Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Traveling with Kids

I am already thinking of our next trip.  The little one is due at the end of September, by spring we should be ready for our first airplane ride.  Where to?  What will work with a 5 year old and a six month old?  I can't wait!!  I am constantly planning the next trip . . .

We’ve had the opportunity to travel often with Addy.  Her first trip she went on was when she was  4 weeks old.  She’s been on 10 different out of state trips that included airplane rides,  4 of which were across the country and one to Hawaii.  We love to travel and one of our commitments to each other and our family has been to ensure that travel is a part of our lives as a family.
Traveling with kids is not always easy.  For me the keys are plan your packing ahead of time, be flexible, research ahead of time, and travel with people that are comfortable with kids.
Below are some tips I’ve learned in our travels:
Kids schedules – there are two philosophies on this, stick with the schedule or to heck with the schedule.  I am a stick with the schedule kind of girl.  We work to try to coordinate airplane rides, arrivals, car rides, and activities around addy’s schedule.  She is so much more flexible at 4, but in the earlier years we found being thoughtful of her schedule made travels so much easier.  We’d try for plane trips in the morning or middle of day to take advantage of her best time (morning) or rest time(afternoon).  In our early days going to Disney World – we’ve been three times with Addy, we would hit the park early, come home and rest and then go back in the late afternoon evening.  Although this required some planning and strategizing, Addy was a happy girl most of the time.  If you decide to be adventurous and to heck with the schedule just remember that you’ll have to be flexible with your child’s needs.  Also, if traveling with other families talk to them ahead of time about their philosophy on this topic.  It is nice to know what the plan is for everyone before you are standing in an amusement park, blocking traffic, hot and sweaty as 10 of you try to come up with a last minute plan.  Been there, done that . . .  definitely adds to the stress level for all.
Air travel – what I have learned on this topic through trial and error is that you can’t come up with enough diversions on a plane for a little one.  We have a DVD player, but that only lasts so long.  I search all the time at stores (in the clearance and dollar bins) for travel size activities to put back for plane rides.  Nothing with a million tiny pieces, but having a variety really pays off.  If you can rotate through a variety of activities/toys you can avoid the restless fights, crying and screaming I’ve seen so many times from other kids.  Paper or magnet dolls, silly putty, coloring, stickers, books, small collection of larger action figures (nothing like polly pockets that will fall all over, think toddler size), and writing boards are great.  We also practiced being on an airplane with Addy as soon as she was old enough to understand so she felt like a pro and was proud to show us her airplane behavior.  Snacks are also a big help.  I try to pack a lot of dry items and then put in an apple sauce or something like that too.  I’ve never been hassled for any food items as long as I dump the water out before security.  I also pack two essential food items.  One – M&M’s, I learned this watching another mom on a plane, if all else fails and you see a temper tantrum coming use them.  I don’t normally say don’t deal with behavioral issues, but I can tell you that you can get pretty freaked being on a plane when your child is about to launch into a fit.  Two – gummy worms.  Addy is no exception to the sensitive ear pressure problems little ones have on planes.   When she was really little we tried to time bottles around take off and landing to encourage swallowing.  As she got older we found a great idea on line – give them a few gummy worms on take off and landing to get them chewing.  It has worked really well for us.

Packing – there is so much here to talk about it could be another post.  But, I will share a couple of things I have learned.  Once you have everything together, think about how and when you are going to use it.  I’ve learned that if you are flying across the country and you will be arriving at bedtime don’t pack the bed stuff at the bottom of the suitcase, put it on top so you can access it immediately with little trouble.  If you have multiple stops on your trip can you pack accordingly so you don’t have to dump everything out at each stop?  Can you put your first couple of days for each family member in one bag and then not drag around two suitcases or empty both immediately?  My sister-in-law has 4 kids now.  We went to Disneyworld with their family and she packed each kid’s complete outfit in a Ziploc bag.  It was great because she could just pull a bag and go.  I’ve learned the hard way to always anticipate weather changes.  I now always pack one or two items for weather that isn’t anticipated.  You show up in Florida and enjoy multiple days of below 30 degrees and you learn.  All the shorts and tanks in the world don’t help you then.   Beyond clothes consider other things you might need like dishes, sippy cups, toys and DVD’s.  I always think we won’t be in the room, why would I waste space on that stuff and each time I am glad I do because we’ll need to take a slow morning or early evening and a hotel can be boring without any entertainment.
Goals – it is important to communicate well and ensure your whole family discusses goals for the trip.   Are you looking for relaxation, adventure, go until you drop,  visit family?  What are your priorities?  This is so important because when you have limited time and a family to get organized you can so easily lose the priorities in the shuffle.  At the beginning of each trip each of us picks two or three things that are most important to us.  Then when all else fails you can focus on those top items.  It helps ensure everyone is heard and gets to do their thing, but doesn’t leave you with a list that is so long you have no hope of meeting your goals.
Some of our best memories have been created while traveling.  Good, bad and fulfilling – traveling together can be such a special experience.  For me pre-planning and really ensuring we are ready with a  plan is central to having the opportunities to create positive memories. 
Do you have travel tips you’ve learned through trial and error?  What’s worked and what hasn’t for your family?  Where are some family friendly destinations you enjoy (that will be an upcoming post for sure).

P.S. I consider myself pretty well versed on the Disney front at this point, so if you ever want to discuss options or plans let me know.  We have quite a few lessons learned and secrets to help!

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