Medical Emergencies While Traveling

You are planning out your dream vacation: hotel is booked, adventures planned, restaurants scouted out, clothes packed. When putting your clothes in your suitcase, you usually plan for contingencies, right? A sweater in case it’s cool, a swimsuit in case there is a pool or beach, a nice outfit for dinner out. You never know exactly what is going to happen so you try to be as prepared as possible. What about when it comes to your health or accidents? How do you plan for that? Of course, we can never foresee an unexpected injury, or that cold that hits you right in the middle of your summer trip to the Bahamas.  But just like we prepare for foul weather, I recommend you always have in the back of your head what to do if someone decides to ruin your trip by going and getting sick on you!

Medical Emergencies While Traveling -

We are still in the middle of a less than stellar move from Newport, R.I. to Omaha, Nebraska.  Our housing plans completely fell through at entirely the last possible minute and we found ourselves homeless in our new town.  After some more house hunting we made the unplanned drive over to Denver to stay with Jen and her family while we wait for our home to be available.  It should come as no surprise to us that my 10 year old daughter would suddenly have an abscess appear below one of her teeth.  AGH!  What to do!?!

It can be incredibly stressful being in a strange area, out of your usual medical coverage area, trying to get in to see a doctor that you aren’t even going to be a patient of in the future. Our stress was compounded by the fact that we are getting ready to separate from our children as they continue their vacation with family.  This had to be fixed YESTERDAY.

I have taken many trips with and without children and here are my tips for how to cope with an injury or illness on the road:

  1. Give Permission for Medical Treatment in Advance: If leaving your children with other friends or family members while you (or they) vacation, write a letter that gives their caretaker permission to seek medical treatment.  Include your name, your kids’ names, the caretakers’ names, and be sure to sign it. Also leave a copy of your insurance card, allergies or illnesses and current physician’s contact information.
  2. Bring Your Insurance Cards: Always be sure to have access to your insurance information while traveling.
  3. Be Aware of Your Out of Network Policy: The last thing you want to worry about in an emergency is if you are making the right choice financially. Our medical insurance company had a webpage specifically geared toward what to do while you are traveling. Do try to be sure you make it to a provider that your insurance will allow, or you could be smacked with major bills later.
  4. ICE Contacts Stored in Your Phone: ICE (In case of emergency) contacts are vital in case you get hurt and are unable to call your emergency contacts yourself.
  5. Timing is Everything: Do not wait to see what happens. If there is a problem, whether accident or illness, take care of it ASAP.  It could develop into something so much worse and your issue could get out of hand faster than you imagine.
  6. Pack a Small First Aid Kit: I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to use antibacterial cream when someone gets cut while camping, or worse. Jen posted once about what to pack in a car first aid kit. Take a look and see if you are ready for the unknown!
  7. First Aid Kit - twokidsandamap.comStay Calm and Cool and Think With a Clear Head: Nobody will benefit if you are having an anxiety attack mid-emergency.

Have you had to deal with an emergency while traveling? Do you have any other advice to share?

An Open Letter to Hiking Trail Map Makers, Guidebook Writers and Website Owners

To the Hiking Trail Map Makers, Guidebook Writers, Website Owners and more,

We are fairly new to the hiking scene.

We moved from Northwest Florida where the hiking trails are mostly part of the state park system so they are well marked.  Now that we live in Denver, we have been hiking together as a family.

There is a lot to learn about hiking and hiking with kids.  My husband has section-hiked parts of the Appalachian Trail, so hiking isn’t new to him, but hiking together as a family is  much different.  You have to figure out what you need in your day pack.  You have to decide what to wear and what your children should wear.  You have to decide which hikes are really family friendly.  Hiking with kids is lots of fun but it can be lots of work.


Bring in the hiking trail maps, hiking guidebook writers, and hiking websites.

In theory, these should be very helpful.  They are for the most part but there is a bit of a learning curve.  You have to be able to read between the lines.  Here are some of the things we have learned.

Parking is limited.  Parking is limited sometimes means there are four spaces.  Like one. Two. Three. Four.  Sometimes it means there are 30 spaces but they are all taken by 9am.  Experience is the only way to figure out how limited it really is.

The trailhead address is not always correct.  Example 1: We typed in the trailhead address.  We drove to said trailhead address.  The trailhead was not there but was located about another mile away.  Example 2:  The website said the trailhead was on 15th and a cross street.  No…the trailhead was actually on 12th street.  Example 3:  See Example 1.

Turn the map.  Sometimes, you need to turn the map.  One would think that the map should be viewed the way it was written.  Recently, we went on a hike that had numerous trails off of one and none of them were marked at the crossroad.  The  trail markers were about half a mile in.  We thought we were taking one trail.  About half a mile in, we discovered that we had taken a trail we didn’t want to take.  Had we turned the map upside down, we would have taken the trail we had wanted.

Parking is not always at the trailhead.  Some trail maps and guidebooks leave out the part that the hike actually begins about a mile from the parking lot.  This isn’t that big of a deal if you are an adult used to hiking.  Unfortunately, when you have children, a mile might be all you were planning.  We did a hike recently where we were supposed to park in a parking lot of a high school.  Once parked, we traversed several hills trying to find the trailhead with no luck.  About a half a mile of walking, we finally found it.  By the time we found the trailhead, are kids were already exhausted.

0.3 miles is sometimes 0.9 miles.  Or 2 miles.  Just because the map says that portion of the trail is 0.3 miles doesn’t always mean it is correct.  We have found that state parks are usually pretty accurate but we have run into a few that are off.

Easy. Moderate. Difficult.  This decision is in the eye of the beholder.  What I find easy, might be found moderate by someone else and vice versa.  We have hit some trails that were marked easy but seemed quite rigorous to me.


There are ways to counteract some of these issues.

Buy a guidebook by a reputable hiking book publisher.  If you are hiking with kids, I highly recommend the Mountaineer Books.  Hiking with Kids Colorado has not steered us wrong yet and we have hiked about 8 of the 100 hikes so far.

Cross-check your original source.  After finding a hike that interests us, I immediately check our books and several websites.  Do the trailhead addresses match?  Is most of the information the same?

Do a blog search.  The easiest way I have found to search for blog posts about different hikes is to search Google (or your favorite search engine) for the hike name and blog posts.  For examples, search “Matthew Winters hike blog posts” and see what comes up.  I received a number of hiking blogs with descriptions of the hike, parking, and more.  This will give you a real person’s view of the hike.  They often share tips and tricks.  They also share things that worked for them and things that didn’t.

Have you had a trail map disaster?

This post is part of Travel Tips Tuesday with Suitcases and Sippy Cups and Walkingon Travels.

Skiing for Beginners: 6 Things to Know about Renting Ski Equipment

Renting ski equipment is a good option for beginners or people who are traveling and don’t want to haul their ski equipment with them.  After renting ski equipment from three different mountain resorts, we have learned a thing or two.


Bring your patience with you.  We have rented from slope-side stores, stores that are in town, small stores and large stores.  We have rented in the morning and the afternoon.  They are all run efficiently but they are crowded and there is only so much the employees can do.  Plan at least 45 minutes, though I would give yourself an hour) to rent your ski equipment.  Don’t show up ten minutes before your lesson and think you will be able to get equipment and go.  Each place has its own set up but you will likely begin at registration, then you wait to get sized for boots, then you get in line to get sized for skis, and so on.  Picking up your skis the day before you hit the slopes can help save some time but you might not be the only one with that idea.

Just say no to the Demo package if you are a beginner.  Unless you ski a lot and want to try them out,  you don’t need the Demo package.  It is a few bucks more and sounds like a lot of fun but these skis typically can not be just left on the ski racks when you take a break.  Most resorts ask that you store them with a storage place rather than the racks.  This can become inconvenient.

Helmets are not always included.  Most adult ski packages do not include helmets.  After taking a very rough tumble this weekend, I highly recommend that you add the helmet to the package.

Get the insurance for the equipment.  It is only a few dollars and then you just don’t have to worry.

Find out where you can return the skis.  Before you leave the rental place, find out where you can return the skis.  The day is long and you will probably be exhausted.  If you end up nowhere near the original rental location, you might be able to drop your equipment off at a different location.

Write down your sizes before returning your skis.  This can help you when you rent next time.  If you have your sizes, you can speed up the process and be sure you get a ski length that you like.

This post is part of Travel Tips Tuesday with Suitcases and Sippy Cups and Walkingon Travels.

Tips and Tricks for Hiking with Kids

My children will complain about walking from the back of the parking lot into the mall but they will walk for hours out in nature.  We are no strangers to nature walks, but we have recently discovered a love for family hiking. Since moving from Florida to Colorado, we have gone on a hike every couple of weekends.

My husband has section hiked the southern portion of the Appalachian Trail.  He has experience backpacking through the woods but never with children.  We have taken many nature walks but as we increase the mileage in our hikes, I am realizing that a nature walk does not a hiker make.

There are a number of things to consider when hiking with kids and we have learned a lot with our last few hikes.  Namely, that we still have a lot to learn.  Since I had so many questions, I turned to the family travel experts.  What should we bring with us?  How can I keep the hike entertaining for my kids?  Let’s face it.  Even I get bored sometimes on hikes.


How to Motivate Kids and Help Them Enjoy the Hike 

When we visited Roxborough State Park this weekend, the Visitor’s Center had walking sticks that you could borrow.  The kids were thrilled and felt quite grown-up.  It made me wonder why we haven’t gotten out my husband’s trekking poles from his Appalachian hikes.

Bret Love, from Green Global Travel, realizes that his daughter gets tired and bored easily on long walks.  To counter this, he plays a nature-based scavenger hunt where they make a list of all the trees, plants and animals that they want to see.  On the hike, Bret and his family are always on the look out to cross items off the list.

It is important to remember that hiking together as a family is fun.  Michelle Duffy, Wander Mom, says that you want your kids to associate hikes with fun and not pain.  She shares that it is worth it in the long run if you have to sometimes head back down before you reach the top.

Claudia Laroye, the Travelling Mom, says to start hiking when your children are young because the more interesting hikes when they are young, the more challenging terrain they will enjoy when they are older.

Claudia also points out that counting birds, insects and tree types can also be fun.    Our next library trip will include a visit to the Colorado section where I hope to pick up a bird watching book and an animal tracking book.  We might have to throw in a book about the local flora and fauna now!

Family Adventure Project say to make hiking not about the hiking but about something bigger.  I think this is so true because when we give our kids a challenge that has nothing to do with getting to the end of the hike, it makes it so the kids don’t realize how far we are walking.  While they were looking for something, we made it another 1/4 of a mile without even noticing it!


What to Bring with You

When I asked some of my hiking friends for tips to making a hike successful, one of the most popular tips was to bring snacks.  Lots of snacks.  If you are a parent, this is usually in your bag of tricks but there are ways to make getting the snacks fun.  Use the snack breaks and lunch break as a way to hike a little bit longer.  Okay…bribe them.  It works.

Even if a trail is well-marked, bring a trail map with you.  Make sure you have one for each child.  Both of my kids love to use a map to help guide us along the trail.

Road Trips for Families shares a post about teaching your children to enjoy hiking.  It has a number of great ideas like learning how to use a GPS and a compass together.  I especially like the suggestion about getting the kids pedometers.  My husband and I are wearing pedometers as part of a health insurance incentive.  The kids kept wanting to know how many steps we had taken during our hikes.  As soon as we got home, I promptly purchased them each a pedometer to wear.

Jamie Pearson suggests that you bring a digital camera that the kids can use to capture images of what they see.  Make a game of it and when the camera fun wears off, she recommends walkie-talkies.

We all know that duct tape comes in handy in many situations but hiking?  Adrienne Veglia Mazeau, an Albany Kid contributor, gives her kids an inside out duct tape bracelet to collect little things along their hike.

Duct tape bracelet. Photo used with permission from

Duct tape bracelet. Photo used with permission from Adrienne Veglia Mazeau

Know Your Child’s Limits…and Yours

Alyson Long, from World Travel Family, shared a time that she took her 8 year old son up a mountain to train for the Himalayas.  She ended up carrying him most of the way (which was still good training for her!).

It is important to know your children’s limits, but Keryn Means, of Walkingon Travels, says to make sure you know your own limits before you set out on a hike.  Make sure that you can carry your child back down the mountain you just hiked up if they have had enough.

On our last hike, we all used the restroom before beginning our hike.  My daughter had to use the restroom about 2 miles into our 3.3 mile hike.  She didn’t complain until we were almost back at our starting point but I could tell she was not happy.

Be sure to take regular breaks when needed.  They don’t have to be breaks where everybody sits down and rests.  Take a break and snap a picture of yourself on the trail.  It takes a couple of minutes to set up and snap the picture and you will have a great reminder of your adventure.


Celebrate the Finish Line

It doesn’t matter if the hike was half a mile or ten miles, celebrate at different points along the way and also at the end.

Know that the feeling of pride and accomplishment of completing the hike is just as important to the kids as it is to you.  I love this story that Mara of Mother of All Trips shared about how her son felt when they reached the top of the mountain on their Long Trail hike.

Elena Sonnino from Ciao Mom realized that she loved hiking as a great way for family to stay active together while she hiked the beautiful landscape of Cortina, Italy.  I wholeheartedly agree with her.  On our last hike, I was kind of lagging behind.  I had taken a picture and the family got ahead of me.  My 8 year old turned around and saw I wasn’t with them.  He stopped, waited for me and made sure I was okay.  Nothing makes my heart happier than seeing my children show compassion for others.


Little Ones Can Hike, Too

Nicole Wiltrout shares some ways to introduce hiking to your young children on Arrows Sent Forth.  She shares fun ways to get the kids excited and want to go.

Michelle Brennan says that if you are backpacking with a baby or toddler, make sure you have a quality comfortable pack.  I recommend that you test it out before taking a five mile hike with your little one on your back.  We learned that our pack was not very comfortable the hard way.

Kate Spiller, Wild Tales of…, shares some things she learned while on a hike through Seattle’s Discovery Park.  I love her tip about putting her sweatshirt hood on to help entertain her little one in the carrier.

Keryn Means shares some great tips about hiking when you are pregnant…something I know nothing about because I preferred the couch to the trail when I was pregnant!


Which hikes are good for kids?

There are so many hikes out there that are perfect for children.  For Christmas, I bought my husband a book titled  Best Hikes with Kids Colorado.  We have already hiked three of the 100 hikes in the book and hope to eventually hike them all.  Look for a book or hop on the Internet and do a search for hikes with kids in your area.

Amber Johnson shares a post on Mile High Mamas about Denver’s Best Hikes for Kids by Joy Opp.  The hikes are broken up in different categories like best for moms with new babies or best for little walkers.  We can’t wait to try the hikes listed here once the weather warms up.

Rocky Mountain National Park is another great place to take the kids hiking according to Sara Broers of All in an Iowa Mom’s Day.  You can hike, go fishing, and maybe even spot a coyote.  I hope to visit this park as soon as we can.

It seems the number of hikes in our new home city are endless.  Denver Parent shares that Matthew/Winters Red Rocks trail is  a great kid-friendly hike.

My husband and I have wonderful memories from our hike to Manoa Falls in Honolulu.  I know if we ever make it to Kauai, the Kalalau Trail will be on our itinerary.  Kate from Wild Tales of… shares her tips for completing this hike.

If you live in the Seattle area, see My Little Nomads list of ten hikes for families.  I love finding information written about hikes by people who have been there and done that.  This list includes the distance, time and terrain.  During our past few hikes, we have found that terrain is very important to pay attention to when choosing a hike.

One of our favorite hikes was when we hiked the Partnachklamm in Germany.  It was winter time, we were freezing, but the other-worldly landscape made it all worth it.

Jenny Lin points out that you don’t necessarily have to bring your little one in a carrier.  Some hikes are good for strollers.  She says that Biawang Shan in Beijing is a good hike for all sorts of hikers – beginner to advanced.

A hike that includes a waterfall is a great way to get children walking.  They can hear the water as they approach and a waterfall is a great payoff as Eden Pontz points out.  Her hike in the Dupont State Forest had great waterfall views (and a view of some of the Hunger Games film spots!).


The Rewards are Worth It

It may seem like a lot to hit the trails.  You need snacks and you have to carry water bottles.  Your child may have to go to the bathroom half way through the hike.  You may not make it to the top of the hill and see that view you really wanted to see.  All of that is okay because the reward of finishing that hike together as a family is worth it.  It is great for your family’s health.  I used to want to spend my Sunday afternoons taking a nap and relaxing after a long week.  Hiking together is how I want to spend my Sunday afternoons now.  Who knows, maybe we will be able to take the advice of Amy Whitley and take our kids on a backpacking trip soon.  She says that kids can absolutely participate in a multi-day backpacking trip.

Share your tips in the comments!

This post is part of Travel Tips Tuesday with Suitcases and Sippy Cups and Walkingon Travels.

Holospex Glasses at the Denver Botanic Gardens

Our visit to the Denver Botanic Gardens was full of fancy shimmering lights.  Alone, it was a beautiful display that captivated my children’s attention for almost two hours even though we were wandering through temperatures that we weren’t used to.  We were layered with hats, coats, gloves and, much to my surprise there were no complaints during our entire adventure.  I attribute the lack of complaints to the Holospex glasses that are available for purchase when you enter the gardens.  My number one tip for visiting the light displays at the Botanic Gardens is to buy them for your children.  You will be glad that you did!

The Holospex Glasses come in several choices.  We recommend the snowflakes and the candy canes.  When you look through the glasses, the twinkling lights are transformed into shapes.  I took these photos with my camera through the Holospex glasses.  They aren’t perfect, but I hope that it shows you a little bit of what you can see.


Giving my children these glasses added an extra hour to our visit.  Instead of whining about being cold or hungry, they were comparing glasses and what the different lights looked like.


The stars were my favorite!




*Thank you to the Denver Botanic Gardens for hosting my family during our visit to the gardens.

Travel Tip: 511 Traveler Information


This post could also be titled That One Time Tropical Storm Debby Almost Ruined My Florida Vacation.

Just like most summers, we Floridians sit and watch the Gulf of Mexico (and the Atlantic) churn up the tropical storms and hurricanes every year.  We don’t really worry in June.  We normally start to worry closer to August but not this year.  Mother Nature decided to remind us who is boss early in this hurricane season.

Tropical Storm Debby was a beast of a storm.  She was a large, slow moving storm and once she got near Florida she decided to hang out for a little bit while her outer bands wreaked havoc on pretty much the entire state.

As we watched the forecasts, one thing never changed.  TS Debby was going to be over practically the entire state during our massive Florida road trip.  The trip I had been planning for weeks.  The trip that was going to finally take me to Key West after living 15 years in Florida.

We decided to plan as if we were going on the trip, weather or no weather.  We packed up, prepared for a storm just in case Debby decided to turn, and got ready to leave.  The original plan was to leave Monday evening and drive through the night but we read in the newspaper that parts of I-10 (the Interstate we would be driving on for the better part of 6 hours in the dark of the night) were closed.  We decided to wait until daytime to leave.  While we were reading up on road closures, we just stumbled upon Florida 511.

Florida 511 is the free traffic resource of the Florida Department of Transportation.  You can call 511 to get traffic info but we had no idea they had a comprehensive website that was updated practically to the minute.  Not only do they list road and traffic updates on the site, but the updates are also tweeted out over Twitter.  You can choose to follow certain Interstates eliminating the noise you don’t need.

Throughout our very rainy drive, we followed the alerts on Twitter and the website to learn about the closures due to flooding or sinkholes.

Not traveling in the state of Florida?  Check 511: America’s Traveler Information to find an active program where you are traveling.

*Photo courtesy of Oregon DOT via Flick Creative Commons.

Packing Tip: Let the Kids Pack Their Own Bags

My children are five and seven and have been packing their own bags for the past two years. We would help my youngest but now even she packs her own bags, too.

Why should you let your kids pack their own bags?

Letting my children pack their own bags helps with a number of things. Packing goes much more quickly for me. I am not digging around their drawers to find what they will need. Also, there is no arguing on the trip when it is time to get dressed. They packed their own clothing so if someone complains about the clothing choices, I gently remind them that they packed their own bag.

My kids pack their own activity bags as well. Sometimes, we have a bag full of stuffed animals. On one trip, my son packed 25 Hot Wheel cars. One would think that they would bore easily but my kids don’t seem to complain about being too bored when they pack their own bags. They know what they brought and it is full of things that are important to them.  I also pack a bag with some new activities like fresh crayons, coloring books or sketch pads, new games, and more to surprise them during the trip but for the most part they are stuck with what they pack.

Let the kids help you pack but double check the items.

Don’t get me wrong. Although I let my kids help me pack, I still double check the items to make sure we don’t have fifteen skirts and one shirt for an eight day trip. I have both kids get ready to pack by telling them what to get. For example, I will tell them to get 8 shirts and bottoms that match. They go get the clothing and place it on our couch. Once both kids have finished, I send them in to get the next items. It looks a little like this when we are all finished.

Once we have all our items ready, I pack it in the suitcase myself to make sure it all gets packed.

How do your kids help prepare for a trip?

Preparing Your House Before Traveling During Hurricane Season

During hurricane season, June 1 to November 1, some people consider whether or not their vacation will be affected by a hurricane. We consider this as well but instead of wondering if a hurricane will disrupt our cruise or our beach trip, we worry about the possibility of having to race home ahead of a hurricane to take care of our house.

If you live in a hurricane zone, you know what I am talking about. We watch the Weather Channel on a 24 hour loop wondering if the hurricane is going to turn and head straight towards us. After going through Hurricane Ivan with a four week old, we make sure that we are prepared each year.  This also includes preparing our house when we travel out of town in case a hurricane is making its way that direction. Many of these tips work for most possible natural disasters or additional man-made issues.

  1. Before you go out of town, put a cup of water in each of your freezers and allow it to freeze. Put a freezer safe object (like a penny) on top of the ice and put the cup back in your freezer. If you lose power, the ice will begin to melt. Should your power go back on, you will see the item frozen in a new location and this will clue you in as to how safe your food is to eat.
  2. Bring in all of your outside toys. Right now, my backyard looks like a hurricane blew though it but it is really just my children’s mess. Some of those toys have the potential to become weapons in 75 mph winds.
  3. Secure the lawn furniture. This is something we are awful about. During one trip a few years ago, we had to have my mom go to our house and secure our furniture before the storm hit. We now try to remember to throw it in the shed or at least bring it close to the house.
  4. Do all the laundry. I am normally doing laundry right before a trip just to fill a suitcase but during hurricane months I try to keep up with the laundry so everything is clean when we go out of town. This ensures that we will have clean clothes even if we return to a house with no power.
  5. Let someone you trust know that you are going out of town so that he or she can be on standby. In some cases, your utilities will need to be turned off and it will be nice to have a friend at the ready. If you decide to stay away from your house, you will also want to have someone ready to check on your house in case you need to call the insurance company.
  6. Take a walk through your house with a video camera. Hurricane insurance is a tricky thing to deal with (trust us, we know!) and you will want proof of your belongings. Make sure that you have the time and date stamp turned on. Be sure to get close-ups of anything important to you like jewelry or antiques.
  7. Take stock of your hurricane stock. Do you need to go shopping for batteries or canned goods? If you are traveling in your car, you will be able to load up on supplies before you get back in town. If you are trying to beat the storm, you may not have time to get supplies or the stores may already be out. Making sure you are stocked up on supplies like water and canned goods before you go on vacation will alleviate some stress.
  8. If you are leaving a car at home while on vacation, make sure that the gas tank is full. If the pumps are down for several days or week, you will be glad you thought to fill the tank before you went out of town

Photo Courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory via Flickr Creative Commons