Who hasn’t experienced the mother or father in an airport or on an airplane with a child having a meltdown. The poor parent has nowhere to turn. If they are traveling, they can’t just turn around and go home; they are stuck. I used to wonder why would anyone travel with a toddler or take a baby to an amusement park! The circumstances of life however can cruelly put you in the midst of circumstances that you never thought you’d be in.
So whether you have a long car ride ahead of you or are trekking your wee ones through international airports, there are a few things that can hopefully make your traveling plight a tad bit easier.
- Always, yes always, pack snacks. When kids are hungry they will have a huge meltdown. You don’t want to find yourself rushing for a flight or facing a long stretch of road with a hungry child. Try to bring fruit or something that will not create thirst like carrots or celery sticks. Salty items like chips will just make them want to drink more and we all know where that’s headed!
- Make sure that you and your children are well rested before the trip. Often when planning a trip your usual routines are disrupted and you may have more late nights than usual. This is dangerous! You don’t want to start out your trip tired and cranky. This may be the most difficult task to accomplish before going on a trip but try to get a good night’s sleep at least the night before you leave.
- Plan ahead and bring books, games, movies, iPads or any form of entertainment that they have not yet experienced. If it’s just some of their old books or games from home they may not be engaged as long which may lead to boredom and discontentment. Plan ahead. Have a book/game swapping party where other moms bring their kids books and games and swap. It’s a great way for families to restock their libraries with new materials without shelling out big bucks.
- Make the trip fun. Start planning in advance getting them excited about the new places they are going and the things and people that they will be seeing. Make the trip something that they are excited about. Show them pictures so that they have an idea of what is ahead of them; this way when the trip gets grinding you can remind them of all the great things that await them. If they have a picture in their head of Disneyworld or Grandma at the end of their journey it will help them go through the process of getting there; their ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ one would say.
- If you know it’s going to be too much for you, remember you don’t have to prove anything to anyone, bring help. Invite a grandma, auntie or an older cousin to come along to assist you. My nephew travels a lot for his job and I have often gone with their family so that they can have fun in the daytime as a family but then the parents can attend their business and/or social events in the evenings. I stay in the hotel with the kids and have a great time with them!
- Of course no matter where you are traveling you always want to remember to bring insurance cards, emergency medical phone numbers, medications, etc. When trying to remember to pack tooth brushes, clothing, snacks and entertainment, it can be easy to forget these essentials so put all your important documents in one place ahead of time so that you can just grab your pack of information when you are ready to leave.
- If your child has never done any major travel before make sure that you explain everything that they are going to experience. An airport can seem like a huge scary place to a young one. What we as adults take for granted can be terrifying for a child. I remember one time I was running errands with my little niece and at the last minute I whipped into one of those car washes that you go through while you stay in the car. When it started, she was terrified and started crying because she had no clue what was happening when all these huge machines started slapping suds on the windows and we were surrounded by huge wet rags flailing back and forth on the car. I was horrified! It never occurred to me that she had not been to that kind of car wash before and had no warning of what she was experiencing. I felt awful and comforted her as best I could until the wash was through. I then went out and bought her the biggest ice cream cone EVER…hahaha! My point is, never assume how they are going to react to new circumstances and remember that simple things that we take for granted can be a totally different experience for them.
At the end of the day, the good news about traveling with kids is that the more you do it the easier it will be. You will be more experienced as a parent and begin to see their signs of meltdowns before they happen. The truth is though, even with all your planning and preparation, kids can be as unpredictable as the weather. There will be times when nothing works and there will be times where you shine with pride at the little angels accompanying you. Either way, you will all survive, have great stories to tell and have fond memories of all your trips!
By Dawn Varela
Read more at AboutTheChildren.org