Traveling with your young children can instill fear in the strongest of parents, but it doesn’t need to be a stressful, difficult experience. In fact, with a bit of planning ahead, it can actually be quite fun! Here are a few things that helped our family enjoy a recent and amazing week away:
I try to be as conscientious as the next mom about the amount of time my little guy spends in front of a screen, but a six hour airplane ride is not the time to worry about it. Make sure your tablet (or your smart phone if you don’t have a tablet) is loaded with new apps, videos and games for your little one to explore. One thing to remember: WiFi on airplanes is often not free, so make sure to include that in your travel budget.
Bring something new
If your little one is anything like mine, there is only so much screen time that will keep him happy before he’s ready for something new. To deal with that, we packed a few “surprises” in his backpack. A new box of crayons with an activity book, a new storybook and an action figure that he’s really wanted provided a good hour or more of distraction while we were up in the air. These don’t have to be expensive items at all, just something that will keep your child occupied for a bit.
Some call it bribery; I call it incentives
There is a saying that goes, “If you are against bribing children to get them to do what you want, you obviously have no children.” Bribery does have such a negative connotation, so I like to use the term “incentivize.” I keep a small bag of treats in my purse, (in our case, gummy bears, but they could be a much healthier alternative like dried fruit) and when I need my guy to do something that he doesn’t want to do, I offer the gummy bear as an incentive to help us all be successful. This could be standing in line for an attraction, sitting in our seat during take-off or motivating him to get out of the pool.
Expect the unexpected
Even the best of plans can go awry. Flights are delayed. Kids pee their pants. It ends up pouring down rain for your entire tropical vacation. Life happens and I have found that if lessen my expectations of how things SHOULD be or what SHOULD be happening, that I have a lot more time to just enjoy the moment. Our kids are our greatest teachers. They throw things at us each day that we could never expect. It is okay to feel disappointed if things don’t go according to plan, but give yourself and your kids a break and just go with the flow.
Don’t worry about what other people think
This is probably the toughest of them all! We’ve all heard about the mom who brings ear plugs or treats for their seatmates on the plane. While this is a kind gesture, I find it to be completely unnecessary. Kids are kids and things happen. They cry. They may even throw a tantrum. They may have a blowout. They start to fidget. They are children after all, and really. they are simply acting out how many of us are feeling on the inside. Feel free to smile and be polite, but don’t feel like you have to do any more than that. No apology necessary.