Health & Development
Kerry Colburn: How to Travel with Young Kids (without Losing Your Mind)
While August means back-to-school in some cities, in Seattle, it’s travel time. Finally, temperatures are reliably warm and many families rush to squeeze in summer vacations before Labor Day.
Of course, I’ve been known to say, “With kids, it may be travel, but it’s never vacation.” (If you’ve ever traveled anywhere with children under 6, you know exactly what I mean.) But after interviewing dozens of parents for my most recent book, I discovered some creative tips for making travel just a little bit smoother. While these may not help you get a full night’s sleep with two jet-lagged toddlers in a hotel room, they will diffuse some stress from your journey, whether it’s by plane, train, or automobile. Bon voyage – and bonne chance!
- Before a trip with your baby or child, create a master packing checklist. Include everything: clothes, toys, loveys, gear (carrier, monitor, booster seat, portable cribs and bedding, nightlight, etc.), and number of diapers or bottles, if using. Save this list – you’ll be thankful when you revisit it for future trips.
- If you’re organized enough before a big trip, mail some kid stuff ahead of time. Print out a packing slip online and arrange a free pickup to avoid dealing with all that gear during check-in and at baggage claim. Since you have to pay for luggage anyway, you might even save some money for door-to-door service! Plus, packages are fun to open when you arrive.
- The “escort pass” is a well-kept secret that allows your spouse or other adult to accompany you through security and all the way to the gate when you are flying alone with small children. Passes are offered at the airline’s discretion, so call in advance for details.
- When boarding a crowded plane, cheerfully offer to buy a glass of wine for the person sitting closest to you and your child. Five bucks will buy you a lot of good will and diffuse any tension right off the bat.
- When flying with a baby, try to nurse or bottle-feed upon takeoff and landing to help with the change in cabin pressure. Older kids might find relief from a straw cup or lollipop; try anything that promotes swallowing.
- Try to remember that the person most stressed about the crying kid is you – not any of the other passengers. Remind yourself that almost everyone has been in your shoes at some point, and most people are understanding.
- Babies and toddlers who are too young for workbooks or DVDs need simple but creative distractions. Try tying ribbons of different textures to the handles of your bag for baby to touch (or chew!) Many young toddlers love taking pen caps on and off, so toss a few Color Wonder markers in your bag (the kind that only write on special paper) and let them go to town.
- Whether you’re flying or driving, wrap everything in recycled wrapping paper. That means snacks, water bottles, books both old and new, crayons, what have you. The process of unwrapping will occupy the little ones, older kids will appreciate the surprise, and some may just play with the tape and wrapping paper.
- A roll of masking tape should always be in your travel bag. Kids can tape the tray table, window, seat or themselves – and it all peels off easily when you get there.
- A cramped airplane or train bathroom is a nearly impossible place to change a diaper. To make things slightly easier, remove as much of baby’s clothing as possible at your seat first – and if you’ve got the gumption, just flip up your armrest, kneel in the aisle, and do the change on a pad on your seat.
- With a preschooler who is newly using the potty, consider a special “Travel Pull-Up” – a special one-time-only Pull-Up to avoid dealing with a potty emergency when the “fasten seatbelts” sign is on or no rest area is in sight.
- Don’t forget how important comfort items are to your child when traveling. Bring her lovey, pacifier, night-light, special animal or book … or even the pillowcase from her bed at home.
- Kids like to feel like they have some control, especially in new situations. Let them pack their own small wheelie suitcase or backpack with the toys and books that are most important to them. Pulling this along can also help keep them on task through airports and train stations.
- Travel is the time to pull out the parent card at every opportunity. Make your life –and your trip – easier by asking for priority in lines, better seats, room upgrades, a faster meal, or anything else you can think of. After all, everyone wants your kids to be happy (and quiet), too!Finally, if all else fails, remember to have one important thing in your travel kit at all times: earplugs.
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