With Spring Break and Summer Vacations coming upon us quicker than we realize, it’s important to think about the needs of children when traveling. Here are some tips for traveling by car and train:
- Have a very flexible schedule without deadlines. This gives the adults freedom to relax and take as many breaks as the kids need. Try to find a place to stop with a playground, small stream, grassy area, etc. for the kids to get some energy out. The more they run and play out of the car, the less squirmy they will be in the car- this makes EVERYONE happy!
- Take lots of snack choices, but only offer 2-3 at a time. Save some for later. Also, if you can find some new snacks they haven’t had before, get those. New things are always fun and interesting.
- Take LOTS of activities: bring books, crayons and paper, DIY activities like felt faces, sensory bottles with the top GLUED on, paper bags for making puppets with the crayons, etc. There are ideas all over the internet.
- Talk about what you see out the windows, sing songs, make up songs, and relax- you are on your way to having a great time!
- If you are traveling with a partner, have 1 of you board the plane first- without the kids! The person boarding the plane gets all the stuff ready for lots of entertaining. Puts carry-ons in the overheads, puts drinks in the seatback pockets, the activity bag under the seat, etc. The person staying back with the kid(s) has them wiggle, jump, shake, squirm—whatever it takes to burn up some energy BEFORE boarding the plane. The longer they spend in the airport, the less time they have to be sitting in the seat= the less time they have to be squirmy. The gate agents will question you- let them know you will be boarding last to prevent any undesired behaviors.
- If you are traveling alone, you’ll probably need to be first (when they call for families traveling with small children) in order to give yourself more space to get settled while keeping your kid(s) in check. If you are one of the first to board, wait until the very last minute to make your child sit in the seat with seatbelt on. Let them wiggle and squirm in front of their seat as long as possible.
- Show them the seat belt light and explain when the light is on everyone stays seated and belted. No one can get up until the light goes off and we hear the “beep”. If they ask to get up, point to the light and remind them of the airplane rule. If the light is off, and you are allowed to move about the cabin, then do it! Walk up and down the aisle, talk with the flight attendants (if they are not busy or cranky), wash hands in the bathroom (planes are DIRTY- the more everyone washes hands, the less likely you’ll be to take home a sick kid).
- Take lots of snacks and activities. Same ideas apply on the plane as in the car.
- Talk, talk, talk about anything you see, sing, play, and relax. You are going on vacation!!!
Rebecca Wilson, MS, is mother to Emogene (IC7) and is an enthusiast for all things related to young children. She earned her Bachelors Degree in Child Development and her Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education both from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. She has worked with children of all ages from birth through 3rd grade in different positions from teaching to administration to consulting. Currently, she is a grant manager for the early childhood council in Adams County.