Has anyone ever told me I'm a control freak? Anal-retentive? Crazy? Of course not. Why would someone possibly in a million years say that?
If you're bordering on having that problem, you might like some of my tips for traveling with kids. Or you might not. But I'm going to share them with you anyway.
Just so you know, a few of these are original ideas, but most of them have been borrowed from moms all across the interwebs. (Thanks, other mamas.) To find any of these games, just do a quick Google search and print them out.
Now, before I get a few emails saying, "But Laura, you should teach the children to entertain themselves. But Laura, this is too much trouble. But Laura, you're stupid because you don't parent exactly like I do." ...let me just say:
(To that last lady...shut up. Quit reading my blog. Go bother someone else.)
This is primarily for long stretches in an airplane and/or in a rental car. Everyone in my family gets extremely car sick, and a happy, active kid tends to be less verklempt about puking in the backseat than a sad, bored kid. And, many aspects of travel, especially flying, can be kind of scary to some children, so distracting them can help.
All right...on to travel tips:
(What? You don't want to sit next to us?)
Whiny/crying/misbehaving kids on an airplane are a nightmare. We can all agree on that, right?
Get seats together.
Again, sounds obvious, but doesn't always work. Flights fill up quickly, so book early to get a block of seats together. For big families, book seats across from each other on the aisle rather than in front of or behind you. It's much easier to hand snacks and whatnot back and forth, and it's handier for keeping an eye on your kids.
On most airlines, children can fly for free until they're two years old if they sit on your lap. Boy, that can be challenging.
Fortunately, Piper was an angel on the trip up to Washington. She conked out pretty soon after takeoff. Since we had three seats together, she could stretch out across our laps.
Make a Travel Binder!
You know all that info you need, all the documents and bits and bobs? I know this sounds obvious, but it's a lot easier to access if it's all in one place. They really rush you through the security line, and it's nice to have this all together while you're taking off all jewelry, your shoes/kids' shoes, taking batteries out of laptops, and shoving six bags through the x-ray machine.
I make a basic itinerary page at the front, then sections for each day of the trip, and a tab for Kid Stuff.
Pack a small, easy-to-access medical bag.
Everyone in my family gets extremely car/air/sea sick, so we need all this stuff. The acupressure bracelets helped Violet a lot on the plane, and Adam and I both like crystallized ginger. The girls think it's too spicy, but older kids might like it.
Pack gum and/or lollipops for takeoff and landing.
Little ears are extra sensitive to pressure changes, so give the older kids gum and the younger ones lollipops. It keeps them swallowing and distracted. The rest is up to your child's personality. Violet loves to watch takeoff and talk about it, but Piper was more interested in being held by Daddy. If your kid thinks this part is scary, distract them with earphones or a story.
Make their luggage special.
(Shameless personal plug since I make decoupaged suitcases-ha!) If your kids can have fun with the luggage, they'll be busy even while waiting at the airport, shuttles, car rental place, etc. There are lots of cute kid cases with their favorite characters and/or in bright colors. A unique suitcase is also a lot easier to pick out at the baggage claim. Another idea...if you have one of the bazillion black suitcases at the airport, wrap a bright piece of tape or fabric around the handle to help you identify your luggage.
Let them burn off some energy.
Before and after flights and car rides (and if possible-during car stops), let them run around. Within reason, obviously. Violet danced her heart out while we waited for our rental car paperwork. If you're lucky, they'll be so tired they'll sleep on the plane/on the boat/in the car. (Yeah, right.)
See? Tired. Actually, I think she was just dizzy from all the spinning.
Offer good behavior incentives.
When possible, I prefer to reward rather than punish. Obviously, there will be a little of both, but it works better for us to start on a positive note.
1. Good behavior bucks-I used Monopoly money and handed out a dollar every hour. On the plane (where keeping kids buys tends to be hardest), I did it every half hour.
It only takes one missed buck for them to shape up. Once, Violet did something questionable and she immediately looked at me and said, "Will I still get my good behavior buck this hour?"
Let them trade the money in at the end of the trip to buy souvenirs. If you have to hand out a bunch of bills due to a long trip, make an exchange rate of 4 bucks=$1.00. Or whatever.
2. Time it-We're trying to teach Violet to tell time, so she received her first watch for this trip. We concentrated on the hour and half hour. Violet would identify, say....two o'clock, then two thirty, when we'd hand out good behavior bucks.
3. Travel tickets-Hand out carnival-style tickets during the duration of the trip. I gave out tickets in the morning, and had Violet give me a ticket every half hour. When all the tickets were up, we'd arrived at our destination.
Here's how I did ours: We left our home at 5:00 a.m. and our flight was due to arrive at 11:30 a.m. That's 6 1/2 hours, or 13 half-hour increments, which equals 13 tickets.
Some people GIVE the child a ticket instead of taking one. I prefer to COLLECT the ticket because for young kids it's easier to process the concept of "all gone". Since it's hard for kids to picture how long a flight/drive will take, this aids them in seeing how much farther they have to go.
Okay...more ideas coming up in Part Two!