Traveling isn’t just exploring a new place, gaining a fresh perspective, having fun, relaxing, trying exotic food and buying local, handmade goods, once you have kids. It is all of that and more- like planning ahead, stocking baby food and diapers, chasing kids up and down aisles in a plane, visiting dirty toilets, schedule thrown out-of-whack and a lot of pain-in-the-butt!
I don’t claim to be an expert on the subject of “Traveling with Children”, but I’m a mother of a couple of kids, both under the age of 5 and I’m a frequent traveler and that, I think, gives me the license to dole out a bit of advice to new moms and moms traveling with kids for the first time on having a stress-free, no, that is highly impossible, less-stressful is apt, vacation.
1. try to limit the luggage when I’m traveling with the kids without my husband or another adult. Even with my husband around, I still limit our luggage to mostly the essentials. It is hard to pay attention to a number of bags, when the kids take off to explore, usually in different directions.
2. carry a back-pack instead of a hand-bag, even if that makes me look frumpy. A back-pack frees my hands to hold onto my kids in crowded places, balances the weight on my shoulders and comes with enough space to contain everything I need to manage the kids on long journeys.
3. Buy new toys and books that I don’t show the kids until we are inside the train/plane. Plus, I don’t give them all at once. I give one, allow them to savor the one thing in their hands till they get bored, then give another… Sometimes I just bring along the old, forgotten ones. Their fascination with something new or that which looks like new keeps them busy for sometime.
4. look for someone that appears trustworthy and friendly to help if I’m traveling solo with the kids. I once asked a friendly co-passenger to keep an eye on Medha on the plane when I had to use the restroom. Of course, an airplane is much safer if one is traveling with kids without the aid of another adult.
5. was told by my Pediatrician in the US that the airports are the most unhygienic places and was advised to keep the kids safe when in one. If airports are dirty enough for the kids to fall sick, then he would’ve certainly called the Indian Railway Stations Death-traps. But airport or train station, I always let the kids play, burn some pent-up energy and get dirty. Then just before boarding I get them cleaned thoroughly. They are better able to sit through the long journey after they have had their share of play.
6. always carry a Hand Sanitizer, Children’s Tylenol or Crocin to soothe aching tummies, a bottle of vicks to clear congestion in the nose or chest and a pain-killer for myself, thank you very much.
7. carry a good baby carrier (mine is this one) or a stroller.
8. carry Ear plugs along for plane rides.
9. ALWAYS pack a camera along.
10. remind myself to take a few deep breaths and take everything in stride, even missed flights or lost purse (both have happened to me).
“This too shall pass”, I remind myself. And not just the difficulties, even the happy, magical moments. That’s enough to make me enjoy every bit of the vacation, even the journey.