BY DR. LISA GOODMAN, DC, CCSP, CACCP
Traveling with kids. What a fantastic opportunity to see new places, visit family, friends or meet new ones, and, of course, the experience of traveling together is sure to create lasting memories. Not only that, but traveling with children if done well, instills a sense of adventure, confidence and appreciation for the amazing world we live in and the amazing people in it. And yet, the prospect of traveling with kids gives many of us a feeling of panic or dread in addition to excitement. Let’s take some of our traveling-with-kids challenges and turn them into opportunities!
Road Trip roadblocks – how to keep kids entertained on the road!
• Hit Pinterest – you’ll find tons of great suggestions here. A few of my favorites include printing a map of your journey, then write on the map when you pass certain milestones. I also love the suggestion of brown paper bags of surprises that you can reveal at each milestone. Ideally the surprise is something to do on the trip (a cheerio necklace, a new DVD, ‘road trip bingo’, a book about your destination, etc.).
• Include a few more stops in your trip – why not make it a true adventure. If you are driving a few states or even 5-8 hours away to visit family or explore a new part of Colorado, make a stop in between. Check out a new town for a night before reaching your final destination. This will give your family an adventure within a vacation.
• Audiobooks! Probably the best way to pass the time on a roadtrip, choose a great family friendly book like Harry Potter, The Hobbit, Matilda (read by Kate Winslet) or The House at Pooh Corner.
Air travel with infants – insider tips!
• Plan your travel by age. The best age to travel with babies is before age one. Young babies will nurse or feed and likely sleep most of the flight. On the other hand, between ages one and two, can be a challenging time to fly. Why? Because while your child can still sit on your lap until age two, once they start crawling and walking they are very challenging to reign in on a long flight. After age two they have their own seat and are easier to entertain with snacks, coloring and the trusty ipad. I recommend reserving the ipad for actual time in the air. While waiting at the gate, let your little ones crawl, walk and play with cars, dolls or legos, etc. as they won’t be able to do this onboard!
• Bring the stroller. This is a no-brainer, but still, I see so many families at the airport carrying their infants in a sling, etc through security. I am all for wearing your baby, but here are the best parts for taking your stroller through security. 1) You can put all of your families ‘stuff’ in it. Less to carry 2) IF your flight is delayed, the stroller becomes the best place to nap your child (especially if walking them helps!)
3) You can gate check for free & it is waiting for you at the gate. 4) You are likely going to want a stroller at your destination
• Pack extra food, diapers and clothes. Airports are getting far better at accommodating parents, but it is still best to be prepared for flight delays. If you have ANY dietary restrictions be sure to pack extra baby food and a hearty snack for toddlers. Diapers can be found generally at an excessive mark-up. As much as we plan for the best, diaper (ahem) ‘blow-outs’ happen and you’ll want to have extra clothes for you and baby.
• What to do about car seats? If your toddler is riding in a carseat, you have to check into Go-Go Babyz travelmate! It attaches to any carseat and allows you to wheel it anywhere like a stroller. Most families you pass in the airport will ask you where you got it as they are lugging their heavy toddler’s car seat and trying to wrangle their kiddo. It is collapsable and easily stores under the seat on an airplane. For older kids in booster seats, If you are getting picked up, I recommend a family member borrow or purchase a booster seat (less than $20 at Target) rather than dragging it through the airport. If you are renting a car, consider adding a car seat or booster seat on, although this can be less cost effective than bringing one!
Plane travel with older kids – time to be independent!
• Holding their own carry-on. This is time to celebrate! Once your kids are old enough to walk on their own and carry a small backpack, you are home free. Anything they need or want on the trip has to fit in a bag they can carry. Trust me, working to tote their own treasures will give your kids so much pride! I suggest, headphones and a splitter, ipod or ipad (loaded with tv shows or movies), snacks, stuffed animal, coloring book/crayons, deck of cards, a few hot wheels, empty water bottle (fill it after security), and attach a hoodie to the outer straps of the backpack.
• Give them an allowance. This works for kids as young as six. Set their trip allowance before the journey. This alleviates the constant requests for souvenirs. Rather, it teaches them responsible spending. If their allowance for a week long trip is $40, they will learn a lot about what things are worth! You’ll be surprised how quickly your kids start to appreciate the value of the entire trip. If you plan ahead, your kids can have a lemonade stand, yard sale or do chores around the house to earn more towards their trip spending.
• Help with trip planning. You might be surprised how much kids ad to planning a trip. Let them search for AirBnBs or hotels with you, if your destination is up in the air, see what your kids think. Kids also have great suggestions about activities in destinations. Have them brainstorm and come to you with their ideas. Your next great adventure is around the corner!
Travel with kids of all ages can be challenging and daunting, but be creative and inclusive and every trip can be the trip of a lifetime.