10 tricks to ease ear pressure pain on airplanes


Flying can cause scary ear pain for some kids. Photo via Phillipimage.

Most of us have experienced ear pressure pain on airplanes at one time or another, a condition called “ear bartotrauma.” Some people are more susceptible to the changes in pressure and altitude, but kids are especially vulnerable because their ear tubes have not fully matured. Kids are also at a disadvantage because they don’t know quite how to deal with unrelenting pain and discomfort which can be frightening for children. The inability to clear the middle ear may leave your child with symptoms ranging from the feeling of cotton stuck in their ears to sudden sharp and unrelenting painful jabs felt deep inside the ear.

Here a few tips to helps kids equalize their middle ears, ease ear pressure pain on airplanes and minimize the chance of bartotrauma:

1. Yawn and/or swallow

2. Chew gum upon take off and landing

3. Drink plenty of fluids

4. Give your child an anti-inflammatory, like ibuprofen (consult your child’s pediatrician first)

5. Try the Valsalva maneuver where a child pretends like they’re sneezing while holding their nose (like something smells) and keeping their mouth closed. Another way of explaining this is to ask your child to take a breath and hold it and then exhale while holding their noise.

6. Don’t allow a child to fly if they are extremely congested, have a cold or a sinus infection

7. Wake children before landing

8. For babies, offer a pacifier, bottle or breastfeed

9. Take children’s decongestant 30 minutes before a flight (consult your child’s pediatrician first)

10. Use specially designed children’s earplugs, designed to regulate air pressure. These also have the added benefit of reducing noise in the cabin.

A question that often arises from sufferers of this excruciating ear pain on flights —  is the condition dangerous and can it cause permanent damage? According to WebMD, it is very rare that clogged ears from airplanes will require any medical attention. Most people are able to equalize their ears or allow nature to take its course with ears eventually popping on their own. In some cases the buildup of pressure in the ear may rupture the eardrum, but even in those cases, most the time the ear heals on its own. According to the National Institute of Health, see a doctor if a rupture is accompanied by dizziness or ringing in the ear.

March 29, 2015 |

Five Free Activities For Kids

Sometimes you can find a spot where you can get so close to being underneath a plane, you can actually see the reflection of buildings and nature on its underbelly. Photo via Dough/Flickr Commons.

Sometimes you can find a spot so close to a plane that you can actually see the reflection of the ground in the plane’s underbelly. Photo via Dough/Flickr Commons.

As admission prices to attractions go up and up, parents are constantly on the lookout for free activities for kids.

Sometimes parents run out of ideas when it comes to a weekend excursion with the kids. Like writer’s block, it can be difficult to keep up the creativity and resourcefulness when trying to come up with new ideas. You have to think outside the box in order to come up with fun and unusual outings that don’t break the bank. Our KidOp team has come up with some great free activities for kids to provide some much needed entertainment at some uncommon spots.

1. Pet Store/Animal Shelter

Pet stores are free and offer tons of stimulating sights and sounds. Pick a store that has birds, fish, ferrets and more. Set expectations before going to a shelter, and present it as a learning experience and place to interact with animals who might be lonely unless you want to come home with an extra mouth to feed. Better yet, find out if the shelter offers any parent/child volunteer opportunities.

2. Airplane Spotting

Nothing compares to the excitement or rush of being right underneath an airplane as it takes off or lands. In fact, plane spotting has become something of an organized hobby and kids will be stimulated by sights and sounds as they experience the underbelly of airplanes seemingly just feet above them. Some secret locations offer the best views of overhead airplane spotting in take off and landing. Spotters Wiki is dedicated to giving folks the best scoped out locations for maximum viewing experience.

3. Hotels

Take a trip to your nearest large city and take a tour of area hotels. Hotels can offer children a whole new place to explore with escalators, fountains, elevators and various lobbies offering all kinds of hidden gems. Stick to the larger, busier hotels, where you’ll blend in as a guest.

4. Library in another town

Pick a library in a town or city within driving distance that you’ve been curious about. While the kids may not be able to check out books, most children’s sections offer games, computers and activity areas. We’ve found this activity is best combined with finding a park in that area so when the kids get bored, you can shuffle them to a new park in a new place.

5. Scavenger Hunt

Stay local or take a little drive somewhere new and break off into teams for a family scavenger hunt. Offer a prize or print off an award certificate here to give to the winners. For preschoolers, you can print off a picture scavenger hunt list here. For older kids, it’s easy enough to just make a list in a Word document and print it. Some ideas are: pine cone, 2 pieces of litter, a coin, a business card from a local shop, a leaf, a piece of bark, a rock, something blue, something red, a weed, etc. You can also do a picture scavenger hunt for those families with smart phones. If you’d rather not think before this exercise, here’s a Pinterest page with tons of scavenger hunt ideas.

January 19, 2015 |

Top 10 road trip games for kids

Road trip games make long drives more fun and get the kids to cooperate

Road trip games make long drives more fun and get the kids to cooperate. Photo via Nancy Beaton Flickr Commons.

Keeping kids occupied during long road trips with road trip games can save your sanity.

Long road trips have left us wondering why car manufacturers haven’t thought of putting Plexiglas barriers between the front and back seat, suggesting it would be a boon for business as they tap into the trials and tribulations of exhausted and exasperated parents enduring long drives with their children.

While we quite enjoy taking in the sights and scenery of long stretches of open road, kids aren’t always as impressed. Between bathroom breaks, bickering, fighting for leg room and drained electronics, it can get frustrating and push the limits of everyone’s patience. Fortunately there is a way to make time go by faster and keep your children entertained in a way that engages the entire family — road trip games!

Here is a list of our top 10 favorite road trip games:

I-Spy: There are several variations of this game, but our favorite is to pick something (try to pick items that repeat themselves along the way, such as road signs), name the color and then give a clue with the letter the item starts with. For example, if you spot an orange construction cone, you might say, “I spy something orange that starts with a C.” You can increase or decrease the challenge depending on the age level.

Road Trip Bingo: This bingo road trip game is an app children can play on their handheld device or tablet. The cost is $.99, but provides hours of entertainment. The graphics on the virtual bingo card are easy enough for children as young as 5 years old. Families can play together as partners or against each other. If playing in groups, a child can name off one of their bingo squares, such as a horse or an airplane, and when she or her partner finds it, the child simply touches the virtual bingo square which places the virtual bingo chip.

For Apple users, visit iTunes store for Roadtrip Bingo. There’s a similar app for Android available at Google Play.

License Plate Game: Try to find as many out of state license plates as you travel along long stretches of highways or expressways. (Obviously this works the best on heavily trafficked interstates.)

Alphabet Game: A player starts off with the first letter of the alphabet and chooses a theme for that letter, such as food or TV shows and then each member of the family must go around and say a word under that letters theme, using the letter of the alphabet that the theme is under. The first person who cannot come up with something loses the game.

For example, player one says, “My theme is food and my letter is “A” — “A, apple.” The next person would also use “A” and might say “A – apricot”, the third “A – almond” and so on. After the first round is done, the next person gets the letter “B” and chooses a theme. Go clockwise or by age, but family members must take turns with picking the next letter and theme.

The Shopping Game: A player starts and pretends they’re going shopping. They say out loud what they are buying and why. For example, the first player may say, “I am going to store and buying juice because I’m thirsty.”

The next playing then repeats what the first player has said, but adds their own shopping item and why they are buying it. So, player number two must add to the shopping list. Player two must say, “I am going to the store and buying juice because I’m thirsty and a tire because mine is flat.”

The next player must recite the previous items and why they were bought and add onto it. So, player three would say, “I am going to the store and buying juice because I’m thirsty and a tire because mine is flat and laundry soap because my shirt is dirty.”

The first player who forgets an item on the shopping list loses.

Hot or Cold: (2 players) One player selects an item in the car and describes something very general about it, such as “the item is blue.” The other player keeps asking only yes or no questions and then tries to guess the item that player one is thinking of. As the other player lists items, the first player tells them if they are “hot,” “cold,” “warm,” or “freezing” depending on how far away they are from the item that player one is thinking of.

Twenty Questions: A player picks any item in the world and then the other players asks them a question (or questions) to figure out what the person is thinking of. Players can ask only yes or no questions such as “Is it a person?” or “Is this something you can buy at the mall?” etc. Younger children may need additional questions, so you can up the number of questions according to your children’s ages.

Letters or Words on Palms: A player asks another player to close her eyes and stick out their hand so their hand is completely flat, with their palm up. The other person then uses their finger to write a word (for younger children you can write a letter or number) and the person has to guess what was written on their hand.

Name that Tune!: Each player hums the chorus of a song they know and the other players have to guess what it is.

The quiet game: Admittedly, this road trip game is more for the parents than the kids. When you’ve had enough of the games for the time being and want to bask in some silence, ask your children who can go the longest without speaking or laughing. This game works a lot better with incentives, such as a treat or a prime seat position in the car after the next pit stop. Of course, since this is all in good fun, parents must expect that this game will likely result in roaring laughter and silliness in record time.

Do you have a favorite road trip game of your own? Share it with us in the comments!

January 10, 2015 |

Airport security for families: What you can and can’t bring on a plane



For seasoned travelers, the question of what you can bring on a plane (or through the TSA security checkpoint at an airport) might seem a bit pedestrian, but for those of us who are like me and travel by plane once or twice a year, I always have to do an Internet search of the TSA rules in order to determine what is allowed past security.

Every time I travel, I find myself always second guessing whether I can bring on aerosol cans. I think back to the 80s — surely I never left my Aqua Net Super Hold grounded on a Formica vanity, or did I? Are aerosol cans allowed on a plane today? Were they ever allowed??

To find the answer, I consulted my handy dandy TSA list of prohibited items.

“Fun” Fact: Things you can check in your suitcase but didn’t know it —  brass knuckles, an axe, hatchet, bow and arrow, saber, meat cleaver, ammunition, swords and firearms. (Who knew?)

And yes, you can bring aerosol cans as long as they are limited to personal care items and/or toiletries.

About four years ago, apparently after living under a rock since the Aqua Net days circa 1986, I saved all my toiletry buying for my vacation destination so I figured this time I’d do the same. Upon arriving, I stocked on FULL size shampoo, body wash, mouth wash, eye makeup remover etc. I figured, I’ll just throw these in my carry on upon my return — waste not, want not, right? Well, surprise, surprise, I was stopped by the TSA upon my return home reminding me just what a flying novice I am. The TSA agent could hardly believe that I was that ignorant. The only thing that saved me from further inspection and scrutiny is that I quickly said, “Oh, shoot. I never fly and completely forgot about that rule. Dump it all. Throw it out.” With a raised eyebrow, the TSA agent threw out about $30 worth of toiletries waiting for a reaction, which was grab my purse in embarrassment and hightail it to my gate.

This story is meant to remind families of the 3-1-1 rule.

I would have been fine if I had bought travel sized toiletries. You’re allowed to bring 3.4 ounces of liquid per container (100ml) or less. The travel sized bottles must be in a quart size clear plastic zip lock bag of which, you can must fit all your liquid toiletries in this one quart sized bag (hence the 3-1-1 rule). Got that? One quart sized clear zip lock with all the 3.4 oz. toiletries you can fit into it. That’s it. The TSA suggests that if you’re in doubt, just check the liquid items in your checked bag and be done with it. You can even bring full size liquid toiletries in your checked back, although I wouldn’t recommend it given that you’re liable to have a hot mess on your hands if the liquid leaks out on your other items.

Breast milk and formula (and liquid prescription medication) are exempt from the 3-1-1 rule, however, the TSA recommends that families only bring enough pumped breast milk or baby formula to get them to their destination. The TSA also required travelers to declare they have pumped breast milk or baby formula in excess of 3.4 ounces before they go through screening. Travelers must also let TSA agents know if they don’t want their breast milk or baby formula x-ray’d, however, if a traveler declines an x-ray inspection, the traveler may have to separate the breast milk or baby formula out into smaller containers in front of TSA agents.

While adults have to take their shoes off before entering the screening station or metal detector, children under 12 are given special consideration.

Here is a helpful list of dos and don’ts especially geared towards families and children:

Shoes: Children under 12 don’t have to take off their shoes!

Children’s blankies, teddy bears and comfort items: These items will be x-ray’d. Please let your child know that their special comfort items will have to go on the conveyor belt and be screened.

Other family items that will need to go through conveyor x-ray machine: Strollers (fold down and take all items out of pockets and underneath storage area and place in plastic bin by conveyor), backpacks, baby carriers, car seats and baby slings. For items that cannot fit through the conveyor, please let a TSA agent know so that they can inspect the item manually and hand off to an agent on the other side of the imaging machine.

All children who are able to walk are asked to go through imaging machine or metal detector on their own. Babies and toddlers may be carried.

Parents, please note: If a TSA agent asks your child to be screened alone or asks your child to to anything that would cause the child to be separated from you, the parent or grandparent, please ask for a supervisor as this is a violation of their policy.

If your child has disabilities which would inhibit their ability to comply or if your child is in a wheelchair, notify a TSA agent. TSA agents may perform a manual pat-down if a child cannot be removed from wheelchair. If child can be removed from wheelchair, it is your responsibility to remove the child without assistance.

Also of note: If a baby is carried through a metal detector in a sling, additional visual and/or physical screening may be required.

A fun video is available on the TSA website, especially designed for younger children to help explain the process of the TSA airport security process in a way that children will understand.

Finally, it can take upwards of 90 minutes to get through busy airport security checkpoints so leave yourself an ample amount of time to get to the airport before your scheduled flight so make sure your phone is charged in case your kids need something to do while waiting.


September 28, 2014 |

Bed bugs and hotels — how to avoid nasty pests when traveling

Where bed bugs might lurk. Photo via Christian Kitazume.

Where bed bugs might lurk. Photo via Christian Kitazume.

Bed bugs can completely negate that great deal you found on that hotel, and makes you question hotel sanitation.

One of the most anxiety inducing fears when traveling with children is the prospect of bed bugs. Gross!

But cheap hotels aren’t the only culprits. Bed bugs are notorious hitchhikers and even the most obsessive person can fall victim to unknowingly transporting the nasty critters to a hotel bed if someone has been sleeping in various hotels during a road trip which happened to be infested with the parasites.

Bed bugs are not only a nuisance, in rare cases they can cause skin rashes and allergic reactions but are otherwise pretty harmless.

Here are ways to minimize possible exposure and possible cohabiting with the nightmare insects who feed primarily on blood:

Before you leave on your trip:

1. Look up bed bug reports by state on (warning: home page contains graphic photos) or to find out what previous guests have to say about their experience with beg bugs, if any.

2. Google the following HOTEL NAME+city, state+”bed bugs” and read guests reviews and their experience with bed bugs at specific hotels. Keep in mind however, that some guests may believe there are bed bugs when there’s actually not (maybe they have an ax to grind or mistook a harmless bug for a bed bug) or the problem has been solved since the guest stayed there. Even the nicest hotel can fall victim to bed bugs but the problem can usually be corrected in the matter of days in a  hotel that takes such matters seriously and as most chain hotels do.

3. Download Roscoe’s bed bug tips app to guide you in your bed bug examination upon arrival to your room.

Upon arrival to your hotel room:

1. Keep luggage outside your hotel room until you’ve had a chance to check the room and give it an “all clear” stamp of approval.

2. Bring a flashlight to check mattress and frame.

3. Most bedbugs are found within 10 to 15 feet of the bed, so upon arrival, immediate check under the phone, under the alarm clock, under chair and sofa cushions and under the bed, including piping and box spring. Also look behind picture frames. Bed bugs look like tiny reddish brown seeds (think apple seed, but smaller) on linens and under mattresses. Tiny black spots that look like pen dots may indicate bed bug excrement. (We know, ewww.)

4. Keep Luggage elevated to prevent roaming bed bugs from other rooms from hitching a ride as they possibly travel through your room.

If you suspect bites (bites are usually three in a row in a straight line and can cause red welts):

1. If you find bed bugs, report it to the front immediately, ask them what their bed bug remediation policy is and ask them to set you and your family up in a room they’ve inspected and is at least 2 rooms away from the infested room.

2. Put all clothing in tightly sealed plastic bags and do put clothes away or set inside home until washed in hot water. Empty clothes into washing machine, wash on hot, dispose of bag outside, away from home. (This is probably a good habit to get into regardless.)

If you’ve confirmed you’ve picked up some unwanted guests:

1. Call a pest control specialist. This is not a DIY project, it’s the job for a professional.

2. Buy The Bed Bug Survival Guide and wash everything you own in hot water.


September 1, 2014 |
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