If you’ve been keeping up with our crazy shenanigans that are our version of family travel, then you know how wild and unruly (and sweet and thoughtful) my two boys are. If not, take my word for it. Our family trips are usually challenging. I used to say my Kaleb was 10 kids in one when I’d hear other moms complaining about their toddlers in a playgroup. We’ve grown out of diapers but we still need to grow out of trouble. Traveling with our kids can be grueling when Kaleb’s favorite pastime is antagonizing Knox and Knox’s decreased threshold to pain/teasing/annoyance has hit rock bottom – meaning, it doesn’t take much now to start the record player of his ceaseless, shrill, finger-nails on the chalkboard, kind of whining. There is almost nothing I won’t do to prevent that in a two-hour car ride or an airport or a six-hour flight. Well, I wouldn’t be cruel or encourage unhealthy behavior but I’ve had to get creative on how to distract them and also not lose them during trips. Here are the tips I’ve accumulated over the years to make traveling with your kids more fun and less stressful.
Dress them in NEON
I used to shake my head in judgment when I’d see those parents who put cute little leashes on their kids. Cute as they try to make them, they still made me think the parents were carting their children around like dogs. That was before parenthood and the reality of two children in the phase of life that eludes reason who decide, at the same time, to run in separate directions. If this happens in a giant field free of hazards, then no problem. If this happens in a busy airport or a dark campground or a small park lined by moving traffic, then it can become a major problem. Dressing the boys in neon helps me spot them quickly in an airport or campground. I can’t help you with the park. I had to dust off my running shoes and beg strangers for help.
Have them call you by your first name
Every time I go out with my kids and they are not immediately by my side and I start hearing the call “Mom! Mom! Mom!” I spin my head in alarm like a Pavlovian dog but after a while, my system gets overtaxed and I become desensitized. So, if my kids actually need me because they’re being kidnapped or drowning in a vat of sewage waste, I might miss it. I’ve told them if they can’t get my attention with “Mom” to just call me “Rina” and that always works. Not sure it would work as well if my name was Jennifer but maybe.
Sit them in different rows
Yes. Don’t do it. Don’t put them all together. You’re just asking for it if you do. Book your airplane seats in different rows – one child per adult. If they beg and are behaving, then you could sit them together. But if they start to act up again, you have a place you can plop one of them for instant peace. Your sanity and the other passengers will be very grateful.
Traveling board games
OK, you’ll probably find this one elsewhere but it’s new for us. There are cute little versions of your big boards games that have magnets attaching them to the board to make it less likely you’ll lose them during turbulence inside and outside of the airplane. These are great alternatives to electronics and have the benefit of adding positive memories of you interacting with your children. After that, they may forgive you for isolating them and dressing them in neon.
This is a great app that will provide you with information and ideas for child-friendly activities where ever you are. They’re broken down by gender, age range and even type of weather. This is great if you just want to go and used your research time getting an early start to the vacation.
Nursing on take-off
For the veteran mom, this is an eye-roller. Of course you’re going to nurse on take-off and landing. The sucking equalizes the pressure in the little nugget’s ears and brings comfort in a new situation. For the new moms, you’re welcome. I just saved you from split eardrums and the dagger stares of your plane mates.
Cups with hot towels
This is genius. And not something I’ve tried but a new friend I met in Israel, Twirzah, told me this really works. Hot towels, though I suppose napkins would work because where would you even get small towels on a plane, tucked into the bottom of cups then placed over the ears. The suction gently relieves pressure as the plane is changing altitudes. When I was five, I remember flying with a head cold and the excruciating pain that accompanied the plane’s descent is still with me today, decades later.
So what have you learned? The hard or easy way, please tell us, and save us the pain of learning it the unpleasant way. After all, life is so much better when we’re surrounded by a friendly village.