Whether you're planning a few hours' drive to Grandma's house, or an overseas flight to your dream destination, traveling with your children can be both a rewarding and a worrisome experience. There are things that you can do to ensure that both your teen who doesn't want to be seen with you and your toddler on the verge of a major tantrum become more agreeable, cheerful traveling companions.
1.) Pack the drugs - It's a good idea to be prepared for any and every medical emergency you might face while traveling, especially where children are concerned. A children's or junior strength pain reliever (whatever you prefer) should be first on your list. Make sure you get the kind that are chewable, or that melt in the mouth. Even teens can have a hard time swallowing medication if no water is available. An over-the-counter allergy med is also a good choice, as traveling can be hard on little sinuses and their sensitivities. An anti-biotic ointment can come in quite handy for those unexpected boo-boos. Lastly, some parents swear by Benadryl when traveling. Small doses can quiet a fussy child during a long flight, can help turn around a jet-lagged child's sleep schedule, and can relax an over-stimulated little traveler so that everyone can get a good night's rest.
2.) Plan your trip - A little planning goes a long way toward a successful, or at least less-stressful, trip with little ones. Consider nap times and bed times when scheduling departure times. If you can leave an hour or so before your child normally hits Lullaby Land, chances are good that about an hour or so into your trip, Junior will be racking up Z's. (Of course this can backfire and you can end up with a very unpleasant time, but it's worth a try.) Wake up times can be just as important, as leaving too early can create cranky kids for the rest of the day. Having to wake Junior in the middle of his nap probably won't make him any happier either. Remember meal and snack times, too, when planning out your trip. If you'll be flying or otherwise unable to stop and eat at your regular dinner hour, remember to pack snacks or box meals for your child. Many restaurants and airlines offer children's menus, with kid-friendly offerings and smaller portions. If available, order from them, as your child is more likely to eat foods that are familiar. Hungry bellies make bad travelers.
3.) There's no place like Home - Bring a bit of home along to help your child adjust to the new surroundings of a strange hotel or relative's guest room. Inexpensive touch lights can become traveling night-lights. Your child's pillow can make all the difference between a good night's sleep and a restless, wakeful night. Of course, never leave Teddy or Dolly behind, no matter how ragged or embarrassing to you his or her appearance might be. Let your little one carry toys, story books and whatnot in their own backpack. Attach the bear or doll to their pack with one of those long fabric key chains, to ensure it doesn't get lost or left behind.
4.) Keep them occupied - At some point in your travels, your child is going to need something to pass the time. Music, either in the form of CD's or mp3's, can be used for both entertainment and to soothe the savage beast at the end of a long, arduous day of sightseeing. Audio books are another long-time favorite of traveling parents. If driving, consider some family fare that all of you can enjoy. Remember to pack the extra batteries or the battery charger and rechargeable cells, to keep the hits a rollin' on. Handheld games are a good choice, but opt for non-electronic or be sure Janie uses headphones or the mute button. There's nothing quite like the sound of her favorite game cartridge for two hundred miles to frazzle everyone's nerves. Crayons, colored pencils, or markers can turn a paper placemat into a distraction. Add in a pad of paper or a coloring book for lots of amusement in the back seat. Puzzle books and sticker activity books are another inexpensive means of occupying a youngster while traveling. If driving, make sure the print is large, though, or headaches or car sickness might be the result instead. It should also go without saying that if little Janie's pocket-sized dolly can keep her attention for several hours at home she'll be able to have the same effect on little Janie while on the plane. Some parents buy new toys especially for the trip, expecting the thrill and excitement of something new to keep Junior happy. This can be a gamble, however, because everyone's happiness is dependent upon Junior or Janie's opinion of the new plaything.
5.) Don't worry, just be happy - So maybe "happy" isn't the best choice of words to use. Keeping a good attitude and an open mind while traveling goes a long way toward guaranteeing everyone arrives with their sanity intact. Meltdowns will happen. Embarrassing events will occur. There're the inevitable delays and disappointments. At some point, one or all of you will get cranky, disagreeable, or even downright unbearable. Keeping this in mind and trying to make the best of whatever comes your way can create an atmosphere of fun and adventure, as opposed to one of fretfulness and adversity.
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