Long-distance traveling with kids is one of parenting’s most stressful experiences. You and your child are far from your comfort zone, in a tight and confined space sometimes in the midst of strangers who may not be used to the quirks of little ones, especially on a long trip.
Many travel experts advise that the best way to see it through is to make it as familiar and comfortable as possible for the kids. That means bringing along much-loved objects and favored toys. If your children are used to seeing and interacting with something at home, by all means bring it along unless size and practical demands won’t allow it.
You can’t transform an airplane cabin or the back seat of the family vehicle into a playroom, but you can make kids comfortable and give them distractions enough to cover the long hours they’re curled up strapped in a seatbelt.
Be smart about seating
If you’re traveling by air, be mindful of seating arrangements. Where possible, reserve seats at the back of the plane, where you have a little separation from the rest of the passengers. If all goes right, you can create your own little sanctuary back there. Unless you have a tight connection, there’s no reason to worry about being the last one to “deplane” as the airlines put it. If that’s not possible, remember that kids need to make frequent trips to the bathroom and they’ll get fidgety as soon as boredom sets in. Giving your youngster the aisle seat provides a little more “wiggle room,” and makes things much easier when it’s time for a bathroom stop.
If you’re concerned your kids will be scared if the plane encounters turbulence, the back of the plane is often the bumpiest. Instead, consider booking seats next to or near the wing, which usually provides the smoothest ride.
Time it right
The best time to start out on a long trip is when your kids tend to be sleepy and may well nod off. If they typically nap right after lunch, schedule your flight for that time or have the car packed, fueled and ready to roll as soon as lunch is over. It’s better for them (they get a good nap in) and for you because you don’t have to begin a long journey in a state of high stress exacerbated by squirmy, exhausted children.
Pack play resources
As a parent, you probably have an entire arsenal of play materials and favorite toys that can keep your little ones happily distracted for hours. Include everything you can in a child’s backpack or small rolling suitcase and bring it along. The more you can keep colored markers, coloring books, playing cards, handheld gaming devices (with power cords) and small toys within easy reach of the kids, the easier the trip will be. Besides, you don’t want to have to keep reaching back and forth handing and retrieving play items when they should be placed well within the little ones’ reach.
In the car and going far
Not all travel happens by plane. If you’ve opted for a road trip, know that it’s not as simple as popping the kids in the backseat and heading out. You’ll also need to plan plenty of ways to keep them entertained and fed. Kids are notorious for wanting to snack in the car so make sure you have items that are easily cleanable. Crackers are a great option since they can be vacuumed up after the trip. Avoid chocolate and fruit snacks. At all costs. Magnetic travel games are also a wonderful way to engage the youngest members of your crew. Older kids will be happy with a book or handheld gaming device. Invest in a small point and shoot camera and let your children document the sites along the route.
The beauty of travel cribs
If you’re traveling with a little one, there may or may not be a safe, clean space for sleeping when you arrive. Consider bringing along a travel crib, which can be broken down and transported in a carrying bag that will fit snugly in the tightest packing space. No worries when it comes to weight; they’re light and easy to carry through the largest airport.
Going on a long trip takes careful planning and preparation. If you travel fairly regularly, you’re probably accustomed to it all. Providing distractions and making things fun for the kids is just another preparation, albeit an extremely important one.
AUTHOR: DANIEL SHERWIN