I’m no expert on this, but I’ve gleaned wisdom from other mamas and then had a few train wrecks of my own, here are some ideas that have helped us during travel.
Let’s start with this, I don’t think humans are designed for international plane travel and even the best get GRUMPY, parents and kids. When I am traveling, I get uber-annoyed at people treating kids as a huge nuisance to their traveling plans. I may have lost my cool more than once at belligerent passengers.
Anyone who travels with kids should get a medal, huge and made of chocolate and cheez-its and lollipops. It wouldn’t have to fit in the suitcase because it’s consumable and would keep everyone quiet because their mouths would be full, including other grumpsters around. Anyone who makes it to their destination, customs, immigration and baggage claim with a smile on their face also can have one of these medals.
Uncle Jeffy dropping us at the airport before a domestic flight
Ways to Minimize the Chaos That Is Traveling With Kids:
Some of these tips may only be helpful in international travel, others for domestic too.
First, an addition. How could I forget this one? Pray. Pray. Pray.
Pray to find the humor because you can either laugh or cry. :)
Dress yourself and your kids comfy and practical. Comfy doesn’t have to be frumpy but if you have to run or end up hauling your kids, or go through security after security, I am always so glad we went simple and something that doesn’t constrict them, especially if they have to sleep on flights. I usually skip outfits with belts or shoes I have to do more than slip on because security is a crazy place and getting the girls through it (jon follows through with all the stuff) is a win in our family.
Ask your kids to always be touching you or a suitcase, when you are moving through lines, securities or rushing through airports. They are big places with so many people.
Pack as light as you can entertainment wise and keep it simple. Depending on the age of your child and flight lengths, airport stays, probably just do one small backpack. The temptation is to load that thing full and have them wheel a cute little carryon, but the reality is that after exhaustion hits or your kids bump into so many people that you take their suitcase pulling privilege away, you end up with all of it. I forgo a backpack and when the girls can’t even muster enough effort up for their little packs, I either stack them on my suitcase or swing them over my shoulder.
When you are packing, think, “Am I capable of hauling all my stuff, their stuff and possibly a child in my arms?” If not, you may want to scale down.
Ideas to put in that little backpack:
-Crayons (keep crayons in a small tupperware so they can set it beside them in the seat and have easy access to all colors without dropping crayons all over)
-Any small favorite doll or stuffed animal. It helps our girls so much to have something to take care of when they are beside themselves, it gives them a greater purpose. :)
-Water bottle-Each girl has one and the flight attendant will fill these up for us. We get super dehydrated so it is nice to have more than a cup full and it takes all pressure off if they bump their tray and their drink falls.
-Something they have never seen before. If you have a lego-responsible child, maybe a small new lego set. If you have lego-dumpers, skip this for your own sanity. Grab a small tupperware so all the pieces can fit in while they build.
Keep it simple, people. The more exciting activities we have, the quicker we work through them and then I have two overstimulated, bugged little kids. Keep that electronic in your back pocket until you see signs of mutiny on the horizon (or you just seriously cannot go on in a parental role because of waves of exhaustion).
In the less is more department, they might decide to design a set of puppets out of barf bags.
Speaking of barf bags, I love those things. Rip off the top and use the bottom to hold snacks, crayons or legos, use them as a personal trash can, oh, and teach your kids to use them if they really have to vomit (this saved us).
Extras that I pack for them in my suitcase:
-Over the ear headphones. On international flights, there are usually movies (YAY, Props to all the parents before in-seat personal entertainment) but sometimes just earbuds are provided and those don’t stay in well.
-kids ibuprofen, dramamine and stomach medicine (essential oils if you use)
-Every member of the family has an entire change of clothes (underwear too) in a ziplock bag. Each person, for each bag. If there is an accident or someone has to change, you aren’t digging through for undies and pants, but reach in and grab the right ziplock.
-Snacks: international flights feed you well, but sometimes we are hungry at weird times and domestic flights offer almost nothing in the food department. In our household, we have a child who gets “hangry” (hunger makes her angry). Pack snacks. A few fun ones and others that are filling for a long time. Think snacks that are mouth consuming and pull those out in the case of an emergency, gum, ring pops, tootsie pops, meat sticks, nuts.
If you know when you land, you will have a long wait (going to a rental car office, taking luggage through customs, getting visas, etc) have something that feels new to them that will keep their hands busy and minds full. This is also great bribery…err, I mean positive motivation to get through securities, check in.
During long layovers, don’t wait at your gate. Find a deserted area and let the kids run and climb. Bonus if you can find a deserted moving sidewalk because racing your kids while they go the wrong way on those belts (i am on the unmoving ground beside it) blasts through mountains of energy and they think you are the best.
What’s worked well for you? What tips do you have? I’d love to hear ‘em!