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Traveling (Again) with Littles

Well, twenty days after our transatlantic flight, we suited up to do it again.  With an infant ticket not purchased in advance, bags overweight with American goods, our first flight delayed an hour, getting onto the second flight mere minutes taking off, and now jet lagged kids at home (OK, OK all of us are a tad jet lagged!)– this time around was not as smooth!

But we made it and God is still good.  And as of yet I have not lost my mind (although the fact that I’m writing this post at 2am might signal that the end is near!)

Here are some of my good, old-fashioned, practical tips for traveling with wee ones:

  • Potty everyone at the same time.  If one of you needs to go, everyone else needs to try too.
  • Stash plastic bags in a handy place.  And ditch the cloth diapers for travel.  Really, it’s OK to use disposables so you can dispose of any unpleasantness.  And believe you me, unpleasantness will occur.
  • Have a pad of Post It notes in your purse.  The automatic flushers in the airports freaked Ladybug out and I wished I had a Post It to stick over the sensor each time to hold off the flushing until she was done.
  • Pack more stuff than you need.  It’s better to have a book that never gets colored, or a DVD that never gets watched than to be without in a moment of need.  Try not to go overboard, but be realistic when preparing snacks and activities.
  • Tell your kids you’re proud of them.  If they’re doing a great job riding in the car or playing quietly in the airport, praise them!
  • Pack yourself some chocolate.  Make sure it’s the good stuff.  And don’t share if you don’t want to.
  • If you end up with jet lagers at 2am like me, invite them into your bed and hold them tight.  Breathe in that baby shampoo and toddler breath and remember that these days won’t last forever…
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Traveling with Young’uns

Last week about this time I was on a trans-Atlantic flight with a three-year old and a 20 month old.  Obviously, I survived (I don’t get all the credit, my adorable Hubby was there too!), and even more than “surviving”, I enjoyed the trip with my kids. *gasp!*

We have been basking in Chick-fil-A and Target for the past few days, but I’ve wanted to sit down and get out some thoughts about successful travel with toddlers and preschoolers.  This is not, by any means, a novel blog subject matter– tons of mommy bloggers have penned their tips and tricks about traveling with wee ones, but I have something to say about the matter too.

The major thing to focus on before traveling with your littles, is preparation.  Once you’re on the flight, or the train, or the bus you’re stuck with the preparations you made.  And I’m not just talking about the toys and snacks you packed for the trip (although these things are a part of preparation for successful travel!)

I read an article on CNN recently about parents and their unruly children on planes.  I am continually amazed at the… I struggle for the right word here… lackadaisical way in which most of modern society approaches parenting.  Honestly, if the parents in this article had been “parenting” their children all along, flying with their kids would not disturb and outrage other passengers and airline staff.

Prepare the Little Heart(s): If kids have been taught and shown consistently that

1. God loves them and gave Mommy and Daddy authority over them.

2. Mommy and Daddy love them.

3. Mommy and Daddy expect obedience because Ephesians 6:1 says “Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right…” and Colossians 3:20 says, “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.”

then, a great foundation for traveling with your children (or for that matter doing anything with your children) has been built!

I am not saying that if you have done an excellent job in correcting and training your preschooler in righteousness, you will have zero problems on a plane/train/bus/car ride.  Let’s be honest, toddlers and preschoolers can be a tangled mess of sin nature, hormones, and irrational behavior! I am saying that if you, as parents, have worked to biblically disciple your children, you have already drastically reduced the number of problems you will encounter on your trip.

Prepare the Big Heart:  As much as the little hearts need preparing, we can’t forget that our hearts need to be prepared for travel too!

…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Before flying last week, I prayed for my own attitude to be good while traveling (isn’t it amazing how quickly we can get irritated when flights are delayed, security is slow, or we are otherwise made uncomfortable!), and I also asked some dear friends to be praying for our family as we traveled.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that our travels were seamlessly smooth– and amazingly enough I still had a (mostly) good attitude when we discovered my bag was lost at 1am!

Prepare the Stuff:

  • Take the time to pack neatly in your carry-on bags.  Have all the important papers, identifications, and tickets handy as well as hotel information, taxi and shuttle numbers, cell numbers for people at your destination– make sure you’re ready to get where you’re going, and to get help if there’s a snag in the plans.
  • Have an extra set of clothes in the carry-on for each member of the family in case of diaper explosion, spilled dinner, potty accident, or lost bag.
  • Arm yourself with books, activities, and toys for the little ones.  For our trip last week I bought one small new toy for each of my children and wrapped them in tissue paper.  These gifts were presented to them when the excitement of being on the plane had worn off, and I’m pleased to say they spent a fair amount of time playing with their new toys.  I also had coloring books, blank paper, crayons, and stickers, books, and a few other small toys from home.
  • Have a few choice snacks ready.  I made a trail mix for my Bugs because they love trail mix and it takes them a good amount of time to eat it, picking out their favorites first.  I only used pretzels, raisins, and M&Ms, but you could add whatever you wanted to your own mix– nuts, yogurt covered raisins, goldfish, dried fruit, cereal, etc.  I also packed milk boxes and 100% juice boxes in my carry-on, and was not given any trouble getting through security since I had the kids with me.

Prepare to be flexible Yes, there will be some bumps in the road. Naps and meals will be rearranged and possibly skipped (especially if you’re changing time zones!), and it’s OK.  Planes might not leave on time, you may have to run to catch a flight, the flight attendants may run out of chicken and you’re stuck with salmon for dinner… If you have already made up your mind to go with the flow, it will not seem like such a big deal.

***When we moved to time zone seven hours ahead of our old one, we were told that kids usually take one day per hour changed to adjust to the new zone.  That was absolutely accurate with our children.***

Prepare to have funHave fun with your kids while you travel. Look out the window and talk with them about what you see.  Notice people of other cultures in the airport and appreciate how differently they dress and speak.  Get ice cream as a family during a layover.  Play tic-tac-toe together.  Eat some trail mix.  Watch a cartoon on the airplane TV.  Enjoy the sights through your child’s eyes.  Make up silly rhymes or word games.  Have a conversation with a stranger.  Smile a lot.  Don’t just “survive”, enjoy the experience together!