International travel with kids

Airplane Taking Off by Peter WaltonWe are heading back to the US for a few months this summer, and I am already pondering the 30+ hours of travel door to door, trying to figure out miraculous solutions for containing and entertaining my two little ones, and am praying for the best. Ah! So, I thought I’d do a post about making international travel a bit more manageable. If you have ANY other suggestions, please add them to the comments! I am always searching for new ideas and know others would be blessed by your advice! Here is what I’ve got.

-Rest for the week beforehand. My goal is to get a full night’s sleep and perhaps even a daily nap for the week before we leave. That means packing in advance and being ready early.

-Don’t stress about the schedule. This is my greatest goal for this upcoming trip. My kids are in a pretty set routine, especially with their sleep, and in the past I have made the mistake of thinking that I could encourage them to stay somewhat on a schedule (which I thought would be in their best interest). Well, I have found that that is just not going to happen with all of the excitement of travel and am going to just try to take it as it comes. The kids will sleep when they really need to, right? (Please tell me yes!)

-Break up the trip? Not all of you may feel this a wise decision since it adds to the price of the trip and you might have a greater capacity for the work of travel, but for me who is a wimp when it comes to sleep deprivation, the game plan this time around is to invest in our sanity by staying at a hotel for a night mid-way.

-A well charged portable DVD player with an extra battery and lots of fun movies. Yes, like I have mentioned, I am of the persuassion that TV in general isn’t the best use of a child’s time (not totally opposed to all TV watching though…), but if you ask me on a day when we are traveling internationally, I will be waving high the banner of the mini-DVD player. It has been a lifesaver during travel.

-Fun treats and new toys (not expensive, but just new and exciting). Regardless of age, travel is hard! It is so much more fun when you have something exciting to enjoy. I myself get excited about a new magazine when I fly.

-Spare clothes. I learned this one the hard way. Yes, someone is likely to spill their juice or get airsick, so be prepared!

-Waxed paper. If you have babies in diapers, this is a great way to make disposable changing pads for airports and planes. You could even pre-cut some toilet covers for toddlers in case there aren’t any in the bathrooms.

-Chocolates and earplugs for your neighbors on the plane. Not that the earplugs will help a ton, but the gesture breaks the tension that you will likely feel as your neighbors realize that they are stuck in kid-central for the next 10 hours.

-Pre-printed airport maps with each Starbucks clearly labled. And you think I am joking. (Yes, I have actually done this!)

-Lots of Enya. Not that Enya is my favorite artist, though I do like her for certain occassions, but I definitely think there is much to be said about the effects of music on one’s mood. Can’t get much more soothing than Enya.

-Chamomile tea. My sister-in-law heard from her son’s pediatrician that chamomile tea has a calming effect. Wonderful! She gave it to my little nephew when they came to visit, and he was an angel! Not sure if it was the tea, or just that he is such a sweet little boy in general, but I plan on trying it this time to hopefully see the same effect.

-Prayer! For sanity, easy connections, no trouble at passport control, patient and calm kiddos, a patient and calm mommy and daddy, no air-sickness, no delays or missed flights, no missed Starbucks breaks…. Lots to pray for!

Also, here is a link to a previous post called “Helpful  Items for Missionary Moms,” which has some other helpful travel items.


20 Responses to “International travel with kids”

  1. 1 Kim March 15, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    I have no advice as we haven’t even traveled longer than an hour by car with the girls, however, I just wanted to say what a rock star mom you are by attempting int’l travel with kids! Not that you have a choice, given your calling, but, as I think about our wimpy 2 hour flight next month, I am in awe of you guys! Thanks for these tips and sharing what you know — I love the wax paper idea and earplugs for neighbors — we may have to use that one!

    I remember your daughter was about the same age as the girls will be when you guys moved there. Any tips for little ears on take off and landing? The girls will only nurse before naptime/bedtime, let alone, I can’t tandem nurse on the plane for obvious reasons. They also won’t take a binky and don’t know how to use a sippy yet. Maybe we’ll just have to pray hard!

    Can’t wait to see you all!

  2. 3 Lisa Anderson March 15, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    Here are some other tips I’ve stumbled upon as well…

    Wrap some of the treat/toys in foil. Playing with the foil and making creations with it is almost as good as the goodie inside!

    Pack some disposable rubber gloves in your carry-on. They make great balloons for a fun game of volleyball during a lay-over! Then, when it’s time to board, pop them and dispose of them!

    Chewable Benadryl tablets for when it really is time to sleep!

    Lots of healthy snacks. On many flights you have to pay for snacks now.

    I highly recommend backpacks with wheels for each child old enough to pull them through the airport.

  3. 4 Gina Marie March 15, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    Those are all good ideas – I think we’ve used them all! Except the over night in a hotel. When we do that trip, I just want to get it over with! I am incapable of sleeping on planes at all so we just power through. Our kids on the other hand have done it so many times that they can sleep just about anywhere.

    One word of caution about children’s Benadryl – I’ve seen it backfire severely on kids! They can get wired from it (seriously, I saw this on a plane – not fun for anyone!). If you’re going to use it, make sure they respond well to it before you go.

  4. 5 alatvala March 16, 2009 at 4:22 am

    Great ideas!!! Alexis, those links are awesome. I think i’ll put them in “Helpful Resources” sidebar soon. Lisa, I love all of your ideas and especially the one about wrapping the gifts in foil! Just like Christmas and Birthdays, the wrapping often is the best part! Gina, good word of caution on the benadryl. Our daughter is one of the ones who gets hyped up on the stuff. Thankfully we weren’t on a flight when we found that out! I have heard this trick before and know that many moms swear by it though! Kim, as for the ears and stuff, well, thankfully we haven’t had any problems. I’ve either nursed (when the kiddos were at that age), or had them eat something or drink out of their sippy cups. I know sucking is supposedly the best thing for keeping ears happy, but even if you can get them to chew or just open and close their mouths a bunch, that should help. I know that for most kids it isn’t a problem unless they have a head cold. If they do, your doctor might prescribe an over-the-counter decongestant (prescribe as in tell you the correct dose), though it is best not to use cold meds on babies unless your doctor tells you to. Oh, and I definitely am no rock star at traveling with kids! You’re right that it is by necessity that we travel like this, but it is definitely a big stretch for my capacity in every way. It is definitely NOT my favorite part of our lifestyle, but it is just part of the package deal. =)

  5. 6 Andrea @ The Train To Crazy March 21, 2009 at 1:38 am

    I’ve never traveled 30 hours on a plane with my kids but I recently traveled 6 hours with 3 under 4 years old and here are my helpful activities that don’t take up much space in the backpack.

    -stickers and paper. peeling and sticking can entertain for a while.
    -suckers. they take a while to finish and feel like a special treat.
    -starburst on take off and landing instead of gum because my kids just swallow it.

    I’m enjoying your blog even though I am not a missionary!

  6. 7 Julie March 25, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    Good list. I always throw in a couple of favorite activity books as well. We’re also in for a long flight this summer as we’ll be heading back to the US as well for 3 months. Happy traveling!

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