Two times we've travelled to China with little kids and now twice to the Dominican Republic. Sometimes I wonder if we are a tad masochistic...I mean, really...
lift off (read: ear aches)
being cramped in a metal box at 30,000 feet with little kids for ungodly hours
descent (read: ear aches)
more baggage lines,
....it's enough for you to consider an early retirement...from parenting.
But actually, as we think about it...it's always gone really well. I can't remember a time when the kids were nightmares in the airport or on the plane or traveling to and fro from destination to destination. It's amazing, really.
If you travel a lot with little kids like us, here are some things we've learned that have helped make the experience less nightmarish.
1. Talk about the trip for a month leading up to the trip. We drew pictures of airplanes, told stories about traveling, started packing a week before we left (they got to descide what they wanted to wear....we are all about empowerment here, folks), watched airplane youtube videos, and did bedtime stories with travel themes.
2. PHd in the art of distraction. In the case of the Dominican Republic, it meant that we would be traveling for 24 hours with layovers and multiple flights and bus rides. That meant we brought: new books, art supplies, new apps, and new music (the frozen soundtrack) -- ...when will that die?!. Every human gets a carry on and every carry on is packed with new stuff for the kids....it's all about the kids while you're trapped in the air with no escape. So make it fun!
3. Don't be afraid to pass dem' babies around. Seriously, if she looks like a momma or doesn't give off a creepy vibe...pass those babies off -- it gives you a break, gives others a blessing, and teaches your kids to be comfortable around people of all types.
4. As best as you can, create rhythms similar to the ones you have at home. Do you do a date night with your kids each week?....do that on your trip. Do the kids have a regular bed time and nighttime routine?...aim for it. The more you can integrate the anchors of home into a new place (especially when they don't know the language)...the better your kids will adapt.
5. Fight your anal retentive tendencies. Sometimes you've just gotta go with the flow and you can't control everything your kids experience. When you're in a new culture you can expect that there are things that are different than what you are used to or comfortable with (like riding in the bed of a truck on a public street). Sometimes you just gotta go with it.
6. Don't forget to have fun. Seriously, don't forget to schedule in fun for your kids. Remember, not everything you are doing is fun for them. Think about what would be fun for them...and go do that!
7. Do a daily debrief with your kids. They are taking in sights and sounds and smells and experiences that are all different. If you're going through some measure of cultural dissonance, undoubtedly they are too. Every night before bed, talk about the day's "highs and lows." We ask, "What made you happy today?" and "What made you sad today?" You'll be amazed at what you hear.
8. Rewrite your "what your kids need" list. I'm sure if you wrote that list today....sitting at home...it might be pretty long and include a few non-essentials (i.e. like a daily bath). Honestly, our kids basically need their parents (that's where "home" is, by the way) and on top of that -- enough daily food and sleep, and a place to peepoo (I just made that word up. I like it). They are probably going to survive...and maybe even thrive if you're open to allowing them to live on less that "what you think they need."
9. Get ready for no sleep. If you're a pansy and you need your 8 hours of daily sleep...seriously, why are you traveling around the world with little kids? Just kidding. You're not a pansy. But stay home. However, if you're prepared to sleep less so your kids can sleep -- by staying next to them when they wake up in an unfamiliar place during the night, and helping them adjust to new time zones, and allowing them to use you as a pillow/bed/blanket on every airplane/bus you'll travel on....get ready for no sleep. We think it's worth it.
10. Buy special treats in the airport to keep them smiling. haha. Seriously, loosen up. It won't kill them. They will come to LOOOVE airports because they know some special treats are-a-comin'!
Hope these 10 tips encourge you go travel with your young kids.
It really is....unforgettable.