Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Works for Me! Travel Tips

According to my calender, it is time to head over the river and through the woods and off to Grandmother's house.

Whatever that truly means.

And if the song would like to stay hip, shouldn't it be "Nana" or "Mimi" or "GiGi's" house? Just a thought.

Regardless of the fact that few of us tend to travel through the woods, much less over the river, it is indeed a busy travel time of the year. For parents of small children, the notion of traveling for extended hours can induce a panic attack as thoughts of hours stuck on a plane, train, or automobile with a cranky little one swirl in their heads.

Because my parents live in another state and because Tobe has relatives that live hours away, we have done a lot of traveling with our two little ones.

Such traveling has involved our fair share of horror stories. Like the time we were road-tripping it when Isaac was two months old and he managed to have a blow-out diaper while we happened to be in the middle of no-where. We found an abandoned gas station, built a make-shift changing table out of forgotten plastic crates, and proceeded to bathe our child with a entire package of wipes out in the vast open on the side of the interstate. Klassy.

There was also the time we decided to fly back home dangerously close to bedtime with Isaac when he was about ten months old and would only sleep in the comfort of his crib. We knew we were cutting it close, but felt like we could arrive at our comfy home just in time to put him to bed for the night. What we did not expect was for heavy thunderstorms to hit our hometown, thus shutting down the airport due to flooding. As the plane was redirected hundreds of miles south, I had to refrain from running up to the pilot exclaiming, "You must land. I have a baby with me!!!" We eventually made it home that night, after almost starting a riot when the flight attendant provided me with a bottle of water (to make a bottle) but would not give water to other passengers without children.

Last Thanksgiving I opted to fly by myself with two children, as my husband had to stay behind for a few more days to work before joining us for holiday celebrations. TSA was almost called in to assist when an ignorant ticket agent was not going to let my husband escort me and the children (and our carry-ons, stroller, and two carseats) to the gate (yes, airlines will let you do this....just ask). I about crawled over the counter and yanked his too-early-donned Christmas tie off his skinny little neck when he jeered, "What? You can't manage it on your own?" The only thing that stopped me was my children knowing that their mother had to spend one of their first Thanksgivings locked away in federal prison for starting a fight at an airport.

See what I mean by travel-induced panic attack?

Despite these mishaps, we also have managed to cultivate some handy little Phillips family travel tips. Things that work for us to make the trip a tad more pleasant.

1. Store some random small toys (think Dollar Store or abandoned Happy Meal toys) and books that you only pull out only when you travel. Some our our favorite travel toys include: magnets and a cookie sheet, water coloring pens and books, foam letters, stickers, crayons and coloring books, and smalls bags with little toys tucked inside.

2. Decide when is the best time for your family to travel. Our kids don't tend to nap in the car, so we usually set out early in the morning. Travel during the time of day that your kids tend to be the happiest/most laid back.

3. For long trips, make meal time an event in the car. We usually have to eat breakfast and lunch while on the road for our travels. Occasionally we stop for these meals, allowing the kids to play on a fast food restaurant's playground while Tobe and I eat our lunch. The kids then eat their lunch (portioned out in these containers) while we continue driving. We attempt to make it special by calling it a "car picnic". Be prepared to later suck up forgotten french fries and abandoned apple slices later with a heavy duty vacuum.

4. Play a variety of music. Confession: Most kid music drives me crazy. It drives Tobe even crazier. We never listen to kid music when on a car trip but do often times put in our own music that kids can enjoy. Family dance parties in the car are always fun.

5. Talk to your kids. Talk about where you are going, who you will see, what you will do, and scenery you can currently spy from your car windows.

6. Have a Meltdown Plan. Kids sometimes hit the brick wall when sitting strapped into a carseat and having Mom entertain them is no longer fun. This is when we pull out our portable DVD player, which usually has to make its appearance in the final hour of our trip. Although our children watch television at home, we attempt to hold off on the movie watching as long as possible in the car simply to use the diversion when our kid's limit has been met.

7. Travel to a grandparents or loving relatives house. They will immediately swoop in upon your arrival, snatching the kids from the carseat and rushing them inside for tons of hugs, kisses, and playtime. They likely won't even notice when you and your husband stay in the car, holding back tears of joy that you have survived another family road trip.

Any tips you care to share?


Lomagirl said...

We've changed a diaper on the hood of the car on the side of a highway. It was the 2nd or 3rd poopy diaper change of the day.
I often travel on the plane just me and the kids. I've always had great experiences- luckily- and usually get compliments as we disembark. One thing that helps is I always get some new toys for their backpack and great snacks. My mom used to do this for us during frequent childhood flights, so I learned from a pro.

Jennifer said...

I get some good ideas from

Happy Thanksgiving!

Jordan said...

We survived our own 7 1/2 hour car trip today with all the aforementioned methods. We also had lots and lots of snacks (when in doubt, eat). I think I also pointed out every single train and windmill from Amarillo to Witchita Falls. The children fell asleep about then and the windmills became a little more scarce. :) I even snuck in my own viewing of "The Bucket List" on the portable DVD player...that was a first!

We all survived and everyone was a in a relatively good mood when we arrived.

Happy Thanksgiving!