep. But when I tried a cushy neck pillow (paired with my sassy lil eye mask), I found it even easier to catch quality shuteye whether in an aisle, window or middle seat – or even at the gate during a layover Without these items, my “heads up, seven up” position – in which, by the way, I am frequently head-slammed by the person in front of me raising and lowering their seat – is my only option.

 2. IMMUNITY BOOSTERS 

You know that tray table I was just talking about? Travelmath.com says it houses more germs than the handle on the toilet. It’s no surprise that airports, public restrooms, and flying capsules in which hundreds of dirty little sardines are packed are breeding grounds for vacay-ruining viruses. So not only chug your water (save $$$ by buying a water bottle after security and keep refilling it), but also stock up on prevention methods and put in your body only what serves to strengthen immunity. I’ve had great success popping a Doterra OnGuard beadlet, capsules of various bacteria-fighting essential oils, pre- and post-flight to keep me healthy. For that same reason, I always stow packets of Emergen-C to mix with water at my new destination for a measurable boost in my physical wellness and energy. In addition to these virus-vanishing methods, plus eating healthy snacks like nuts, yogurt and fruit, I always drink green while traveling! Pre-flight out of Salt Lake City, I slammed a Suja Mighty Greens cold-pressed juice. During my JKF layover, I found an energy boost with Jamba Juice’s Matcha (and kale) smoothie. Then I stepped off the plane in Reykjavek, Iceland, and after two nights of travel, I let out an audible “yes!” when a juice bar is the first thing I see out of passport control (which also says a lot about these healthy Icelanders). I chugged my kale-packed Green Mile juice and fought off jet lag long enough to enjoy a 2-hour horseback ride – in freezing Arctic temperatures, no less! This trip, I know all the nutrients saved me from getting that God-awful roly-poly tummy and just overall hangover feeling i get on trips where French fries, potato chips and chicken fingers are on the menu.

3. PEACE OF MIND

Remembering flight times, replaying travel plans, and dealing with the mildew-smelling man in the seat next to you is a recipe for anxiety. So keep your head calm with music; its proven to fight stress. My husband made fun of me when I resurrected my 80GB-packed iPod (whose curation was my life’s work up until about five years ago) to save on inflight wi-fi fees from web-based services like Spotify. But I was the one laughing when he sheepishly leaned over to ask for an earbud when he had trouble falling asleep! I also stocked up on guided audio meditations, which help promote the “go with the flow” mentality that’s so crucial for travel. Then there’s adult coloring books (worth the space in your carry-on, I promise), and also pampering yourself, which we’ll discuss more now.

  
4. WAYS TO PAMPER

During a long layover in JFK, we decided to make the most of it and Subway-it into NYC. Even though we travelled light, with one backpack each, hauling them and ourselves up and down subway steps and around 30 city blocks for at least eight hours, made for some tired, sore bodies. Fueled by desperation, back at the airport, I finally tried the Xpress Spa. Holy life-changing, Batman! I will forever budget $45 ($35 foot massage plus tip) into any long flight plans from now on. I got to lay in a shiatsu massage chair – which kneaded my sore back like play dough- while a stern woman worked the kinks out of my feet, ankles and legs. The 15 blissful minutes felt like 45 because I was getting full-body attention…for the price of a $35 foot massage! Prices there range from $20-$65 and cover services including mani-pedis, facials and full-body massages. On the way back to my gate (and aforementioned airport-floor bed), I felt like a new woman, renewed for my next leg of adventure.  Another method that helps me mold “me” time out of a flight is applying spa products. The major benefit of this is that you can allow hard-working products like masks to absorb longer on your skin than you typically have time for at home. At the very least, I always take eye cream, and as you can see, my husband approves of the under-eye gel masks I scored for $1.25 at Xspress Spa.

  
5. TENSION RELIEF

  • If sitting is the new smoking, air travel is an entire pack of them cancer sticks! Movement is key when you’re dealing with long periods of stagnation. Learn a few basic yoga poses that move stale energy and muscle tension out of your body. Yes, people do look at me weird when I bust into downward dog right there at the gate, but I don’t care because my hips and hamstrings are getting a stretch, my inverted brain gets a rush of new oxygen, and I’m toning the muscles in my arms and core. Sometimes, I’m lucky enough to to be at an airport with a yoga room (thanks, SFO). But even if you’re too shy to wag your tail in public, you can at least bring along some natural, medicated muscle cream to cue your body to relax and enjoy the flight. I drop a few Nature’s Fusions Fire & Ice essential oils into coconut oil to rub on all my sore or fatigued spots. Doterra’s PastTense or Deep Blue work great, too, doubling as headache relief when dabbed on temples, and relief from your stinky neighbor when rolled onto your upper lip. 

 

Though there’s no cure-all for a few days of sleep-deprived air travel, I hope these tips help you relieve as much stress as they did for me on recent trips. In fact, as I lay here awake watching the wind swirl snow across rooftops from my hotel window, I’m reaching for some of these items to help soothe me into my new Icelandic schedule. 


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Is AirBnB really better than all-inclusive / resort accommodations? (Hint, YES)

this resort may have cool furniture, but thats the last thing you’ll remember from your trip!

What’s with our attachment to resorts? I swear, we hear the word and instantly conjure images of being fanned with palm leaves while being funneled full of pina coladas. Well, let’s go ahead and reprogram your brain because resorts are your grandparent’s idea of a good time, and not a friend to the experience-hungry traveler (especially with kids) on a budget. Let’s talk about the time I went to Miami, when  my husband and I booked a nice, large-scale hotel – pretty much a resort – thinking it’d be uber-convenient, especially when traveling with a toddler. Imagine being able to eat, swim, get a snack at the gift shop, and access the beach – all within steps of your room in case of the inevitable toddler meltdown! Instead, we found out the hard way that the inconveniences and costs of a resort-style hotel totally outnumber the benefits.

LACK OF OPTIONS

First, we weren’t in love with the food from the resort’s ONLY restaurant. Even if you love the resort’s restaurant(s), you will grow weary of seeing the same waiter fake a smile for you. 

Also, everything is expensive! I felt tangible PAIN every time I had to fork over $5 for bottled water (not even for the jumbo-sized kind, either) at the gift shop. And it wasn’t just the provisions that fell below par; but we also got super-bored of the whole campus in about two hours (a toddler can only climb up and down so many wing-backed chairs). Hey, even while staying at a yoga resort in Tulum – the very definition of paradise – I left campus every day for a change of scenery. We could have done ourselves a huge favor and opted for the following kind of stay instead.
Take a small, boutique hotel like The President; an Art Deco inn right on the main drag of South Beach. We actually ended up eating breakfast here every day because of the cheap prices, the variety of meal/price options and most importantly, the hostel-like vibe. A revolving door of International guests, folks sharing the paper and swapping travel stories…you know, that overwhelmingly awesome vibe that is the WHOLE reason you travel? Anyway, here, breakfast for the guests is included (even the coffee, which would have saved us obscene amounts of money thrown to the Starbucks monster). Did I mention that originally, when I was booking our resort, the option to include breakfast cost an extra $20/person per day? Tell me how much sense that makes when you can get eggs, fruit and potatoes at The President for $6.99? That’s breakfast blasphemy! 

a smaller place in the main area is a better for maximizing time and money

Guests of this smaller hotel eat up yet another treat for both wallet and senses: Dozens of culinary options, in all price ranges, within walking distance. At our resort, to break up the monotony, the only thing we had to look forward to was the food, which was the same style and cost the same $24.95 a head. So, what would happen if we wanted a $3 bagel for breakfast? A $7 sandwich for lunch? A $2.50 scoop of gelato? Sorry! You’re stuck with a $6 cup of gift-shop Hagen Daas (in a flavor you haven’t eaten since the 90s)!

Speaking of gift shops, The President’s nearby convenience store would have been invaluable for diapers/milk runs, a piece of fruit, and  bottles of water that cost $1, not $1 million. And let’s talk liquor stores – crucial! A mini bottle of cheap wine was $12 at the resort. Options are IMPERATIVE when you’re on any sort of budget.

GUARUNTEED  BOREDOM

Lastly, the GROUNDS. The pool was okay but when you have kids, you swim for 20 minutes then it’s diaper change time and either they’re done or you are utterly fried from keeping them from drowning during that time. Same goes for the beach access; it’s convenient, for sure, but don’t let that be the deal-breaker when booking a smaller hotel, because any beach worth visiting also has a public entrance, and it’s usually in the cool part of town, which conveniently allows you to plan other activities around beach time. 

You’re probably shocked and saddened by this news that our ol’ resort fantasy is just that – fantasy. Our hotel was indeed easy on the eyes. Lounge chairs on the beach. Seemingly all the luxe amenities one would need. But there was nothing practical about it. And it felt impersonal. And repetitive. We got the greatest satisfaction (I.e. Keeping our toddler happy for the longest amount of time) by driving to the main drag and taking the baby into different shops and hotel lobbies and parks and cafes. In fact, our favorite day was when we left the hotel in the morning, came back midday for nap time (always plan your day in two halves with a toddler: pre- and post- nap!), then went right back to the main area. We pretty much avoided the hotel like the boring money pit it was. And I encourage any budget-minded traveler looking for economy of experience to do the same. 


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Green Travel Tips with Toddlers

   
When his favorite movie on the iPad isn’t doing it anymore (or you’re just too damn tired of Boxtrolls), reach into your big Ziplock bag full of toddler toys and games. In ours:
🐋100 animals book (it’s like a different book every time!)

😁chew toys for teething and boredom (Popsicle sticks, bottle dropper, toothbrush)

😶a few secondhand Weeble Wobble toys for play on the tray table

➕The following games: 

  
🛢 this is a #reused spice jar and some toothpicks. Great for #motorskills! I brought another kind of spice jar to switch it up when he gets bored of one.

  
🌰 then this is a reused, three-compartment cereal/formula dispenser. We got several sizes of pompoms so he could push into the spout. Kept him busy for 20 min! 

So far, so good on our #Miami flight!