Category: Kids

Flying the Family-Friendly Skies: Hawaiian Airlines With Kids

Flying the Family-Friendly Skies: Hawaiian Airlines With Kids

Last month was our second trip to Hawaii as a family of 4!

We are two adults, one 12 year-old, and one 21 month-old (who completed his 27th flight as a “lap baby” on this trip).

The Flights

We flew San Diego to Honolulu on the one daily Hawaiian Air flight available, which departs in the morning on an Airbus A330.

We did a cheap online bid for the lay-flat first class seats and didn’t get it. They offered it to us again at check-in for over $400 per seat, but we weren’t willing to pay that much for first class because it was a measly 6-hour daytime flight.

Instead we snagged bulkhead seats in premium economy (aka “Extra Comfort”) in the middle of the 2-4-2 seat configuration for $80 each. That worked out great, because we had easy access to the mid-plane galley for when Baby J decided to spend a good portion of the flight throwing up.

After a long layover, we took the 30-minute inter-island flight over to Maui. The island-hopper planes are all Boeing 717s or ATR 42 Turbopros or something similar. There was no reason to upgrade on such a small plane for such a short flight, so we stuck with basic economy.

The one daily direct flight from Maui to San Diego on Hawaiian Air is on an Airbus 321 (a smaller plane than the A330), and again we upgraded to premium economy. Pro tip: first class on HA’s A330 does not have lay-flat beds. Premium economy is a better bang for your buck by far. The homebound flight was just under 5 hours.

The Costs

Our total cost for all flights was $1,234.81. That’s for 3 “adults” and a “lap baby” flying on Saturdays during the peak spring break season.

You can read the full cost breakdown here, including the details of our annoying but ultimately cost-effective struggles with the Hawaiian Air Mastercard and rewards program.

Family Boarding

Families traveling with kids under 2 board right after the first class passengers.

The In-Flight Experience

Hawaiian Air knows their game. The island music is playing as soon as you board, the soap in the bathroom smells like coconut, and the cookies are shaped like pineapples.

The seats in premium economy were perfect for us with our “lap baby” because the cushions were wide and full enough that they made a sort of couch when the armrests were up. Baby J could sit between two of us in this manner and not have to be on anyone’s lap. Sky couch! Super comfy.

There was supposedly some in-flight entertainment available on the Hawaiian Air app (download before you board) but most of it cost extra as far as we could tell. We were locked and loaded with our own phones, tablets, and ipods, so we didn’t need to use it.

The harsh reality is that when flying with a toddler your entertainment often consists of starting at the flight tracker, willing the plane to move faster.

Hawaiian Air serves a hot meal even in coach on flights to and from the mainland, which is much appreciated in contrast to the “pay extra if you want food during domestic flights” attitude on many airlines.

They also served a complimentary rum-punch for adults and tropical juice for the kids an hour before landing.

There was ample diaper-changing space in the lavatories. Our fabulous crew was unfazed by Baby J’s need to puke every 90 minutes over the Pacific (and once right before we parked at our arrival gate). They swooped in like hawks with that anti-stink powder and biohazard bags every time it happened.

The Long Layover at HNL

One of the great things about morning flights from the mainland to Honolulu is that you arrive pretty early in the day. If you’re connecting to another island, you can take as little or as much time as you want between your inbound flight and your connection, since the island-hoppers to the popular airports take off at regular intervals all day.

There are not luggage lockers at HNL anymore, so plan accordingly.

We arrived around 1pm in Honolulu and booked our flight to Maui for 7pm so that we’d have time to show our boys Pearl Harbor.

If you are traveling with older kids or adults, you’ll probably want to spend more time there than we did (reserve your tickets in advance). In our case, a half-day was the perfect amount of time to be there with a toddler.

If you just have one or two things you want to see in the Honolulu area, consider a purposefully long layover to check them off your list. It makes for a very high-energy but very fun travel day.

The Plumeria Lounge

After our day out in Honolulu, we headed back to HNL for our inter-island flight and busted out our Priority Pass to grab snacks at the Plumeria Lounge.

The entrance to the Plumeria Lounge was buried under several layers of airport construction zones, but the inside of the lounge was clean, quiet, and uncrowded.

The lounge offerings would probably not impress you fancy first-class-only world travelers, but it had everything we needed in terms of food and drink and a space to relax.

We were the only family there, and everyone was friendly with the kids. It was a short and easy walk to our gate.


The short and sweet of it is: If you’re going to Hawaii with your kids, Hawaiian Airlines is a great choice.

Don’t bother getting their credit card. Do upgrade to premium economy for the extra leg room.

Hawaiian Airline’s safety record is excellent, their aircraft are nice, and their prices are competitive. They do a good job with customer service and family-friendliness, and you’ll arrive smelling like guava juice and plumerias.

Bon voyage!

Hacking Our Way to Hawaii (Round 2!)

Hacking Our Way to Hawaii (Round 2!)

We’ve been able to fly Hawaiian Airlines quite a few times – domestically and internationally, economy and first class – but it’s only in the last 12 months that we’ve flown HA with the kids.

The first trip to Hawaii with the kids was a wonderful week in Maui March of 2018, when Baby J was 9 months old. You can read here about the costs of the entire trip, as well as comparable costs if we had paid cash.

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Flying the Family-Friendly Skies: British Airways with Kids

Flying the Family-Friendly Skies: British Airways with Kids

If you’re wondering which airline has the best champagne selection or the highest thread count on their linens, this is not the post you’re looking for.

Our family travel style is very middle-of-the-road for international travelers. We fly in basic economy most of the time. Sure, we love a good airport lounge and we very occasionally spring for the lay-flat beds on nighttime flights. But we also are not “luxury” travelers. We don’t care about alcohol selection and don’t like to be checked on every 10 minutes. We do love getting from Point A to Point B without dreading our travel days, even if Point B is halfway across the world.

So here’s my review of British Air and our flights to and from Switzerland this year with our preteen C and our little toddler J.

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What Does it Cost to Take a Family to Switzerland?

What Does it Cost to Take a Family to Switzerland?

Joining Maui, Las Vegas, and Camano Island on our “2018 vacations we travel-hacked” list is Switzerland! This was my sixth time to Switzerland but my first time bringing kids along.

The Trip

Once again, we traveled at a peak time to a destination famous for being expensive. We were in Switzerland for 7 nights over the holidays, and also traveled overnight getting there and getting home – so we were away from home for 9 nights, 10 if you include the airport hotel the night before the trip.

We were mostly in the Berner Oberland, exploring Interlaken, Thun, Murren, and Grindelwald, with a brief visit to Zurich on our way home.

We had the obvious advantage of staying with friends for the majority of the trip, although this did not mean they footed the bill for all our food. In fact, we ate out almost every day and consumed as much local chocolate and cheese as we could get our hands on… which you’ll see reflected in our dining/grocery spending.

We also willingly took on the extra expense of premium economy and business class air travel, as well as three nice hotel stays to make our flight schedule more convenient. You could easily do Switzerland for less than this, particularly if you don’t mind flying in basic economy in the off season (and if you have the advantage of flying from closer than the west coast of the USA). You could also do this trip for a heck of a lot more.

Below is the cost breakdown for our trip, and as such the last of our spending for 2018. This is for a family of 4 during the ever-popular travel time of Christmas break.

(You can also check out our review of flying British Air with the munchkins and our tips for air travel with infants.) 

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Second-Hand Holidays: Why Our Kids Aren’t Getting New Stuff for Christmas

Second-Hand Holidays: Why Our Kids Aren’t Getting New Stuff for Christmas

There’s something about the prospect of getting new stuff that causes kids to go a little nuts around the holiday season. I’ve heard “You know what I want for Christmas…?!” approximately a thousand times since Halloween. And the answer to that question is not a single, simple item. Heavens, no. Long gone are the days when kids sent a hand-written letter to Santa asking for a jump rope. Kids are now making online “Christmas wish lists” on par with wedding registries, and plenty of parents are boldly crowdsourcing holiday shopping money “for the kids!”

We’re kind of over it.

Here are five reasons why my husband and I – despite loving the holiday season and having plenty of money available to spend on our little angles –  have all but nixed Christmas presents in our household:

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Our Adoption Announcement Letter

Our Adoption Announcement Letter

I wrote this almost four years ago, when we found out that we were likely to be adopting C from foster care. You can see all of my posts about foster care and adoption here

We completed a second adoption from foster care a few months ago  – and November is National Adoption month! – so it seemed like a good time to share this publicly. We didn’t include any photos in that original letter, but I have included some here just for fun.

If you are working on your own adoption announcement, feel free to use any of this that applies to you

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Hitting the Trail: 10 Tips for Endurance Racing as a Busy Parent

Hitting the Trail: 10 Tips for Endurance Racing as a Busy Parent

Any parent will be happy to explain to you at length that everything gets more complicated after you add kids to your life. This includes your fitness regimen. But instead of letting that fall by the wayside – and letting your physical, mental, and emotional health suffer as a result – it’s best to get back on that horse as quickly as you can.

For us, that looked like getting back out on the trails asap after Baby J arrived last year. He did his first hike with us around 4 weeks old.

Fast forward to right now: my husband and I just finished a respectably difficult trail race in the San Juan Mountains, with our kids cheering us on at the finish line. This was the third time we’ve done this race together and the second time since we’ve been parents.

me and my husband on a high alpine pass
The summit of the race – at over 13,100 feet!

You might be thinking: “That seems kinda cool but…Nah. They seem a little bit crazy, and I’m not even sure they have real jobs. Plus running just comes easily for some people. I might have done something like that before I had kids, but not now because I’m way too busy…”

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Tips and Tricks for Air Travel with Infants

Tips and Tricks for Air Travel with Infants

My husband and I travel a lot with our kids, one of which is pretty tiny. Apparently we don’t seem too beat up by it, because people keep asking us for advice on traveling with infants. Here’s what I’ve got:

Check Bags Like it’s Going out of Style

Most airlines allow strollers and carseats to fly free. We always check these at the ticket counter (although you can often check strollers at the gate too) and carry Baby the rest of the way. Call your airline to confirm policies on checked and over-sized items.

When flying with the kids, we like to pack everything we need and not worry about checked baggage fees (shout-out to Southwest Airlines, which allows us to not worry about them anyway).

I recommend you embrace the checking of whatever amount of luggage makes traveling with your kids easier. Your days of spending a month in Europe with one carry-on suitcase and a messenger bag are over, and that’s okay.

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“They’re Too Young to Appreciate It” & Other Objections to Traveling With Kids

“They’re Too Young to Appreciate It” & Other Objections to Traveling With Kids

Let’s take a well-deserved break from talking about houses and moving and house projects and money and dive back into the topic of travel!

As somewhat seasoned travelers who have now entered the life phase of family travel, we run into a fair number of objections to traveling with young kids (and even medium-sized kids):

“They won’t remember it.”

“They’re too young to appreciate it.”

“It’s too expensive to take the whole family.”

“The kids would rather just stay home and play (latest trending video game) anyway.”

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Traveling with Foster and Adoptive Kids

Traveling with Foster and Adoptive Kids

This is a topic I get asked about often, so I wanted to share this interview that I did in 2016. I have revised and updated it here. These pictures are all the real deal from our family travels, so forgive the blurriness, pixelation, and/or general low quality that you’ll see in some of them. That’s just cracker crumbs and sunscreen on the camera lens. 

First, tell us about you, your family, and your travels.

When I was little, my parents were very insistent about all of their kids trying new things and seeing new places. Sometimes that meant camping (usually in the rain) near our home in Washington, sometimes it meant trips across the country by train or plane to see family. As we kids got older, it included more difficult backpacking, biking, and skiing trips and then international travel and things like scuba diving and riding camels.

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