Ahhh, the summer months. Weekend, week-long or summer-long getaways. A time to relax and enjoy, but first you have to get through the chorus of “Are We There Yet?” By car, train, plane, or bus, here are some tips I’ve found helpful when preparing to travel (and traveling with) kids of all ages.
When traveling in the car …
1. Entertaininment … Bring age appropriate entertainment to occupy your children, will it reduce the amounts of times they ask you, “Are we there yet?” Probably not, but it will certainly feed the boredom of having to sit in one place for longer than an hour and a half and under half an hour for a toddler. Of course in this day and age, most parents have become highly dependent on video games, iPads and built-in DVD systems. But for some of us parents who realize it is also a good time to connect with your kids and play catch up on what’s happening in their own lives it can be a good time to have many a conversation, that on an average day might not permit. I am a firm believer in playing ‘I Spy’ games that allow our children to become more astute in their observations. Doodle pads, Etch-a-sketch, finger puppets, stories and sing along music on CDs, the name game, taking turns naming different vegetables or animals. Older kids, are most probably going to be texting, facebooking with friends, listening to their iPods, but, as a rule of thumb, limit the times that they do this. Remember, all technology will disconnect us from our family and make us not present.
2. Comfortability … Wearing informal clothes allows us to feel our utmost relaxed. The practicality of this attire for toddlers speaks for itself. Sweat pants, car keys, slip on shoes, hooded track suit tops, leggings and layers allow us to regulate our body temperature. A lot of travel sickness in cars can come from being over-heated. Don’t forget to pack a spare top, vest top or pair of bottoms for the mishaps.
3. Stretch Breaks … If you can pre-plan your trip so you know where the service stations are, you can give your family a good 30 minutes to all stretch, grab a bite to eat, grab a toilet break, and just take in some fresh air. Change up the seating arrangements if you can (same car different view).
Whilst waiting in the airport …
As your children will be using their coloring books and games on the airplane, I suggest the longer you keep them at bay the better. In other words when you arrive at the airport, if your children have not had breakfast yet, feed them. Go window-shopping once you have checked the luggage in, or as I say to the younger ones, ‘Let’s go walk about’. Let your teenagers know they have an hour to catch up with their friends before turning their phones off. Enlighten them with information about the destination you are all going to. Have your teenager look up three informational facts about that particular place. Remember keep your kids safe, airports are packed with people and walking escalators. Perhaps the older children get to spend a little bit of their holiday money that they have earned before boarding. Airplane watch, and guess where they might be going, penny wall flip or guess what I am drawing with my finger on your back, have your children read to you and you read to your children. Sing and hand mime nursery rhymes like you do at home. Always verbalize the great behavior you are seeing from your kids. It will make them want to keep doing it. It is all about repetition.
By plane …
Although some of the same tips apply for air travel as road travel the one necessity would certainly be providing pre-prepared food for your flight. It will leave a situation less complicated for food allergies, consistent meal times, and likes and dislikes of flight meals. Make sure babies have pre-baby powder in bottles, ready to be topped up with water, that toddlers have their favorite snacks, and cold dishes, and that teenagers can also bring pre-packed fruit and meals of their liking. Remember, to let your toddlers, tweens and pre-teens, know of expected plane etiquette. It is not okay for your toddler to be pulling the man’s hair in the seat in front of you. Make sure your per-teen are mindful that they are sharing a cabin full of other people and there is a desired volume that should be appreciated.
Infant/Toddler Travel …
Be mindful of your toddlers and baby’s routine. Do your little ones need feeding, milk or solids? Do they need changing or soothing to settle them to sleep? Are they showing signs of boredom by getting irritated and need mental stimulation? Do they need a change of scenery, that could be as little as being on your lap or up on your shoulder? The more in sync you are with your little ones needs the more you can accommodate. As a nanny, I would travel with three or four little ones for 9 hours at a time. Knowing what they needed made my experience a joy every time …Yes, I said EVERY time.
Most importantly, preparation, organization and good time keeping allows the whole the experience from leaving the house, getting to the car or train, makes getting to the destination a good positive start. Which means if you can prepare anything two days in advance, it will give you a head start. As a rule of thumb pack the kids first. Then the only concern next is yourself and most importantly, DO ENJOY. These times are precious and your kids as adults will remember and treasure them.