May 2, 2007

Tips for Traveling with Children

Split Rock Lighthouse State Park in Minnesota

I mentioned that we've traveled with our 3 boys since our youngest was one year old. How did we make it work? It all comes down to keeping them occupied, not letting them get hungry, and keeping your own positive attitude.

On the road:
1. Start with shorter trips, distance and time-wise. We drove 3-4 hours to different destinations for weekend trips (Itasca State Park, North Shore of Lake Superior)

2. Make frequent stops. When we moved on to longer trips (7-10 days in the car), we stopped often to let them stretch their legs. We planned stops that would be fun for them, places to run around and climb on things, anything to wear off some energy. During our trip around Lake Michigan, we added a stop at Six Flags to our itinerary of state and national parks.

3. Plan car activities appropriate for their ages. We packed a basket with healthy snacks and things to do. You can't spend the entire trip talking to each other, so we also splurged on a 9" portable t.v. with a vcr (it was awhile ago!) that plugged into the power source, and as they got older, they brought hand held video games. Now they also read books and listen to music.

4. Plan around their eating and sleeping schedules. Make it easy for them and don't expect too much.

5. Be patient, and be flexible with your plans. Most important, make it fun for them.

On the plane:
This one is tougher for the little ones, but hopefully these suggestions will help.

1. Pack fun things to do. Our youngest was 2 1/2 years old on his first plane ride. We packed a bag full of crayons, paper, books, snacks and little toys for the 3 hour flight. He was great, other than he wanted to kneel on the floor and play on the seat. It was fine with me, but the flight attendant didn't agree. These days, it's easier to keep children (and adults) occupied with portable dvd players or computers. Books and music will also help.

2. Bring snacks to eat on the plane. Save them for when your child gets restless or hungry.

3. If they are a little older, let them pick out a magazine or two at the news stand. Unless they are used to them at home, it will be a treat and help keep them occupied on the plane. Don't forget to add some bottled water to your purchase.

4. Plane rides are a great chance to talk to your children. At home, schedules can get so busy that you don't have enough time to sit and talk, so your children will probably enjoy the one on one time. Talk about what you'll do on the trip, or what is going on at home. Play some easy pen and paper games while you chat. Our boys are pretty social, so they will talk to anyone they sit by. I have great memories of meeting people our boys sat next to (as they've gotten older, we sometimes get split up) and hearing about their conversations.

5. Make it an adventure for them. If they are excited, they won't be crabby. They will also pick up on your attitude, so be calm, patient, and positive. If you are having fun and enjoying yourself, so will they.