This past weekend we flew to Boston and then drove to North Conway, New Hampshire for a wedding in Fryeburg, Maine. Are you lost yet? Me too. It was a great trip and the Little Dragans were pretty fun as traveling companions so I thought I'd share some tips that I've learned over the years of travel.
Sorry in advance if I disappoint you by not recommending the One and Only Miraculous Amazing Cure-all Product that will make traveling with kids a breeze. In fact, I'm not going to recommend any products at all. I think there's a whole division of marketing aimed at anxious parents. They prey on our fear, in turn making us more anxious that we don't have the right product, thus leading us to buy even more. Vicious cycle. Do you know how much new parents will spend on products that will supposedly make their baby sleep? I've seen sleep sacks for $130! Just to be clear, that's a bag, that your baby "sleeps" in. Save your money folks, babies don't sleep. Spend the $130 on a nice coffeemaker for yourself, you'll get way more bang for your buck.
Well, that was a tangent.
Back to the trip and the tips!
Tip #1: Pack LIGHT.
It's easy to get caught up thinking that you will need eight different outfits for everyone, a matching pair of shoes, noise machines, backup special toys, etc. but the fact is that you will have to lug all of this, plus your children who are too tired to walk—though curiously not too tired to run away from you down the moving sidewalk. If you pack the bare minimum, you will be less tired from lugging it and therefore more energized to deal with said children, and will not be carrying unnecessary weight when you have to chase them down that moving sidewalk.
For this trip, each child was allowed three outfits including the one they wore on the plane, one pair of shoes on their feet, and a bathing suit. The three of us shared my carry-on suitcase and we were just fine for the three-day trip. Had we run out of something we could have picked it up at Walmart. Bonus: your new item becomes a souvenir!
Sub-tip #1 regarding what toys the kids can bring: You want it, you carry it.
Little Guy is the loving sort. He has a whole nest of special friends that have to surround him while he sleeps including: four different blankets (one that is almost destroyed from all this love,) two different pillows, and four EXTRA SPECIAL CAN'T PART WITH THEM stuffed animals. I find this endearing most of the time. Not on the plane, though. He gets a tiny backpack and whatever will fit inside. That's it.
Tip #2: Say "yes" more than "no."
I'm dropping "no"s left and right during the packing process (Can I bring my light saber? No. Can I bring my whole collection of Roald Dahl books? No. Can I bring this spider I found at recess? NOOOOO!) Once we're actually on the plane, however, I'm a yes woman. Let's face it, you're sharing the space of an elevator with a bunch of strangers who have all paid a lot of money and do not want to hear, see, smell, or feel your precious children at any time during these few hours.
The plane ride is not the time to start cry-it-out sleep training, or pacifier weaning, or to become suddenly sanctimonious about limiting sugar intake and/or screen time. My rule for the plane is pretty simple: If it keeps you happy and does not affect other passengers, go for it. We don't fly every day, so I doubt anyone's going to get a mouthful of cavities or lower SAT scores if they sit there sucking on dum-dums and watching The Incredibles for the fifteenth time. Everyone arrives happier.
Tip #3: Ask a local—a local parent that is!
Once you've arrived at your destination, I've found the best way to enjoy it is simply to ask other parents what's fun for kids in the area. No one knows the best kids restaurants and activities like other parents and tapping into this wealth of knowledge can save you loads of time and disappointment.
In North Conway I made friends with a family at the hotel pool (unofficial Tip #4: Book a hotel with a pool! And free breakfast!) and they recommended a hike to Diana's Baths. This was a perfect outing because we got to be outside, the hike was really only about a mile and a half round trip, and we saw some gorgeous waterfalls and pools.
Before we flew back on Sunday we had a few hours to kill in Boston, but it was rainy and I don't know the city at all. I texted a friend with kids in the city and she suggested Legoland. Brilliant idea! The kids loved it...okay, Grant and I loved it, too, and it was only ten minutes from the airport. Bonus: our sweet friends came and met us for a snack right before we had to go!
See? We saw Boston!
Everything is awesome!!
Traveling is part of our lives because we live far from so many people we love, but we still want to be there for them and stay connected. The older the kids get, the easier it is, but I also think that just remembering that it will all turn out fine in the end is the key to having a great time.
BONUS BYTES WITH B
Mom forgot to mention that you should definitely have a small screen like an iPad or a phone for each kid with movies downloaded. And make sure that the battery is at 100%. And don't forget to bring a charger so you can charge it at the hotel before you have to fly back.
Mama Dragan: B, I was trying to avoid telling people they had to buy things. Can you think of anything else that helps kids while they travel?
B: Um, headphones?
Mama Dragan: Nevermind...