Travel with Minimal Whining (and wine)

Granted I have not yet survived my week abroad with 5 other adults and 5 children, I have a few ideas on how to stay sane (thanks to tips and tricks from other travelers).  Again, these are only goals.  I'm not too proud to admit that I may not be strong enough to follow my own advice, or flag down the flight attendant at 9 AM for my in-flight "beverage."

However you can survive - we make no judgements.

Stay calm.
Kid are unpredictable and traveling only exacerbates that.  There will be tantrums, meltdowns and screaming fits.  And that's only between you and your partner.  The kids will bring it to a whole new level.  Expect the worse, you can only be pleased with your ability to predict your child's behavior, or pleasantly surprised if things go better than the shit-fit you were expecting.

Over plan.
Put thought into it.  I know we're all busier beyond our maximum capacity, but a little planning can go a long way.  I made a color-coded Excel document for our trip.  Things we would need on the plane, in our checked luggage... it never hurts to be over-prepared.  With my luck, there will be things where I'll go "Gah!  I wanted to get/pack/bring more of" but hey, the list knocks out at least half of those exclamations!

Dress for the occasion.
Search Pinterest for "travel outfits" and you'll find there's a theme for women:  slip-on shoes, comfy jeans or leggings, long sleeve shirt layered with a tank or tee, and a cute scarf and/or sunnies.  I couldn't agree more.  Dressing cute will help with your mood, not to mention everything mentioned is 100% practical.  Slip-on shoes for the TSA checkpoint; comfy pants because duh; layers for temperature fluctuations in the air and on the ground at your destination; cute scarf to act as blanket, pick-a-boo tent, cover for snoozing child and sunnies because, again, if you feel cute, you'll feel BETTER.

The same wardrobe rule applies for the kiddies.  Crocs are wonderful because they can be worn with or without socks.  A zip-up hoodie layered with a tee-shirt and a favorite blanket is a great thing to pack in their carry-on.  Plan for cold and hot air-travel, and things that can double as a pillow or light-shade for those naps you will pray for.

I guess you could also plan to dress your husband, but lord - if he can't dress himself at this point, you're all sunk!

Bring snacks junk food.  And lots of them.
I would prefer plan fruit, granola and water all day, but that's not always the best way to win over your audience.  Hit up the boxed movie candy at Target, or the grab bags at the dollar store and stock up.  Pack a giant ziplock full of sugar and have it ready and waiting to offer at the hint of trouble.  There's no shame in offering junk in trade for quiet.  

Involve the kids in the packing.
When it comes to the carry-on, you'll have your own tricks.  But allow your kids to bring some items of their own.  If it was picked by their own hands, there's a better chance they'll enjoy them.  Plus these little critters are eager to help and be a part of things.  Give them this task, even when it's small and closely monitored.  They don't need to know that.

Stuff the carry-on with new things.
A new app, game or movie can go a long way on a trip.  If it's something they've seen 100 times, a child may quickly lose interest.  Something new and fresh has a better chance of holding their interest.  Plan for multiples - again, the trip home will also be an ordeal.
We have a Mac and the $25 for Mac DVD RipperPro will pay for itself.  I'm not stealing movies - I'm taking those that I own and putting them into a format (i.e. compatible with the iPad, iPod, our own computer so we're not bringing 15 DVDs) so that we can enjoy them elsewhere.  You can try 5 "rips" and see how you like it before you buy it, but after the 1st I was sold.  Plus, it's not a bad idea to back things up as it is.

New things can include
* window clings for window seat fun
* Dollar Store coloring books (skip the crayons, they stink to high heaven)
* washable markers
* square/flat crayons
* a new DVD, game or app (or several)
* a booklet of coloring sheets and other activities {like these}
* magnetic tic tac toe games

Bring disposable cups.
Take-and-toss cups are great for so many reasons.  Avery is too little to drink from an open cup, and while Liv can, I would prefer to keep her as clean and dry as I possible.  These are perfect to stack, bring empty through the TSA check-point and then fill with whatever you can.  Even if they only make the trip there, you can always stash a fresh set in your checked luggage for the way home.

And a garbage bag.
A gallon ziplock bag can serve many purposes on a trip - garbage bag, barf bag, bag for messy clothes, bag for random crap you're trying to collect as the plane lands.  You can get 10 for a buck at the dollar store.  Well worth it.

Long Wait?  Layover?  Let 'em Run
Let's be honest; if it were social acceptable for adults to run, climb, cry and get the wiggles out while traveling, we would all indulge ourselves.  It may not be for us, but for our kids, let them have it.  Take a few laps through the terminal before boarding.  Allow a few extra loud shouts and wild wiggles.  Sure, it will be hard to fight back the "shhh" that creeps up inside you, but even the crabbiest of people would rather you let your kid run on the ground than in the air.  And if if you do get crabby looks - screw 'em.  You can't please everyone, and right now, your focus is your tiny brood.

Prepare for the Return Flight
ALWAY prepare for the way home.  Don't blow your entire arsenal on the 1st leg.  The trip home always promises to be worse.  This means stashing a few new books and games in your checked luggage for the trip home.  If you buy smart, abandoning a few dollar coloring books is a small price to pay to keep things fresh, fun and engaging.  And the same goes for snacks.  A box of granola bars so you don't need to spend $37 on snacks at the airport never hurts (though I do not shame anyone who indulges on vacation!)

Don't expect to relax
Perhaps the best advice I can give and one I hope to practice with the utmost grace.

You may have a new book that you're itching to dive in to.  Don't.  You're on duty, as much as that sucks to hear, but for now, you've got to get everyone to point A to point B.  The book will be there where you land.  If you go in with the expectation that all your plans will afford you 3 hours of quiet to enjoy a good read, you'll only be disappointed.  Children can sense when they're not being catered to.  It is then when the rebellion will rise.  Stay sharp, stay ahead of their plots.  You can beat them this.

Some people travel with the greatest of ease and grace, like George Clooney's character on Up in the Air, whipping off their shoes, loading the x-ray totes and marching the terminals with the greatest of ease. 

And then there are the rest of us.  Realizing that it's just one day, a few hours, and that anything can be fixed with fruit snacks, ice cream or a glass of wine, you'll do just fine.  Take a deep breath, allow for some messes and meltdowns.  With a cute pair of slip-ons and a little prayer for in-flight naps you'll do fine.


Erin said...

This is so helpful! We are going to Florida in a month, and I am already getting anxiety over the idea of flying with a not-quite 5 month old.

Ale Z said...

Great list. Need to find those flat crayons! Also stickers! My littles could've cared less about the movie. Loved the head phones and stickers on the brown bags I put the candy and pipe cleaners and stickers in. Although I believe the treats, er, junk food is a nessesary evil, I do grab cheese sticks and cut apples at the airport as too much sugar makes 2 of my 3 boys wonky so I have to balence it with protein and fruit is always a hit. Me? 3 boys , 7, 2 and 2. I fly sans spouse so I rule my row:-)

Ale Z said...

Great list! Need to find flat crayons!I agree with junk food as a nessesary evil, but I do buy cheese sticks and cut apples at the terminal as 2 of my 3 get wonky with sugar so I try to offset with protein first and fruit is always a hit. Also my littles didn't care about the movie. Oh the headsets were fun, but stickers to put on the bag the junk, pipe cleaners and stcikers came in was better. Me? 3 boys, 7, 2 and 2. I fly sans spouse so I rule my row solo!

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