Articles abound with helpful tips for when travelling with children. Common sense ideas such as – ensuring you have plenty for them to do – introducing new activities during the journey – packing favourite toys – having their own backpack just for their activities – a goods nights sleep for everyone before heading off – regular stops. But what about the preparation leading up to the journey? What can be done to ensure the stress of travelling with little ones is kept to a minimum, for you and them.
Taking children out of their familiar surroundings and routine can be very distressing for some kids, whereas others seem to take it in their stride. Either way children deserve to know that a trip is imminent.
If the child is old enough to understand, circles can be placed around the departure date, then a daily countdown to reinforce the upcoming holiday. If some of the time away involves meeting new family members, show the children photos in preparation for the strangers that will want to kiss and cuddle them. We all have stories of a great Aunt or Uncle who would insist on grabbing us from our mothers arms and terrifying us. Prepare them for this; it can save embarrassment for everyone.
If you are going to be sitting for long periods of time, practice with the kids. Have a clock or timer and see how long they can sit and read, or some other sitting activity. Make it a game. Challenge them to stretch out the length of time they can sit at each attempt, make it worth their while. A trip to the park, or their favourite stories afterwards, whatever is a treat for your child.
Let the children choose what they pack in their travel bag – within reason of course, they may need suggestions and guidance. Let them pack and repack as many times as they like, encourage them to get excited about this process.
For babies and smaller children, I suggest lots of familiar things – blankets with familiar smells, or comfort soft toys. Try to wear your usual perfume. Plan your journey if you are able, to disrupt their routine as little as possible. Above all do not get rattled, with all the hassle of travel, your baby will pick up on this change in you and could become unsettled.
One mother said to me as her child screamed through yet another plane trip, ” the one thing that keeps me sane is knowing that most people on the flight are parents also, and understand what it is like to have a loud, fractious baby. I am comforted by the looks of commiseration.” Sometimes you just have to ride it out. Welcome to parenthood.
Continued page 2 …