Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Traveling with Little people

I don't have pictures for this blog because lets be honest, if we are road tripping or flying, I ain't got that kind of time.

But I did have a friend email me the other day and say, "Dani you travel a lot with your kids and I am taking mine for the first time on a plane for the holiday's, any tips or ideas?" I have a few, so I thought I would share them with you all.

Disclaimer, I am not an expert at this, however I have flown dozens of times with my kids alone and sometimes with my husband to help. There have a been a few things I learned by making mistakes along the way. Please learn from me and save yourself the grief, stress, meltdown, and judgement.

1. Understand that you can't judge other families traveling, whether they are behaving or misbehaving. You are only catching a glimpse of that family's story and if we are truly honest, each family in the world at one point or another is the family everyone wants to be, or no one wants to be. We all have great moments where we stand proud because somehow it all worked out, and we all have those moments where we want to scream at everyone, "Please don't judge me! They usually aren't like this! I'm usually not like this! We are better people I promise." SO...leave the judging at home. For others and yourselves.

2. Take the week to prepare and include your kids help. Talk about the trip, let them pack their stuff, with your help of course, and give them a list to follow. Allowing your kids to help gives them ownership and makes them feel important and needed. When they help lead, they are better behaved.

3. During the preparing stage, I always use "team" language. We do this occasionally at home as well on normal days, but when you are going on an adventure, team language is important. We are a team. We stick together. Each person on the team has their job and we need each other. We even do a little prayer before we leave and stick our hands together and shout, go team! Lame? Absolutely! Cheesy? Totally! Works? YES!

4. If you have time, go to the library a couple days before the trip and pick out a couple books about flying if you are flying, road construction if you are driving, the city where you are going, the holiday you are celebrating. A couple special books that they aren't books they are used to, usually means they are more excited to read them, they get to learn something new and again, they are apart of the process. While you are there, make sure to pick a couple stories on CD or download them into your fancy Iwhatever so you have a story to listen to. Follow along books with Cd's are the best. They get to look at it, and you don't have to read it. (If you were wondering, we don't watch movies when we travel. I do bring one as a back up, you ALWAYS need back up, but as a rule, we just don't.)

5. This may sound silly and over the top, but because I live in the kitchen, my kids help me make/bake a special snack for the trip. We would make granola bars together, and what was great about these is they are super healthy and I only made them for road trips, so it made them extra special. I also include my kids in the list making for the trip, the grocery shopping, and the food packing. They help pick out their veggie, their fruit, and their different meals. We don't eat when we travel, even before diet restrictions, because it added extra time, was more expensive, packing our own food was healthier, and I could always then use it as leverage for a reward if I needed it. Now I would always pack a surprise food that they don't know about. (It's all about leverage!) And when they have been apart of the whole process, who doesn't like a surprise!

6. Another extra bonus item if you have time is making a new fun travel CD of music that the kids are into. I try to add a song or two from all the different music they love to listen to, or the theme song to their favorite show, or just plain old silly kid songs. On a road trip this works really well. In the airport when you are stranded, it also really works well. If I had an Ipod or phone or pad, I would mix up a great little something for kids and play that.

7. For you for traveling:
* Don't drink beverages. The less you need to go to the bathroom the better. It's hard to be patient when you've been holding it for an hour.

* When flying don't wear jewelry, wear comfy clothes and slip on shoes. Yes, the low maintenance of your outfit helps with getting through security.

* Pack a small bag that has ONLY what you need to survive the trip. Itinerary, money, licence, credit cards. All in one place so you know where it is, but KEEP IT PROTECTED.

* Pack empty water bottles to fill once you are through security so that you always have water when you need it. (Then you also don't have to worry about the spilling airplane cups if you have really little people. Keep a lid on it people!)

8. For your kids:
* If they can't tie shoes yet, don't put them in tie shoes no matter how cute they are. Save it for your destination. You don't need the hassle.

* They can carry their own little travel backpack with a change of clothes and some toys that you have approved. Their clothes should be low maitenance, even for the car.

* Their back pack can also contain their own water bottle and first snack.

* Give them each a job. If they are old enough, they can push a stroller in the airport or help haul a suitcase. If you are driving, someone can be in charge of managing the food, the toy clutter, looking for gas stations, helping get the smaller ones shoes back on. Be creative, just make sure everyone has a job on the team and is needed.

9. For the trip:
* Have a small bag with emergency items: band aids, neosporin, chap stick, lotion, nail clippers, thread and needle, Kleenex, head medicine, stomach medicine, wipes, tide pen, small pad of paper, pen. I might be missing something, but you get the idea.

* Have an emergency toy bag. For flying, it can be a very small bag with playing cards, uno cards, and pull out 10 matches from your memory game and you have a smaller travel version. I also like to always keep my eye on the dollar store or target dollar section and see what they might have. One year they had small etch a sketches for a $1. Perfect as a surprise. When you are driving, put a couple good car toys in a bag that your kids don't know about. This way when they are bored and done with the toys they brought, you have something new for them. Small chalk boards, special coloring books, a clip board with a bunch of dot or tick tack toe games drawn out already, sewing cardboard activity. It can be anything.

For Flying:
* If you are flying, pay the extra money for a direct flight if possible. Surviving a plane ride is harder once the novelty has worn off.

* If you are flying, if one person has to pee, make them all do it. If no one has to pee, make them do it before you get on the plane, and once you land. You don't need the hassle of dealing with it on the plane, or once you have all your luggage.

For Driving:
* If you are driving, you are not above peeing on the side of the road. Seriously, if you have more than one kid, it is not the worth the hassle of unloading everyone and putting on everyone's coats and shoes. Pull that one kid out, let them do their business, and get back on the road.

* If you are driving, it does pay off to start the trip extra earlier in the morning, say 4am. This way it is still dark, the kids will go back to sleep and you get a couple hours of quiet while driving.

* Make sure you have emergency car tools and a blanket, flashlight, and a triple AA phone number.

* If you can swing it, make sure when you stop, you pick a place that meets all of your needs at once. Gas, food, and bathroom.

And if you want to feel better about your parenting skills, listen to these stories.

Once when Paul and I were flying home from Haiti at 8pm, we just got Big back from my in-laws. He was about 13 months and I was 6 months pregnant, and it was past his bedtime. Big cried for the first 20 min. of the flight and then screamed on the floor at our feet for the rest of the plane ride, which was an hour and half long. Food, hugs, bottles, toys, walking, nothing worked. He was besides himself, probably from excitement, tiredness and wanting to be home. I have never gotten so many dirty looks from so many people leaving a plane before, it was bad.

Another time, I was going up the escalator with Big, middle, and little who was 2 months old and in the stroller. I know, you aren't supposed to go on the escalator with a stroller, but the elevator was so far away! My kids love the escalator, so I chanced it going up. Well, middle had a panic once we were on and started to try to get off, but trying to catch him, made part of the stroller slip. They had to turn off the escalator for the lady who was holding a 3yr old by the arm as he has fallen head first down the escalator, and holding the stroller with her other hand and hip as it's tipped slightly to the side. Big just stood up at the top looking terrified. And yes, I learned my lesson, and yes I got a lecture from the TSA agent.

So, remember to have fun and be patient with yourself and your kids. With little people, its always about the journey and not the destination.

Happy traveling! And if you have great helpful hints, don't forget to add them here!

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