Checklist for flying with small kids

Blog 18-19 combo

In our 50% Chinese 50% American household, we often travel with our young kids to China.  We have taken some long international flights, for example, getting back to my wife’s hometown can take 25-35 or more hours door to door.  Through these experiences we have learned a lot.  So, for this blog post, I wanted to write down some of the tips and tricks of travelling with small kids internationally.  These tips are focused on our own experience with kids that are 1 year up to about 6 years old.  We won’t cover the obvious (like requesting the bassinet for kids under two) and this article will probably change and evolve over time as we travel more and kids get bigger.

1. Food

Food is the first item because it is the most important one.  Every time the plane takes off or lands, the pressure change inside the plane causes kid’s ears to hurt.  However, if you just give them something to chew on or swallow, that allows kids to equalize the pressure in their ears, and makes their inner ear comfortable.  The ideal thing is something chewy they can eat a lot of that will not fill them up.  We find that Gerber puffs are excellent for this; the kids can eat a ton of them and never get full.  Beyond this, single serve snacks are great (whether you prepare them yourself in ziplocks or buy single serves).  The types of things we bring are: Cheerios, raisins, rice cakes, stuff like this.  Single serve is super convenient because you don’t have to worry about spilling and the unwrapping of each item is an activity for the kids.  We actually have a backpack that is almost totally filled with food for kids on these longs trips.

2. Toys 

We also bring a small number of cheap toys.  Because we bring cheap toys, we don’t mind if they get lost during the trip (which will invariably happen). For example: hot wheels cars, small puzzle, a small LEGO box set, all are good.  The dollar store is perfect for picking up small and disposable toys for taking on the plane.  If they get lost, no problem.

3. Pen & Paper

We have found that simple art supplies go a long way with children. For example, small stickers are cheap and light and will keep little finger busy for a long time peeling and sticking stickers onto paper.  For crayons, it’s worth it to find and buy these triangular cross section crayons as shown below.  They are super handy on the plane because they don’t roll!

4. Games

We don’t like electronic games and iPad for kids. Maybe I will write a separate post on this topic. A deck of mini uno cards can keep kids busy for a long time. Uno is also good because it doesn’t matter if you lose some cards here or there, and two, three, or more people can play together.  We also like to pickup game books that have coloring, tic-tac-toe, word search, connect the dots, and other games inside.

5. Inside the airport

During layovers, we try to find a children’s area if they have one nearby.  If not, an excellent toy to play in some open space is an inflatable beachball.  This packs flat, weighs nothing, and after blowing it up, you can play all sorts of games with it.  It’s been a super helpful on all of our layovers and delays.

6. Medicine

You can and probably should bring all types of medicines along for kids, especially when travelling abroad and not knowing what you will be able to get your hands on, what dosages, etc. For our kids, a key must have on the place is something for their nose like Vaseline.  Our kids both get nose bleeds, and the dry air on the plane really exacerbates it.  I can write a future story about this . .. but for now, I would just recommend bringing Vaseline or Ayer for the nose.

7. Other helpful items

There are tons of other little things we have found very helpful, for example: babywipes (out of diapers and still using these) and clean empty ziplock bags.  Ziplock bags are super helpful for when you kids takes two bites out of that apple and is full, you can just pop it in a bag and save it for later.

That’s it!  What types of tips do you have for travelling with kids?  Please let me know in the comments!


1)食品。食品是第一个因为食品是最重要的。每一次飞机起飞或者降落的时候,压力变化让孩子的耳朵痛了。如果给孩子们吃喝东西,可以降低对孩子耳朵的压力。让他们耳朵舒服。大多他们需要一些东西咀嚼和吞咽。我们发现小宝贝的饼干是最好的。Gerber的泡芙饼干是我们最喜欢的,因为很好吃,吃很多也不会吃地很饱。我们也带很多小吃。我们觉得分开装很方便,可能买或者自己准备:葡萄干,Cheerios, 米饭糕,等等 … 所有的小吃多很好吃。我们准备好的小吃放在食品背包里面。

2)玩具。我们也带一些便宜的玩具。因为带便宜的玩具,所以我们不担心玩具弄丢。例如: 小车,小拼图,小乐高积木(LEGO)盒子,都可以。你可以在两元店买很多便宜的玩具带到飞机上。如果玩具弄丢了没关系。




6)药.  你可能带很多种孩子需要用的药。对我们孩子们最重要的是凡士林(Vaseline)。在飞机上空气很干。我们的孩子们经常鼻子出血,所以我们总是带一些凡士林(Vaseline)放在鼻子里面,保护他们的鼻子别太干了。

7) 其他物品。例如:婴儿湿巾, 纸巾, 自封袋,都很方便。我们孩子们吃一般的苹果吃饱了,我们会放在自封袋里,等一会儿孩子饿了想吃了。可以从自封袋里拿出来给他们继续吃。这样可以别浪费食物。


Hold it right there!

Blog 17


I have always wanted to be a dad and have kids to raise. I can remember even as a small child planning things I would do with my own children. I guess I just like to plan ahead!


However, some things you cannot plan for. For example I never planned for the situation I had last week with my six year old son. You see, normally, my wife takes the kids to school in the morning and I pickup in the afternoon. My wife had some work training, and so I was taking kids to school all week.


Monday, it was a bit crazy, and everyone was late. Tuesday was a little better, but I was still late getting to work. Wednesday the same. By Thursday morning, I am pretty frustrated.


It is a situation any parent can identify with. I was pointing my finger at my kids and saying “you guys had better eat and I don’t want to be late to work again!” In that moment, I was frustrated and my tone of voice was not good. I had had enough.

这个情况所有的父母都可以理解。我指着我的孩子说:“你们最好吃早饭,你们不要再让我迟到了!“ 在那时候,我很沮丧,语气也不好。我受够了。

Suddenly, my six year old holds up hand. He looked me right in the eyes and with a calm voice said “Hold it right there Dad. What is more important to you…” then he held out his two little hands, palms up, like a scale.



He then said “What is more important to you Dad, being late to work … or … having a family where everyone loves you?”




This is either the most clever or the sweetest kid ever (maybe both). In all my planning, I never imagined such delightful children.


Beijing 798 arts district

Blog 16


798 is a cool area I visited recently while in Beijing. You can read about my other adventures here.

798 used to be a military factory, one of the biggest in China. The buildings there were designed by a German designer and have a cool industrial look to them. The top of each building section is curved with big windows which lets the light in. The whole place is now divided up into many studios, cafes, and shops.

Beijing 798

Beijing 798

I shared in a previous post about the Hyundai gallery. They also have a neat air filter display which was titled “Cleanest air in Beijing.” It consists of a large glass walled air filter system with five filtration stages. It also included a long video screen showing different colored dots representing sensor data on measured pollutants flowing into the air filter system from outdoors. Cool!

Beijing 798 cleanest air exhibitMultistage air filterParticle counter display

We also saw the beautiful sculptures of cast metal shown below.

798 arts district

Crafts people are also selling various goods, including these neat sounding and colorful steel drums.

Steel drums

All in all, a bit commercial, but worth a visit I think.








Blue skies in Beijing and the power of deciding.

Blog 15


One of the most interesting things about my recent trip to Beijing was the sky – totally blue skies! Unbelievable! In the past, every trip to Beijing meant me getting sick from the pollution. Why are the skies blue now?

Back in November the Chinese government banned coal burning for all areas around Beijing. Just like that, the terrible pollution problems of Beijing are solved. This is one of the most amazing things about the Chinese government. When they make a decision to change something, it changes immediately. It is unbelievable. I don’t think any other large country in the world can make changes like this.

Another good example: I remember about 10 years ago, both China and USA both said they were going to invest in high speed rail. USA debated and talked about how and where to build rail, whereas China got to work building. China now has 25,000 km (16,000 mi) of high speed rail connecting the entire country built over 10 years. How much does the US have? In the US we have zero.

That’s the characteristics of a decisive government. It can be a good thing or a bad thing but you are guaranteed things will happen.





Stone lions at Forbidden City

Blog 14


I was revisiting all the big sights on my recent trip to Beijing, including the Forbidden City.

The Forbidden City has lots of dragons, but I like the guardian lions as shown in the picture above best. There are usually a pair of them guarding various palace entrances. And once you see them, you will begin to notice them all over Beijing, bronze lions and stone lions. One has a ball under its paw and the other looks like it is crushing a baby lion. Looks pretty scary. What are they? What do they mean?

The first lion is a male, and has his paw resting on top of a ball or sphere.  That is supposed to represent the yang male force and the paw on the ball represents dominance of the world. The second lion is a female and has her paw resting upon or restraining a child lion cub. This is supposed to represent nurture and the female yin force.

There is a famous Chinese tongue twister about stone lions

四 是 四 , 十 是 十 , 十 四 是 十 四 , 四 十 是 四 十 , 四 十 四 只 石 狮 子 是 死 的。

Pronunciation: sì shì sì, shí shì shí, shí sì shì shí sì, sì shí shì sì shí, sì shí sì zhī shí shī zì shì sǐ de.

Translation: 4 is 4, 10 is 10, 14 is 14, 40 is 40, 44 stone lions are dead.

Can you see why it’s difficult for foreigners to learn Chinese?





Going for a short run

Post #13


We took a trip to Washington DC this week with the kids. Actually, we stayed in Rockville, which is where we first met while working at NIST. You can read more funnies about that elsewhere on my blog.

One time while we were dating Huiqing decided she wanted to go and run with me. I though that she understood that I am a long distance runner. Typically, I will go running for 3-10 miles (5-16 km) for a short run. I told her we could meetup to run a short route out of NIST and through a park and back. The next day, we met up in the parking lot of her building at NIST. She was a bit overdressed for the warm weather, but excited and enthusiastic to go running. NIST is a big place 578 acres (3508 mu) so we had some distance to travel just to get to the perimeter fence. I said “OK let’s go” and she sprinted across the parking lot ahead of me.

I caught up to her and she seemed pretty satisfied with herself and had a big smile. “You run pretty fast” I said, and she laughed and sped up even more. “Take it easy, we are not even to the gate yet” I said. After that, she went into her top speed towards the exit gate.

We exited NIST and started up the hill to go to the park, which is where the run would actually begin. Going up the hill, Huiqing was really slowing down a lot. I slowed down and fell back to let her catch up to me. What she said, I will never forget. She said between deep gasping breaths:

“I …

have …

made …

a …

terrible …


I don’t think she really realized how far the run was going to last and she was totally exhausted from the top speed running. I put my hand on her back to help her up the hill and we slowed down the pace of running considerably to make it to the park entrance. And then we just enjoyed a nice walk through the park and back to NIST from there.

My wife is still a very competitive person, but now she understands how to pace herself better.



NIST是一个大的地方578英亩(3500亩)所以我们需要跑一点的距离到周边围栏。我说“好,做吧”她突然跑了很快在我前面出了停车场。我赶上了她。她似乎对自己很满意脸上露出微笑。我说了“你跑步真快“然后她笑了也跑得更快了。我说了“放松,我们还没有出去大门!” 她再一次在我的前面,现在她用最快的速度短跑。


“我 . . .

犯了. . .

一个. . .

很可怕的 . . .

错误 . . .“




Flower pepper

Flower peppers

Blog #12


A mutual friend introduced my wife and me while we were working at a government lab NIST. She always liked to share her Chinese culture with me. One night we went out to eat Chinese food. The menu had a spiciness scale for their dishes:

* : Spicy

** : Very spicy

*** : Extremely spicy

# : Numbing

“#? Numbing? What is that?” I though. That must be super spicy!

A few weeks later, this Chinese girlfriend brought me a real Chinese lunchbox that she had cooked herself. How romantic!

In our large NIST cafeteria maybe there are a few hundred people eating lunch and two microwaves to heat up lunchboxes. So, typically, there is a lot of waiting for the microwave.

My wife (girlfriend at that time) brought me a hot lunchbox and went back to heat up a second lunchbox. She told me to start eating and let her know what I thought. I opened the lid of the glass lunchbox and the steamy rice and veggies looked pretty good. There was a spice scent inside I did not recognize and so I started eating. About the fourth or fifth bite, something inside my mouth stuck me like a needle. I stopped chewing. Was it a piece of broken glass? What was this sharp thing? I spit out the food into a napkin. Then, my mouth started becoming numb. It felt like a dentist had given me a shot of anesthetic. I must be having some kind of food allergy! I stood up to find my girlfriend (wife) and she was already on her way back with lunchbox #2. I said “something is wrong, there was a sharp thing in the food, and now my mouth is going numb”. She just said “yes, that’s flower pepper.” At this point I still don’t know what flower pepper is, so I am still pretty worried.

I said – “I don’t know what is happening to me, my mouth is going numb.”

She said again, “oh, that’s just flower pepper. It is a little numbing”

“Numbing?” I asked “The food is numbing?”

Fun fact: Numbing is a hard word to say in English when your mouth is numb.

And then she added “maybe I added too much? I don’t really know how to cook with it.”

Well, it turns out I survived the flower pepper. She showed me what the flower peppers look like and it turns out about 1/5 of the dish was flower peppers. Some of them when dried can be quite sharp! All in all I learned that flower pepper is actually numbing, and that dried flower pepper can be quite sharp. And that Sichuan people are pretty bold.

You can read more about this spice here:


* 辣

** 很辣

*** 非常辣

# 麻辣

“#?” “麻辣?” 我觉得很怪,不懂它的意思。应该是非常非常辣的。







我战胜了花椒。她给我看花椒是什么, 我发现我的盒饭差不多五分之一都是花椒。总之,我学会了,花椒菜真的很麻。花椒干可能刺你的嘴巴。我也学到了四川人可能很大胆。