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Traveling With Children Long Distances
Planning a Trip With Children
Planning a trip with children of all ages can be a nightmare if not done properly. Babies can suffer from indigestion, digestive issues, inner ear discomfort. Toddlers and older children can have regular health issues, or none at all, but it can still be a hassle to deal with while in transit if you are not properly prepared.
When planning a trip, carry near you a full change of clothes on board for everyone. I was so proud of myself once when I was taking my two very young nieces to Florida for a two week vacation. They were excited, and all was going well on the plane. I had packed changes of clothes in our carry on bags for the girls, and entertainment options for both girls. When the youngest one threw up due to some extreme turbulence, she threw up on me. The only clothes I had were under us in the cargo hold. My only option was to use copious amounts of baby wipes to remove as much vomit as I could. It was a long two hours left in the flight because of the lack of clothing for me to change into. If nothing else, pack a t-shirt and a pair of shorts or leggings or track pants for yourself. You can always change to something different in the airport restroom.
A small media player with a fully charged battery can provide entertainment. I recommend getting headphone splitters so that more than one child can enjoy the media being presented. Always bring headphones if you are using any kind of electronic media. Other passengers really don't want to hear what your child is listening to, no matter how endearing you find it. Don't use earbuds with babies and small children.
Make sure that you fully charge your electronic media the night before the trip. Bring extra batteries if you are able. There are so many retailers online that sell batteries, a quick look will show you many options. When I traveled with my nieces, they each had a media player that I loaded with many things. How much did I put on each device? Until it was full. I loaded movies, music, audio books, and photos of family members as well as photos of the places that we would be visiting.
I also brought along the Disney Vacation DVD, which was free from Disney by visiting their site. Many other free travel DVDs are available, a quick search will show you many options. The girls watched the Disney Vacation DVD so many times that I was able to recite it along with the announcer, but they loved it and it was good entertainment.
Review with children old enough to comprehend exactly what will happen when you travel. We looked at videos online of our local airport as well as the airport we would be arriving at. Even for older children, this can be a comfort, giving them an idea of what to expect.
Discuss what happens if they get lost. Don't tell a child to only look for a policeman. Police personnel are not always readily available. Tell them to look first for a policeman or policewoman, but if they can't find one, find a Mom. Explain that a mom is a woman with children, or with a stroller. My niece got lost at Disney World, where we had already explained that anyone with a Disney badge is safe as well as police or a mom. When she got lost, she found a mom, who took her to a castmember, who then got her to the area for lost parents. She was found by me in less than 10 minutes.
You can't take water into the airport. But you can take empty water bottles. No need to pay several dollars for water for your brood to have portable water. A permanent marker does a great job of marking which water belongs to which person. Yes, there are fountains everywhere, but when you are in lines, bottles are a treasure.
Bring a Child's Favorite Things, Making Sure Choices Entertain
When packing for children, the worst mistake you can make is to allow them to completely pack for themselves if they are old enough. Yes, you can ask for suggestions, but you cannot expect good results when you are putting them in charge of something.
My nieces were allowed to select things offered from predetermined items. "Which set of pajamas do you want?" versus being allowed to select items that were not appropriate for the climate we were going to. They were also given open choices such as "Which 2 dolls do you want?", versus bringing a suitcase of only dolls.
Create a simple and portable craft project. I brought pieces of construction paper that I had already decorated with art to allow the kids to color the artwork in. When they were done, the construction paper became "backdrops" for their dolls. A little boy seated near us colored a sheet of paper into a racetrack for his cars.
Don't let children color draw or write on a small amount on the paper and call it "done", which causes you to fish around for more paper. Explain that "everything has to be colored in". This was a lifesaver for my niece- who wanted a new sheet of paper every few seconds. I even made printer paper into 2x2 blocks on the paper and each one was for "a drawing".
Come up with simple activities. I made several pieces of paper that I divided into segments. I came up with different themes for each piece. One was emotions. It had words for sad, happy, angry, tired, bored and so on. She loved that drawing and would add little details to it for the duration of that trip. A nephew loved a small felt board that we made together. Using a solid color background, we cut many primary shapes from different colors. He loved making things like sailboats, cars, trees, and similar. The great thing was that it all rolled up into a compact size that took up no room. There are so many different types of felt out there, you can really get creative. I also cut some non traditional shapes for him, like clouds and simple animals.
Know what is appropriate for the age of the child. For the older child, electronic media is a great suggestion, but so are drawing and doodling tools for kids that are inspired by that. Books, whether on an e-reader or the traditional sort are really good. I got each of the kids magazines that were related to their interests, but chose titles that they did not normally read. I also chose several magazines about where we were going, and that was really a smart choice.
If you are going to have a very long trip, try and see if there is a way to be seated on a row that has access to a plug. Some airlines have planes that have no seats with access, others offer every seat with access. Some airlines have only certain seats with access.Same with other forms of transportation. Greyhound now offers wifi and power plugs. Check ahead. If you are at a place with a layover, plug in if you are going to be there for a while. I always bring a small extension cord or multi-plug brick with me. Saves a lot of hassle.
Bring portable battery chargers and cables that work with them. These are also valuable, yet inexpensive to purchase. I have several and they go on every trip.
Trips to the Bathroom
Encourage using the bathroom before you leave. I always tell children "Just try to use the restroom, because I am going to try, too. We are going to be in traffic going to the point of our destination. I would hate to have to go to the restroom while we are caught in traffic." Works like a charm.
While on our trip, if a child under seven needs to go to the toilet, I will go into the bathroom stall with them the first time, and show them where everything is. The next time, I will still go in with a smaller child, with an older child, I will wait outside the door.
Some children love the idea of going to the restroom because it means that they are out of their seat, moving around. I don't allow the bathroom to be tied up needlessly, but I will walk a bored child around every hour for a few minutes. If we must remain in our seats for any reason, I will explain this to a child.
Never change a child's diaper or clothes in public. Use the restrooms. It is offensive to other passengers, and it is very thoughtless of you to fill the travel space with the stench of a dirty diaper. It is also extremely dirty as you are disposing of waste. When disposing of a used diaper in the restroom, make sure that you wrap it up in a few paper towels at least, then discard it.
Medications and Traveling Children
Some people use antihistamines for children when traveling in order to put the child to sleep. This is best discussed with your child's pediatrician. If this is a decision that you support, then check with your doctor. If it is not, then make sure you have plans in place to comfort a child that may be suffering from inner ear discomforts on flights.
Also be aware that sometimes, antihistamines can have the exact opposite of the intended effect, and a child that you were hoping would be sedated can become wide eyed and wild, hyper as can be.
If your child is on any other medications, bring them with you in your luggage that is with you, never check it down below. If your luggage is lost, so is your medication.
Ears Hurting on the Plane
Ear Pain on the Plane. There are many remedies to get a child to be free of the discomfort of a blocked ear, the best one I have found is to purchase a cheap electric toothbrush, make sure that it has batteries in it and place the bristle head behind the ear with the plastic side touching their ear.
Wiggle it around if necessary, but the relief is usually in less than a minute. I carry one on every single flight.
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