I am coming home tomorrow which means about a ten hour flight on the airplane. UGH. It's been such a great trip, but I'm excited to see my kiddos again too. I have some Italian candy and money to show them. They will like that. This trip I'll be on my own so I can quietly sit and read or watch a movie, but usually when I travel it is with a passel of kids in tow. In the early days of motherhood I used to pack everything but the kitchen sink in my diaper bag. And then spend the trip frantically doling out this and that to whoever seemed about to throw a fit. Anyone been there? It can be very stressful traveling with children. On the plane I worried that they were too wiggly or kicking the seat in front of them. I was so concerned that we would be disturbing other passengers that I spent the whole flight in a state of frantic fight or flight mode. I was an exhausted wreck by the end time we reached our destination. And my back hurt from lugging around everybody's stuff. And from feeling like a crazed person trying to keep everyone happy with snacks and games and paper etc. I finally learned a few things along the way that have made trips much easier for me:
-Relax!!! People really aren't paying as much attention as you think they are. The sounds of the plane really do muffle most of the noise on your row, so unless your child is completely screaming they can probably truly barely be heard by the people around you. They are so absorbed in their own conversations or have on movie headphones, that they aren't as bothered as you might imagine. Even those who do hear you most likely have kids of their own and are sympathetic. As for those few rare moments when your toddler is pitching a huge tantrum and others are staring...just remember this too shall pass. And you'll likely never see these people again. Just do the best that you can. What more can you do? Stressing isn't going to help and will probably only serve to further agitate your child.
-You are not a cart horse. Whenever we travel now we pack individual backpacks for each child and they carry their own gear. Even the littlest ones can carry a backpack. They kind of think it's fun actually. That way you can customize each pack to the needs of the child and they have easy access to the snacks and activities that they want without coming to you a million times for resupply. It takes a little doing to fill the packs before leaving, but saves so much stress on the plane that it is well worth the effort. These individual backpacks come in handy during the waiting time at the airport terminal as well.
-Your attitude makes all the difference. If you stay upbeat the kids will be excited about the trip, but if you are whining about the troubles of traveling guess what? So will they. In most cases you are going somewhere you want to go and making the trip on purpose right? I know the details can be tough sometimes, but think how truly amazing it is to be able to cross the country in a matter of hours to see family or visit and exciting destination. Don't let the hardships get you down. Focus on the positive and your kids will too. Most of the things we stress endlessly about really aren't that bad if we don't grow them out of proportion in our own minds.
- Bribery works...I know I know healthy food is best. But if some junk food keeps them happy on the plane I say go with it. Let them watch the movie and play that hand held video game. Everyone will be much happier if you do. :-)
- Choose your seat assignments wisely. Think through which children are most compatible with one another and put older ones near younger ones. They can help out some so you are not run ragged. Offer an older child an incentive of some sort to be a "travel buddy" to a younger sibling. It's a win win situation that way and helps out a lot.
Traveling is supposed to be enjoyable. So play some games like "eye spy" and try to keep on smiling. And plan ahead to arrive early so you aren't running and racing every step along the way. Have fun!!!