I was born and raised in Southern California. I met my Bahamian-bred husband in college at 18, and 5 years later we got married and he whisked me away to France. We’ve lived the 6 1/2 years of our marriage between California and France. Trust me, it sounds a lot more glamorous than it is, but it has definitely been a huge blessing in our lives.
As you might have guessed, living between two countries requires quite a bit of traveling. I truly wish there were some sort of time travel invention which would save me many an airport meltdown, but alas, I have to stick to the planes. We have two little guys — 3 and 6 years old — who usually hang out with me when we travel, so I’ve had quite a bit of experience traveling with kids. Today I wanted to share a few tips and tricks I have learned and used along the way!
- Attitude is everything
To be completely honest with you, I learned this one a little late in the game. I used to completely stress out before flights with my then 1-year-old. I was worried it would be completely awful and guess what — it was. Now, my flights are usually anywhere from 13 to 24+ hours and with little ones that can be tiring! However, I have found that first and foremost when I present myself to my kids with the best possible attitude I can muster, things go a lot smoother. It’s amazing how that works, isn’t it? Now flights are fun, they’re adventures, they’re memories that I am privileged to create with my kids. And I wouldn’t trade any of them for anything. Except maybe for that time warp machine… 😉
- Plan ahead
This can be a game changer. What I do when I am taking any long trip is I look ahead to what hours we will be doing what and try to plan accordingly. If you can keep somewhat of a schedule, things are easier on everyone.
For example, when we get on our flights, my kids can color, read, or play with their smaller toys they chose ahead of time. We usually do this until it’s time for food. When the food arrives, I turn on a movie for them because they really can’t go anywhere anyway. They’re allowed to watch while eating their dinner and a little afterwards and then the movies are off and it’s sleep time. They fall asleep on me or on the floor and sleep til the flight is done!
Now you might not have to travel 15 hours by plane — maybe it’s 5 hours cross country. Have an idea of what you’ll be doing when, maybe even a little time frame. So when your kids ask, you will have an answer. “You can’t play your iPad now, but in 30 minutes we’ll bring it out.”
- Ease up
After all of that scheduling business, another major thing to keep in mind is that this is not real life. This is a moment in time where things are not normal. Do your best to have a schedule for the trip, but just know that things won’t always go as planned. This is not the time for stern discipline. This is the time for love and grace even if it takes every last drop of energy you have. You have a plan so you can have some semblance of structure but at the same time know that things might happen differently. And that’s okay.
- Don’t apologize
There will be rude people. There will be people who have never had kids or been around kids and they have no idea what you’re going through. There will be people who cut in front of you in line because they don’t want to be behind the single mom with kids. They’ll give you looks, they might whisper, but who cares? You know that you’re doing your best. You know what your kids have been through. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said, “Well, we’ve already been traveling for 14 hours” as my kid is having a meltdown in the security line because he just wants to be home already. But honestly, they don’t need to know my story. Just do your best and don’t let others make you feel bad.
On the other side of the coin here, if you ever see a mom/family traveling with kids, be gracious! It’s a tough thing to do! If you ever hear a baby crying, don’t walk the other direction, offer to help! I can say that although I have had my fair share of line cutters while I’m trying to fold up a stroller and hold a baby, there will be those people who see a mom that’s reached her limit and offer to hold her little one. And the mom will be forever grateful.
- Make it fun
I know this might sound a little crazy, but make it fun!! It is a ton of work to be a parent traveling with kids, there is no way around that. But your kids don’t know that. They think it’s a huge, grand adventure! They see the huge airplanes outside and are mesmerized. Find ways to make it the coolest experiences of their lives. Now trust me, I know how hard this can be. But it kind of goes back to the first point I made: attitude is everything. If you’re a big ball of stress, your kids will know it and feel it and it probably won’t be a memory they will look back on fondly. However, if you do your best to see the beauty, the adventure, in all that your trip entails, I guarantee your kids will think it’s the coolest thing they’ve ever done. They don’t need to know that the milk spilled everywhere in the diaper bag within the first hour of your trip. Or that they checked your stroller so you don’t have it on your layover. They just need to think the suitcase ride they just took on the back of your carry-on (because of lack of said stroller) was the coolest thing they’ve done yet!
- Let the kids pull their weight!
Literally! Give them their own carry on bag with their toys, coloring paper and pencils, special blanket and whatever else they might need to carry. They will feel so big and helpful and you won’t have to carry it! If you have a smaller child, maybe 1 year-old or older get a small bag with a few essentials and put it on their back. They won’t even know it’s there and that way you won’t have to dig through your purse to find their toys!
- Something to look forward to.
I think it’s hard for kids to understand time and distance, or at least my kids, so maybe try putting together a small reward or treat that they get to open every 1 hour so depending on the length of your trip. Just grab a few trinkets at the dollar store and wrap them up for each hour. They’ll have something new to play with each hour and by the time one’s worn off, it’ll be time for the next one!
I am really not one for giving candy for rewards or at every chance, I mean, it’s already so prevalent in our kids lives. But for take off and landing the cabin pressure can hurt little people’s ears. Heck it hurts adults’ ears sometimes!! Try giving them anything to suck on for take off and landing. A bottle, breastfeed, sucker, binkie, anything to take their minds off the pressure or to alleviate any pain.
- Don’t over pack
I’ve totally been here. I was packed to the brim with toys that we didn’t even touch. Now I bring a few tried and true toys that I know my kids love to play with and their tablets. They each have a tablet although they are only allowed to play it at special times so it’s still a treat. Keeps it simple for you and them!
- Let the airports help you
If you are traveling by plane, see what kind of services they offer for families traveling with kids. I know you can get a bassinet for babies, they also let you skip through the lines when possible. You can board first most of the time and if you have a connecting flight, you can request one of those little airport cars to take you to your next gate. They often have little packets for the kids when you get on the flight, which should keep them busy at least through take off.
But what I have learned is that if you don’t ask, they won’t offer. So ask! What’s the worst they could say? No and then you stand in line like everyone else. But if not, it definitely makes the process go smoother since kids and waiting patiently in line don’t always go together! Airlines are usually pretty understanding.
There you have it! I hope you feel more at ease and ready to conquer your trip, however long it may be, with your kiddos. If you have any other ideas or suggestions, I would love to hear them! Leave them in the comments and we’ll make a running list.
Have a great day!