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Travel with Children

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Like we discussed in the last episode, Celebrating Holidays with Children, travel is another common theme these next few months.

Whether we’re traveling to spend time with family for a special holiday, or traveling to seek the sun or the slopes, there’s lots of opportunity for travel across town, across the country, across the world.

Here are a few of our favorite tips to make travel just a bit smoother.

“prepare.”

Sometimes travel means a long car ride, or a long plane ride with multiple layovers, or even a long event outside of the typical routine. Prepare with a few tools that might help with these unknown situations.

Pack a bag with a few special toys or even some new ones. Our favorites are new crayons and a pad of blank paper, Play-Doh or other clay, or small figurines. Older children could enjoy a special journal and a pen, or a book about the destination.

Speaking of books, a good book is essential for travel. This is one of those times when technology is amazing. You can take a whole library with you in your device! Library books can often be checked out electronically to be enjoyed on the road or in the air.

If you’re driving, audio books can help the hours and miles just fly by. The Redwall books are fun for many ages, as are the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. Even when hours need to be spent in close-proximity, we can find a bit of solitude with an audiobook and headphones, which can be especially helpful for older or more introverted children.

With unknown nutrition and schedule, it can be helpful to include some snacks in your travel bag. A cooler can be packed for road trips, nuts, trail-mix, bars, or even sandwiches can make their way through airport security. A few very favorite homemade or pre-selected treats, such as a favorite candy or gum, can lessen the appeal of gas station food. Even a short trip can sometimes be easier with a small box of raisins, a box of four crayons from the last restaurant you visited with your child, and a pad of paper, all of which fit tidily in a pocket and aren’t catastrophic if they’re left behind.

Which reminds us, try to leave Absolute Favorites at home. The lovey that bedtime is impossible without, the absolutely treasured toy, the well-worn blanket, as natural as it is to bring these along, they’re safest at home. The Second-Favorite will usually do just fine.

“engage.”

One of the greatest gifts of travel with children is the experience. It is so wonderful to see, taste, and smell places where we don’t live our everyday life. Help children be full participants in this experience. Let children take photos, maybe even print them once back at home. Try a local cuisine, rather than what we eat at home. Practice counting skills with mile markers (really lovely if we’re trying for a mid-trip nap!) or looking for just the right gate.

If you’re waiting out a long layover, use contextual clues like clothing and accessories to deduce the weather in Aruba or Toronto. What kinds of activities do people do in the snow? How about on the beach?

Play I Spy, and use sounds to make this game into a preparation for literacy. I’m thinking of something that starts with “c” what is it? You’re right! Car seat, cup holder, coffee.

“enjoy.”

Travel can be stressful, especially when it seems like half the population is also traveling! When possible, allow extra time. Be sure to pack some things that make the process easier and more enjoyable not just for your child, but for yourself as well — an eye mask, an audiobook and headphones, a favorite treat (maybe raisins, maybe not!).

Things can sometimes go sideways. Remember, we’re together, and nothing bad is happening. A flat tire, a delayed flight, lost luggage, a forgotten toothbrush — most things are fixable! Nothing is ruined with the right attitude.

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Written by:

Charlotte Wood

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