traveling with children

last weekend we went to visit my friends in the Atlanta area, and my sister and brother-in-law, but most importantly, my new niece!  I went alone with 2 of our children, peety and ellabella.  I have traveled alone with each of them, but never with both.  I must admit I was a bit frightened.  Sometimes Peter becomes lost in his head and wanders off, and Ella, well, she’s a baby, and that presents its own challenges.  Both of them are now certified Ace Travelers in my estimation.  When traveling, Peter can rise to the occasion and summon an extra dose of helpfulness and attention, and Ella was her usual laid-back self.  Since she’s been traveling at least since 6 weeks old, its just another part of her existence, not a “special occasion.”

 We went to the Georgia Aquarium, which I *highly* recommend for children (and parents) of all ages.  We were there for 4 hours, but easily could have spent the entire day, despite the massive crowds.  three adults, two babies, and three 7-9 year olds were all entertained and educated.  The lunch was even delicious.  If you’re ever in the area, make sure you reserve tickets in advance. (Much like the Shedd, in Chicago).  They both claim to be the world’s largest aquariums.  Both are fantastic, but I digress.

 We had pictures taken of Peter, Ella and Sophia.  The photographer kept making strange noises to try toget the babies to smile, but they were clearly bothered by all the hullabaloo!  Peter behaved wonderfully, however, which is rare for him during any photography session. Poor scan of photo - Ella's in Purple and Sophia's in Floral print.

Since I now have much experience traveling with children, I thought I’d share some of my best practices.

Most importantly SET EXPECTATIONS BEFORE THE TRIP.  Let the kids know the behavior you expect of them, especially the level of cooperation required for a peaceful family trip.  This is the best advice I have ever recieved.

For teenagers:

Bring music.  They travel best when they can feel independent (even though they aren’t) and if they can disappear during the flight into their own dreams, all the better. It might be tempting to put them on younger sibling patrol during the flight, but it truly is best for everyone to save that duty for airports and taxi stands, and any place else that requires “waiting” time. 

Bring a NEW book or magazine purchased especially for the trip.  My stepdaughter is a voracious reader and doesn’t sleep well on airplanes, so she actually brings an entire carryon full of books.For pre-teens and elementary kids:

Bring a NEW toy especially for the trip.  Our boys love legos, so they each get to choose a new lego set for a long trip.  Also be sure to have a ziplock bag large enough to hold the small pieces once the box is opened.  I like to open the boxes and place the pieces and instructions in the baggie before we leave for the trip.  Also, music players are great for this age, and books of course.  Art supplies (in an easily manageble storage container) are also entertaining.

On long trips (i.e. overseas) we have the plane’s entertainment system.  The boys are old enough to watch a movie alone, which is great.

For Baby:  bring her favorite toy, and nurse (or give a bottle) on take-off and landing.  I cannot stress this enough!  The swallowing helps relieve their ear pressure.  Also – Ella falls asleep every time, too (side bonus).  For a toddler – a sippy cup helps.

side note: Some people like to bring electronic toys (game boy, etc.) on trips to occupy their older kids.  This doesn’t work for us.  We find that extended periods playing these games make the kids irritable and also decrease their capacity to enjoy the actvities during the trip.  The only electronics we allow on vacations are music players.  Our trips are more peaceful and interactive that way.

Lastly  – BRING FOOD.  We bring clif bars, goldfish crackers, and bottled water.  I have the kids avoid sugary treats and caffeine (well, most of the time anyway, but especially on the plane)  Make them drink water or juice.  Dehydrated kids are cranky kids.

A well-prepared mother can enjoy a trip with children as much as a trip alone.

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