Spring Break is usually met with wistful daydreaming of sunny places, sandy toes and ridiculous fruity umbrella drinks. With pandemic fears permeating every news outlet available, the onset of Spring Break season has given March Madness a new meaning. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the makers of Corona beer giving their trademark beverage a whole makeover and name relaunch. So, let’s take a bit of a breath and a break from the headlines and just focus on some helpful tips to make traveling with your littles easier, and, dare I say it, actually a pleasant part of the trip.
A little back history on our family, lest you think we haven’t experienced the rigors of journeying forth with small ones in tow. I know, I know, you have an internal monologue of “But my kids are different” running on repeat in the back of your brain. Put that playlist on pause for now. We’ll get back to it in a bit. For us, having family that lives all over the globe, and not accessible via any direct flights, necessitates a lot of planes, trains and automobiles to keep in touch. From traveling with them at 9 weeks to 9 years old, this is what we have learned along the way.
Such a simple concept, but oh so hard to implement! The trick is starting to pack early. If you wait until the night before (guilty as charged), you are guaranteed to overpack. Consider your itinerary day by day and really focus on required clothing. Going to the beach? Pack more swimsuits and fewer shorts (kids just take them off immediately). Skiing? Factor in how tired you’ll be after a day on the slopes. Chances are you don’t need as many evening attire options. Put your outfits on repeat and pack powder laundry detergent. You’ll thank me as you are slugging through the airports.
Order airline meals in advance
We all do it – rush to the airport and concede to buy food there to eat prior or take on the plane. And that’s ok if you find healthy options that don’t require you to mortgage the house. Not so easy for those overseas flights. On a recent 12 hour flight from Rome to LA, we were reminded of gnarly airline food the hard way. Plus, meal time is a welcome distraction. Make it a tasty one. Virtually every airline offers this. Ask flight attendants if they have any baby/child friendly options. Virgin Atlantic had jars of baby food all for the asking.
Pack activity kits
Kids love kits, any kind of kits. I have literally thrown random craft items into a big ziplock bag and they thought they had won the lottery. The trick is this: a bag for each child, and Do Not let them see it prior. Plan for turbulence and confined space. Avoid items that roll easily or you’ll be forever foraging under the seats. Stickers, felt shapes and scene boards, Mad Libs, pipe cleaners, post cards just to name a few fun items.
Chart a plane activity agenda
Sounds silly but our daughters love to do this. They literally map out an agenda for every hour on the plane. If you have them do this prior it will also help you pack activities. It gets them excited and serves as a fun reminder once you are onboard. Use in advance to double check if you planned enough to keep them occupied for the travel time.
Pack a contingency kit
Wipes, hand sanitizer, gum, lollipops, allergy medicine, ibuprofen, granola bars, lip balm, batteries, spare underwear, pacifiers, chucks, diapers, ear phones and peppermint oil for tummy aches are just a few things I have rotated through mine. More and more essential oils feature here for our family. They are especially handy for us when the kids need some sort of relief and we are far from home, or even more challenging, in a country where English is not the first language. Navigating a pharmacy in a foreign country can feel like the ultimate Mensa challenge. Truth be told, traveling is also one of the reasons we created SnooperBear. When asked to pick a toy to bring on a trip it’s always their go to. To have a comforting toy our kids love, coupled with the ability to deliver essential oils on the go? It’s the ultimate win-win in our travel kit.
Hype it up
Get kids excited for the travel experience. Make it a game of guessing cloud shapes, counting how many pools they can see out the window, or upping the anticipation for a special movie they get to watch on the plane. Ask the airlines for any special perks prior to flying. Let the flight attendant know it’s their first flight/traveling for a special trip/whatever it may be. Receiving wing pins can be a big deal to a little one.
Explain the journey
Kids will be less anxious and irritable if you explain each part of the trip. Often traveling is chaotic and knowing what to anticipate will ease their minds. This also allows you to set the stage for the behavior you need during each part. Ensure they know important contact information. Put a card in their pocket with your info and teach them how to use it in the event you get separated. Remember, your kids will feed off of your cues, so if you are giving off a stressed, anxious vibe, they will reflect that.
Pre-book everything you can in advance and ask for discounts
Aside from the time and money to be saved here, the peace of mind when breezing out the airport doors right into your transportation awaiting is priceless. Ask for child discounts on everything! You will be surprised how many perks are out there.
Foster a love of traveling
A travel journal, disposable camera and Christmas ornament picked up during the trip are a few ways we do this. The journal is a great way to capture memories and trip highlights from their perspective. These not only foster an appreciation for the experience, but make great keepsakes. Our Christmas tree may not look very Martha Stewart, but what fun we have decorating it and reminiscing about each trip when we hang the ornaments.
These are but a few, and I hope you’ll share yours as well. It’s a big, wide world out there beckoning. So if you are humming “Should I stay or should I go now?”, take a deep breath and opt for the latter. As my wise Grandma once told me, even if the worst happens and your child screams the entire flight, just remember – it’s only a few hours out of your life. I carried that mantra on repeat in the forefront of my mind as I embarked solo on a multi-flight journey for the first time with a 9 week old in tow for that special lady’s funeral. So incredibly glad that I made that trip.