I’m not going to lie to you. Traveling with kids can be torture – especially if you are traveling overseas. Since my parents live 6 hours by car and my in-laws live in Germany (24 hours via planes, trains and automobiles) I have done my share of traveling with small children. I am lobbying for children to be kept in cargo during long flights. Heck, dogs, cats bird and even Shamu fly safely under the plane. Why can’t the kids?
Here is what I have learned…
I break all of my rules regarding snacks, drinks and anything normally poisonous for a child. Anything to keep them happy for 6-24 hours, I’m all for – including McDonalds at the airport terminal.
Daddy and I coach the kids before we even leave the house what the proper etiquette is for the airplane (or car). Honey, there is no screaming in the airplane. People are trying to sleep. We must be very quiet. No kicking the back of the seat in front of you. No running around. We must stay in our seat with our seatbelts fastened.
For short flights (less than 3 hours), bring lots of books, toys or videos. Please make sure your games or toys don’t make ear wrenching, obnoxious noises. The people sitting near you don’t want to hear it.
For long flights (i.e. to Germany), mentally prepare yourself that you are going to have one of the worst days of your entire life. My daughter who is now 4 travels pretty well. It’s my 14-month old who causes me to lose my sanity. It is impractical to expect a toddler to sit patiently in a 2 x 2 confined space for 9 hours. Expect your child to scream, cry, kick and punch for at least 6 of the 9 hours on the plane. Nothing will make your experience better, except for the 30 seconds they fall asleep. So just take a deep breath, a few shots of jagermeister, and you will be on the ground before you know it. Oh, but wait, then you get to stand in the customs line for another hour. Another thrill.
If traveling with a baby or toddler in diapers or who are not eating table food, bring extra food and clothes for 24 hours. Why? My husband was flying to Germany with our baby when his flight was delayed and he got stuck staying the night in New York. The next flight didn’t leave until 5pm the next day – so it took 48 hours to get to Germany. My husband ran out of baby food, formula and diapers. We learned our lesson the hard way.
If you face jetlag upon arrival, jump into the new timezone immediately. The quicker you get on the new timezone, the quicker you will adjust. Children usually adjust better than adults. Don’t sleep the days away or you will have a harder time adjusting to the jetlag.
If you are treveling by car, plan your drive time so you can make plenty of stops. This will help keep tempers in tact.
When traveling to a foreign country, buy children’s books in the native language and bring them home. Teaching children foreign languages does wonders for their brain development.
Enjoy your trip! Keep your sanity! Ciao!