Yes, this is my children crashing at Miami International airport at around 2 in the morning. Yes, they are sleeping on trash bags. The cleaning crew took pity on us and graciously lent us these "sleeping bags" for the night.
Traveling is not easy. It's never predictable. Throw in little ones and you have the recipe for....well let's just say it can get a little crazy.
I love traveling, and once I had kids that itch didn't go away. I spent a lot of time in airports growing up, and I couldn't imagine not bringing my kids along for the ride. Of course it all sounds good until your two year old has a meltdown outside the terminal Chili's while your trying to hold them still, wearing heels, and everyone is looking at you like you're some psychotic kidnapper.
This may or may not have happened to me.
Now before you get scared and cancel all plans to travel until your kids turn 18, hear me out.
While we've had some crazy experiences, we've also made some of our greatest memories with our children. Yes we still love to laugh and reminisce about spending the night at Miami airport.
While I am by no means an expert, I'd like to share some of my tips for traveling with little ones in tow.
1. Include older kids in planning. As a kid I loved nothing more than helping my dad plan trips. We would get guide books that I would pour over for weeks. It really made me feel apart of the experience. Let your kids plan a few outings or activities. We also love to add to the anticipation by making a countdown calendar a few months ahead.
2. Pack light.
I know the tendency is to go overboard. Unless you're traveling to the bush in Africa, I promise you a Target or the equivalent is never far. Most hotel chains also offer a laundry facility. You have enough necessary gear with strollers and car seats. Keep the suitcases light, and your mind free from clutter as you prepare to leave.
3. Get Excited! I know this may sounds weird, but your kids feed off your energy. If you are worrying and dreading the experience they will act accordingly. If they know you're excited, they will have a much more positive view of what's to come.
4. Be prepared to take it slow. Arrive early at the airport.. Allow your family time to assimilate and go through security in a relaxed manner. Nothing stresses me out more than rushing and running late. If you can eliminate that stress you are better prepared to work with your kids and patiently guide them through the process.
5. Snacks are essential. While you can't bring liquids through security, I always pack a few snacks. It doesn't hurt to have a few sweet treats for times when we are all at our wits end.
6. Bring entertainment but refer to rule #1. I have read many moms who pack lots of entertainment baggies full of dollar store items to occupy kids. If it works for you that's great, but I find that the more stuff we bring the more time I spend fishing for it under the seats. We keep it simple, a few crayons, blank paper, a favorite toy or stuffed animal, a book, and an electronic device for the older ones. For some reason Sky Mall magazine has the magical ability to mesmerize kids for extended periods of time. Take advantage of this.
7. Give your kids/babies permission to not be perfect. This is a hard one.We all feel the stares of the passengers when we board with our kids. I'm sure you know the
8. Get some Earplanes. These great little earplugs are very helpful for children as they deal with pressure during take off and landing. You can purchase them at almost any drugstore. I suggest getting a few pairs as we tend to lose them during travel.
9. Give yourself permission to break some routines. We take vacations for a break from our everyday rhythms and routines. Kids need this too. While your baby or toddler may still need certain routines, give yourself permission to be flexible with your kids.
10. Get out and have an adventure! While everyone has a different budget and schedule, take time for these special moments with your family. It's not always easy or perfect, but the lifetime of memories are worth every ounce of effort and planning.