Before we had children, my husband and I swore we would never become that kind of new parent. You know the type – they hunker down after the baby is born and you never see nor hear from them again. They withdraw into their nest and insist that until their precious bundle is sleeping through the night/weaned/potty trained/graduated from middle school they will not be traveling with said bundle. Now before anyone gets offended, please believe me when I say that I am not judging that decision. This parenthood roller coaster is different for all of us. For us, we knew we wanted Mr. Baby to fit into our lives as much as we could persuade him to. So we dragged him out everywhere we went and tried to never let him slow us down. Three years later when his baby brother arrived, even though the thought of adding another little person to our travel plans struck fear in our hearts, we continued our adventures with two in tow.
Those early days were tough! Just take a look at SpitfireMom Desiree Spinner’s take on traipsing around San Francisco with her little nuggets. It’s daunting, but doable! As they get older, some of their needs (and yours) will change. We recently took a trip to Turks & Caicos (I cannot recommend it highly enough!) and Rochester, New York. Both trips entailed loooooooong flight legs. Here are my tips for smooth sailing on your big kid travels!
Food. Oh my goodness, bring as much food as you can carry. Pack small baggies with their favorite crackers, cookies, fruits (dried fruits or whole apples will hold up best), single packs of peanut butter or nutella, and bend/break your own rules and bring one very special treat. Bribery is key, my friends. Grab small, empty water bottles and get a big bottle of water after you go through security so you can keep the kids hydrated. Finally – if your kids are old enough, pick up a pack or two of gum to help with cabin pressure.
Books. Older kids can bring a favorite chapter book or a prized new one. Whatever it is, make it something you know they will love. This is not the time to experiment with the classics. For littler ones, just make sure it’s something you won’t mind reading aloud in close quarters. The Gas We Pass is not a great choice.
Small Lego sets. This one is iffy. A bad patch of turbulence could spell disaster. But for those Lego freaks out there, a fun new mini set will keep them quiet during the build and for play time afterward.
Small play doh sets. Be forewarned, you may get pulled aside in security. On a flight to Hawaii we had packed some new tubs in cool colors. Security picked through my son’s backpack. When they found the play doh I asked what they thought it was and was growled at with a curt “you don’t want to know.” Duly noted. Curiously, I didn’t get accosted on the trip home.
Tablets. We throw all rules regarding tech time out the cabin door upon boarding an airplane. Our boys have an iPad that they share, and I usually let them use mine too. A couple days before the flight we tell them each to pick a movie to rent. We download one movie on each iPad. The boys watch their own pick first, then watch their brother’s movie later in the day. We also make sure their favorite games are updated and ready to roll. Get some inexpensive kid-friendly headphones. If you have one iPad or laptop computer, you can get a headphone splitter so that both kids can watch the same movie at the same time.
Sketch pad and a small pack of crayons or colored pencils. No markers, for obvious reasons.
A sweatshirt or light blanket and tiny pillow. Even my big 9 year old boy still likes to curl up and rest his eyes for part of most flights. It’s nice to have a few creature comforts to make him cozy. Along those same lines, a lovey or favorite stuffed animal is good to have when their patience is running short.
Finally, for you – a book or magazine (it’s good to have goals!), snacks that you like, a grocery bag to collect trash, your headache remedy of choice, and as much patience as you can muster. Hang in there, mama. You’ll get there soon enough.