First I’d like to thank Alice and Kathleen for letting me crash their blog for a post. I've known them both since I became a mom 8 (gasp! This is going by fast!) years ago. They were busy working with my husband and keeping him sane while I was busy at home figuring out how a human so small could change your life so much. Alice was one of Aila’s first babysitters when she was 3 months old and her choice of activity to keep the infant entertained was to take her to a puppet show. You gotta start them early. Or I think Alice just really wanted to see Winnie the Pooh.
I’ve been brought in to discuss my “jet-setting lifestyle,” which sounds much more glamorous than it really is and is even less glamorous with children. But I guess when I think about it, we really do travel all the time and everywhere with our kids (now 8 and 6) and never think twice about it. In addition to vacations, we now live in Toronto, and our family is spread out all over the US. Two hours on a plane, nine hours in a car, who cares? Let’s go! People tell me we are crazy or are amazed that we do it, but I just figured it was normal because that’s what we’ve always done. I think that is my first tip in kid travel: do it early and often and you will grow numb to how bonkers it can be.
A wise friend once told me that babies are like living luggage and you can take then anywhere. I believed him and did just that. The biggest issue with infant travel is only the amount of crap that you need to bring with you. The smaller the person, the more shit they require to survive away from home base. But other than the 4 extra bags you’ll have to pack (and carry somehow—but that’s what husbands are for), babies mostly sleep and eat while you enjoy a nice glass of wine on vacation. My daughter had taken 14 round-trip flights all over the US and gone to Europe before she turned 2...all while still flying free as an “infant in arms” (thankfully, since diapers are stupid expensive).
But eventually they grow up and become mini-people with opinions and ideas and legs that run and mouths that need way more than breastmilk and Cheerios. And while their travel bags get lighter, the drama can weigh you down 10 times more if you allow it. Just remember two things: 1) You're the boss, and 2) “We’re gonna have so much fucking fun we’re gonna need plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles!” (Use the film “Vacation” to measure your family traveling success and you will always come out on top).
So here are some Dos and Don’ts I’ve learned from traveling with bigger kids:
DO feed them until they’re happy. Lovingly prepared, organic, well-balanced meals on a firm schedule are crap when on the road. Every time they say “Mom, I’m hungry!” it’s way easier to hand over a bag of Goldfish than to explain it isn’t snack time for another hour...and then listen to them whine for that hour. They can go right back to sprouted bread and kale when you arrive at your destination. But make sure not to jack them up on sugary crap either. Remember, you are about to spend a significant amount of time in a confined space with these small people. And always pack three times as much food as you think they could possibly eat. I swear, moving vehicles make their stomachs expand exponentially.
DON’T stress too much about your fellow passengers on a plane. While I believe it’s important to explain to a child that kicking the seat in front of them is an asshole thing to do, you are also never going to see these people again. Their ice cold glares have got nothing on your mama bear growl, and if they can’t see how cute your little monsters really are then screw 'em.
DO be “that parent” who hands over the electronics as soon as you are settled and orders a glass of wine. You have years to be the mom who plays games at home and sings cute songs to keep your precious angels occupied and their minds educationally stimulated. When traveling, iPads, DVD players, phones, etc. are worth their silent weight in gold. Period.
DON’T expect to arrive when the GPS says you will. There will be potty breaks and food stops whether your “we are gonna drive straight through” husband likes it or not.
DO make everyone use the bathroom on these stops, including your aforementioned husband.
DON’T throw away those empty water bottles because inevitably one child will still have to go to the bathroom again 10 minutes after you just stopped.
DON’T accidentally drink from that water bottle.
DO stretch before the trip. This will aid in nimbly climbing into the back of the car at 75mph to retrieve whatever can’t wait until the next stop.
DON’T let them see you sweat. If Mom loses it then they all will.
DO have a sense of humour. While you know “you'll look back at this someday and laugh,” why not just laugh now. I find it truly the only way to survive. And when things seem like they can’t get any worse—one kid is puking while the other peed his pants again and there is a 3 hour delay or a 10 mile backup—just remember, your neighbors are sitting home this weekend doing nothing while you are out exploring the world and making memories. Crazy memories, but memories none the less.