Traveling with children, whether it’s a long vacation by plane or merely an hours-long car trip to visit the grandparents, it’s never simple. There are a lot of strategies for trying to ease travel burdens and we’ve collected a few in case there are some you haven’t thought of!
Spoiling the children. If ever there is a time to spoil your children, doing so while traveling may be it–not in the sense of letting them run wild, but in providing new sensations and experiences. Whatever the trip is, you can make getting to and from also part of the experience….New toys, books, and games for use on the traveling portion of the trip can make any child look forward to the car or the plane. Let your child help pick out the new items, but do not play with or use them until the trip. Don’t bring them out all at once, but have a plan to space them out over the traveling, effectively breaking the trip into manageable segments.
Involve your children in the planning. A child’s not having any control during a trip is one of the main ingredients for misbehavior, boredom or downright obstreperous behavior. Go over the map before the trip and show your children where they will be going and interesting sites along the way. Maybe download and print out information about and pictures of the sites, so that even in a plane, they’ll know where they are AND that they are making progress towards the final destination. During the traveling, show them where you are on the map and have them plot the remaining course. This gives them a feeling of participation and control and may go a long way towards keeping your child engaged and happy during the trip.
Set the rules before you go. Knowing what to expect can take the fear out of a trip and also make it more fun as a child can employ what he or she has learned about the rules. If you’re flying, explain the plane’s rules on take-off and landing. Show them how to fasten the seat belt and explain why tray tables must be locked. Point out that the back of their seat is the front of someone else’s seat space (one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor). Enlist the help of the flight attendants if need be (your children may be more inclined to listen to the authority figure than to you). Of course, occupying them with a new toy and snack upon take-off and landing may make things easier and chewing may help with the change in air pressure.
Carry-ons. If your child is old enough, let him or her pack his or her own carry on. Advise on what to bring, but let your child have some choice. Try to bring as few things on board as possible since you may also end up carrying a sleeping child. The carry-on makes a mini-stool if need be, too. In a car, less clutter in the back seat is better, but there may be more options for entertainment. A car carry-on lets each child keep their things to themselves, keeps the car neater and toys more available and gives a child a feeling of ownership on the trip.
Must-haves. Bring an extra shirt for yourself in case food or other unwanted items end up on you. Bring extra wipes and sanitizer. Consider having younger children travel in footie pajamas (with shoes). It’s comfortable for them and easy to change if need be. Bringing extra pajamas is easier than extra entire outfits (and easier to wash at your destination).
Routines. Sticking to existing routines as much as possible can keep things better under control. Try to plan the trip so that routines (naps, eating, etc.) might be followed. If you do the trip often, try to keep it the same. The sense of security children get from following routines will make the trip (and their enjoyment of it) easier.
Other travelers. Most people understand that traveling with children can be difficult. Introduce yourself and your children to those sitting around you. This will make it more likely that they will be understanding and that your children may behave better around those whom they “know.”
Control. It will be tempting to give up when both you and your child are tired, but letting them know from the first sign of discomfort that while you understand their frustration, they still cannot abandon all decorum, will help keep them under control throughout the trip. Whatever measure of control you can give your children, however, will go a long way towards giving them some “ownership” in the trip.Just knowing what to expect gives a child some feeling of control.
Participate. Finally, as with all activities with which children are involved, include them. On trips, play games with them. In the car, play the dictionary game and sing songs with them. Have everyone count yellow cars, etc. Ask them what kind of food they’d like when you stop (which might also give you an excuse to keep going till you find that food). If they have to go to the bathroom, be accommodating. On the plane, play cards, battleship or ask them to describe pictures in the books. Coloring is something you can do, too. These are only some of the many tips to consider when traveling. Not only can they help make traveling more fun, but it might be more educational, too. Feel free to give us your favorite tips and we’ll share them in an upcoming newsletter.