With the passing of my Granny, our family was tasked with making arrangements to travel from VA to LA. If you are unfamiliar with this trip, driving takes about 16 hours non-stop and 18 hours with stops included. As a mother who has made a 13 hour car trip with both of my children driving did not look to be the most attractive option. If you are frugal like myself, paying full price for a five year old was not the most appealing either. Nonetheless, flying would be the option that would provide the least amount of stress and anxiety for myself, my children’s father, and the grandparents. Having experienced both driving long distance and flying with both children, I acquired some much needed lessons for future trips. While there were many lessons to be learned, today I am going to touch on 6.
1.) SNACKS, SNACKS, SNACKS
If your children are anything like mine then that makes them very picky. My five year old son loves snacks but only certain ones and his one year old sister eats just about anything as long as the texture is right. Most airlines only serve pretzels, biscotti cookies, or crackers (due to peanut allergies). None of these options appeal to my children except the cookies. For this reason, I made sure to stop at the store and grab some snacks I know they eat (fruit bar, pop tarts, cheese puffs, wafers, etc.) and place them in my purse. This is also helpful when driving because making too many stops will slow up your trip. It is a lot easier to hand my children a snack in the backseat or keep bottled juices/water handy if they get thirsty.
2.) Stroller for the airport
My daughter may only be 18.5 lbs, but those 18.5 lbs seem like 50 when walking through the airport, trying to keep track of your five year old, carrying a purse, and a potential carry-on bag. Recently, while taking a work trip to Atlanta, my daughter accompanied me. I had the type of carry-on that does not roll and trying to hold the bag, my purse and push the stroller were a little difficult. My walk through the airport became so much easier when I was able to place my bag in the stroller and position my daughter in a way that allowed me to push both her and the bag. My purse also easily fit in the bottom of the stroller. If you have two stroller size children a double stroller is also beneficial.
3.) Be prepared for what can go wrong
We try to be properly prepared when traveling but as we all know as parents many things can throw a wrench in your plans. When flying to Atlanta, my gate was changed at the last minute 15 minutes prior to the boarding of my plane. Luckily, we had arrived early enough to catch this mistake and were already sitting at the gate when the announcement was made as opposed to getting to the gate last minute and not hearing the change. Make sure you have adequate pampers and wipes in your purse because poop incidents can throw things off. Often we think we will be ok because the plane ride is only X amount of time but a cranky child with a poopy pamper can be a miserable plane ride. I also try to avoid empty highway routes because my son is famous for waiting til the last minute to say he has to potty. This often puts me on the longer route but it makes for easier bathroom stops. When I was a kid my mother use to carry a portable potty. While I have not used this myself, I know from experience it came in handy as a kid.
4.) Electronic Devices
At five years old, my son has become extremely talkative. He constantly asks questions and wants to know where we are in the trip. My mother purchased him a portable TV that hooks behind my seat and we keep a variety of DVD’s in the car to rotate through. This keeps him entertained and the questions to a minimum. He can use headphones or watch at a volume that allows balance for us to still play our own music. Recently, my mother purchased a similar TV for my daughter as well. Jurni is still in a rear-facing car seat so this gives her something to look at during travel. We also recently purchased a Nintendo Switch for Jayden and the ability to access YouTube and his games has been a lifesaver. Ear popping on an airplane for an adult or kid can be miserable, so having a distraction can be very beneficial and take their mind off the long ride.
5.) Make sure your kids know how to properly identify themselves and others
I noticed when checking-in that the TSA agents and boarding agents each asked my son to state his full name, my full name and my daughters full name when verifying our tickets. This is important. For myself, I have a different last name than my two children. This could signal a red flag for airport employees and the way kids are being snatched I do not blame them. It is not enough for my son to know first names. My son knows all of our full names, including middle name, in the event someone asks or he is ever lost and needs help locating me.
6.) IT IS OK TO TAKE DOWNTIME
I can be quite stubborn and having to pay extra money for a hotel is something I try to avoid but as my mother always says, “being safe is more important than saving a $1”. It is ABSOLUTELY ok to stop at a hotel or rest stop if you are getting tired while driving. Another thing to take into consideration is that babies need diapers changed and if you are a breastfeeding mama they need to be fed. Older kids need a chance to stretch their legs as well. Babies one and under are also not meant to be confined in car seats for long hours at a time without breaks. You have to be weary with babies who fall asleep in car seats for long durations. The adult body can also be greatly affected being in the car that long. All it takes is 2 seconds for someone to doze at the wheel and swerve. A cranky parent can be cause for irritable driving and pulling over can prevent a bad situation or potential road rage.
What has been your traveling experience?