One of my greatest joys is sharing travel with my grandchildren, who range in age from 15 down to 2. I just returned from a 7 day trip with my 4 year old grandson, and was totally comfortable traveling alone with him due to past experiences. Let me share a few tips about how to make it a relaxed experience for you and them.
- First and foremost, a relaxed attitude is key. Things will go wrong, flights may get delayed; don’t sweat the small stuff. Your children will pick up your attitude and if you are stressed, soon they will be too.
- Give your children responsibility for their items. While they are young, they consider it a treat to be considered a “big boy or girl”. Capitalize on that, by involving them in some of the choices for their backpack. Then allow them to carry their bags and be responsible for it (with close supervision, of course!).
- Pack smart in your carry-on per items 4 -14. Some items can be in your children’s backpacks, but you’ll probably want to have some in your bag to control distribution so they don’t go through everything in the first hour of a 6-hour day.
- Snacks: let’s face it, airport food is not known for being the best, nor the most economical. Pack snacks you know your children will enjoy, focusing on low mess, easy transport items like goldfish crackers, granola bars, dried fruit, cheese sticks, peanut butter, etc. Add in a couple of special treats like suckers, especially for take-off and landing to guard against ear pressure issues. Pack more than you think you need in case of delays.
- Drink cup: have a cup with built-in straw, preferably insulated, so you can refill as needed. A different cup for each child in their backpack is suggested to avoid arguments.
- Non-electronic activities: think light weight, inexpensive items that will not be tragic if lost or damaged. Dollar Store and Target dollar bins are great sources for items. a. Magic coloring pads and marker; these come in a wide variety of options and fit those to your child’s interests. b. crayons–the triangular ones are more expensive but avoid the hassle of rolling off trays. c. color packs of books/crayons/stickers. d. sticker books: these also have multiple options and topics. On our last trip, my grandson spent 90 minutes engrossed in a construction sticker book. e. magnet boxes: another option that comes in various topics; look for light-weight and self-contained. f. a journal book and pen/pencil. Young children can draw pictures of the trip activities while older ones can write about their adventures. Postcards can also add to the journal. g. small toys: dinosaurs, cars & trucks, dolls, etc. There are lots of inexpensive small sets that can entertain well.
- Put aside about half the toys and snacks for the trip home and save in your checked bags. Home-ward bound can sometimes be the harder leg so don’t show up empty-handed.
- Change of clothes for you and them. Again, expect the unexpected so you’re prepared and don’t have the added aggravation of dirty clothes for travel.
- Wipes: the disposable one without alcohol are my preference as they do not burn when wiping faces.
- Ziplock bags: a few spares for dirty clothes, left-over food, etc.
- Medication: age-appropriate pain reliever, sinus relief may provide aid during travel.
- Lotion and lip balm: airplanes are de-hydrating so counteract that.
- Electronic devices: download books, games and movies for a last resort when the other options fail to entertain.
- Headphones, power chords and portable charger for items in #13.