This past week I was faced with a very difficult decision. Hubs was traveling for work from Monday through Sunday, and he called me mid-week to let me know that he had to extend his trip to the following Wednesday. GASP! Alright, so I panicked…just a little. I know that all of the single parents, military parents, parents of 10+ kids and various other kinds of parents out there are all simultaneously rolling their eyes about now thinking that I am a giant wuss. I get it, and I have the utmost respect for every type of parent out there because this job ain’t easy, I don’t judge. However, at that moment work was building up, and I wasn’t 100% sure that I could think of enough planned activities to fill Friday, Saturday and Sunday solo. I was starting to have a panic attack envisioning bedtime on Sunday night with me and my 2 children staring at each other with tired, bloodshot eyes counting the minutes before my Mother-in-law would show up the next morning. So what did I do?
I ran away.
Yup, that’s right. I packed some bags, took a couple of days off work, called in some frequent flyer miles and high-tailed it for my parents beach house in Georgia! Wait…before those judgmental eyes start rolling again, I took the kids with me – obviously. Early Friday morning, me and the boys hopped on a plane solo. I have only done this one other time and it was when my little guy was and infant and it was only a 45 minute flight. This time I had a preschooler and a wiggly, belligerent toddler, so things were going to be a little different. But the temptation of 4 extra arms (in the form of loving grandparents), a warm ocean breeze, and the prospect of 4 days worth of meals I didn’t have to cook was enough to get me on that plane, and the boys did great!
Traveling with little ones is always a challenge, but with some thoughtful planning, it can be done pretty painlessly. Here are my tips:
- Snacks…lots of them. No matter how you try to plan your trip, it’s going to interfere with meal time whether you are actually on the plane during a meal or not. Having plenty of snacks on hand will ensure that you don’t have an empty-stomach-breakdown (you know the kind I’m talking about).
- Books – while they are a little cumbersome to bring on a plane, bring them anyway. I stock my oldest’s wheeled backpack with their favorites, some activity books and usually one or two ones they’ve never seen before that will occupy them for at least 30 minutes or so. Remember some crayons if you have coloring/activity books (the 3-sided kind are great for airplanes because they won’t roll off the tray table).
- If you can, choose bulkhead seats. You do lose a little storage by making this choice, but it’s good for a couple of reasons. First, you’ll be the first people off the plane. My kids start to get antsy once the plane lands so this is good. Secondly, when the fasten seat belt light isn’t on, you have a little space to move around. When you have a lap child (under 2), this is really nice.
- Ipod/Ipad/smartphone, etc. Ok, mini eye-rolling noted. I do not condone unlimited screen-time for kids, especially really young ones. I would much rather have my kids out in the world exploring and using their brains and bodies the way they were meant to. However, when you’re on a plane that’s not really an option. And, if you limit screen-time in your daily life, it will just be that much more of a treat in this situation. I loaded my ipod with the kids’ favorite music, a couple of good, free shows from itunes and my digital copy of the Winnie the Pooh movie and bought these inexpensive earphones from Amazon. Everyone on the plane thanked me (even if they didn’t say so out loud, I could tell they were thanking me), and the kids looked so cute wearing them, who could possibly complain? I actually wish I had been able to take a picture with them on, but my hands were pretty full.
I am so glad that we decided to take the trip. Instead of trying to fill a weekend in February with some indoor projects and play dates, we got to spend some wonderful quality time with my parents and the kids had a lot of fun. Don’t let the fear of traveling with your kids hold you back from trying, you can build a lot of wonderful memories just by changing up the scenery.