Parenting While Traveling
Throughout my daughter’s life, my husband and I have traveled extensively with her. All ages had their own unique challenges and strengths.
In some ways, traveling with a newborn is much easier than travelling with a toddler. The main struggle I remember from our longer trips, when my daughter was an infant, was the packing. Babies require a lot of packing! I used to make a list a few days before the journey, keeping a pad of paper and pen with me for an entire day: Anything I used for the baby, I wrote down. This gave me an approximation of how many nappies or wash clothes we were going through in a day and helped me not to forget the little things, like bottle brushes or hair clips.
The advantage to traveling with an infant is that they are less mobile, easier to feed (especially if you are nursing), and easier to entertain. Often, just walking around and narrating everything we saw was enough to keep my daughter entertained. I used a sling, which I found to be much easier to manage than a stroller, for most of our journeys. Strollers can be unwieldy and more trouble than they are worth. Also, if you ask nicely, most flight attendants will allow parents to store bottles in the airplane’s fridge.
Travelling with a toddler is more challenging. These youngsters have just learned to voice their opinion and they aren’t afraid to do it! I made sure to keep lots of extra snacks on hand, and, when I couldn’t get milk through security, I bought plain milk at coffee shops near the gates. I also kept a bag of “rewards” for my daughter and tried to head off tantrums before they occurred. These rewards were small and simple: a tiny bottle of bubbles I could blow for her, or a few balloons I could inflate and we could toss around.
One thing that helped a lot during this time was to have a certain daily schedule and narrate it over and over. I think many children do better when they know what to expect, so I would say things like, “Now we are standing in this line to get our tickets, then we need to stand in another line to get our passports stamped. See? Here is your passport. Then we need to walk through security and have our bags x-rayed, like in a tunnel. Then we will use the loo and read books until it is plane time.” Flying overnight was always significantly easier than flying during the day. I always kept her up during terminal time and did my best to wear her out so she slept through the flight. I would wake her up about 45 minutes before landing so she could eat, use the loo, and change clothes; this way she was fresher when we had to deal with customs and immigration. (There is nothing worse than a toddler demanding food or the loo during a long immigration line – when you have access to neither).
And then, when my daughter was about five years old, we were travelling internationally on our own, and our flight was cancelled. We had to stay an extra night, struggle with baggage, and navigate long lines. About halfway through that process, I realized that my daughter had become an ideal travel companion. She was willing to sit and read a book while I waited, she could use the loo on her own, and was happy to eat anything as long as it came with French fries. I would check in often with my daughter to how she was doing, and, together, we would problem solve to make things more enjoyable for her.
Traveling with youngsters can be challenging. But I have found, the more we did it, the more confident and easier it became for all of us. So, parents, maybe it is time to pull out your passport and book that trip you always wanted to go on – you might be surprised how much fun you have.