Are We There Yet??
It’s the dreaded question that launched a movie, and a myriad of social media memes. Whether you’re traveling internationally or domestically, traveling creates headaches, anxiety, anticipation, and stress; sometimes months before the trip begins and even after the trip is over. In the midst of writing this entry I am actually preparing for a 2-country international trip with my 10- and 7-year old. While my husband and I have trained our children to understand that traveling in and of itself is a privilege, it is often treated as a necessary evil since it involves so many moving pieces and a lot of deep breaths. Here are some tips that I have found helpful:
- Prepare, prepare, prepare. All amount of preparation will pay off in the end. If it’s a road trip I can fill a bag of snacks, download screens (another necessary evil) with favorite movies and kid-friendly apps, and make sure I have favorite music ready to listen to when breaks are needed from the screens. If it’s a trip to a theme park, I will buy dollar store items beforehand to cut down on the inevitable requests for toys at the park. I have even shipped bottled water from Costco, dried foods from home, and non-perishable items from my pantry in order to cut down on costs. Be sure to pack medicines that are easy to take; for our upcoming trip outside the country, I am packing my ear thermometer in my suitcase and chewable tablets in my carry-on just in case sickness strikes.
- Talk with the kids about what to expect. This one depends on the age and emotional maturity of your child. When my son was in his preschool years, any indication that we would be going on a trip would mean lack of sleep due to excitement and anticipation. I would wait until close the start of the trip before I told him anything. Then I would clearly tell him where we were going and expectations of behavior during the trip. If there were multiple legs of the trip I would take it step by step with pictures of the car, the plane, the airport tram. Delineating a clear and basic outline of what the beginning, middle, and even end of the trip will look like is important. Anticipation of the event or trip can also be broken down visually by providing a chain link of construction paper circles, which represent the days left before a big trip. For every day that passes before the trip, a circle can be torn off. Sometimes something as concrete as this can help with anxiety.
- Pack unexpected treats. I gift-wrapped a few small toys ahead of time that my kids could open during the 20-hour plane ride we took overseas. I saved a couple for layovers as well. The new toy or book provided a break from the monotony of sitting in one place for a long time. We also took walking breaks playing “I Spy” around the airplane as well when we needed a movement break.
- Bring something to chew or suck on during plane rides or car trips. My kids are prone to motion sickness and this is a must for our family. I usually get gum (which is a very special treat in our house) or mints, which my son enjoys. The swallowing also provides relief from the pressure in the ears at takeoff and especially during landing, which can be particularly painful to children with sensitive ears or allergies. I also carry around lemon oil; the scent, I have learned from practice and from others, provides relief from motion sickness.
- Consider how you will deal with toileting. This can be a tricky one especially if your little one has just been potty trained. Some families I know will hold off on potty training before big trips because dealing with diapers and pull-ups is much easier than having to clean up a messy accident. Again, when my son was 3 we went on a big trip overseas, the plane ride was substantial but we made sure to use the restroom right before boarding, and after taking off. I also brought a change of clothes just in case there were any accidents.
- Be sure to communicate with teachers that you will be traveling. Let your teachers know ahead of time – especially if it’s a long trip – that you will be traveling. Teachers can plan ahead for projects they’d like your child to participate in, and even modify the project so your child can fully participate in what the classroom is doing. I told my son’s 5th grade teacher that we were going overseas and missing a week of school at the beginning of the school year, three weeks ahead of our trip, and then another time a week before the trip. Rather than being annoyed she was being told so many times, she encouraged me to send her reminders so she could keep me abreast of what my son was doing in the class and how I could support his learning.
- Pray with your children about the trip. Traveling also gives us a chance to remind our children that our big God is everywhere; at Grandma’s house in North Carolina or at the beach down south where the next vacation will be.
Traveling can be a big pain in the patoot but it’s also a ton of fun; providing opportunities for learning and memory-making that nothing else can for your kids. How do you deal with traveling? Would love to hear how you do it too! Feel free to share with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.