Traveling Circus

As you read this, I’ll be 50K feet in the air.  On a red eye.  With my children.  Fun times await me… I’m sure of it.

Yep, we’re on vacation.

But, I’m honored that some of my favorite reads have agreed to come house sit my little corner of the internet while we’re off having a mid-air meltdown frolicking in the sun.   Their assignment (which I’m so pleased they all chose to accept), was to write about something travel or vacation related.  And I’m honestly tickled with what they came back with.  I know you will be, too.

Old TweenerFirst up on the agenda is the wonderful Sherri, from Old Tweener.  Sherri is the mother I aspire to be once I’ve got a few more years of parenting under my belt: someone who is insightful, supportive, and who is blessed with the knowledge that, just when you think you’ve got this parenting this down… your kids are always going to throw you for a loop.  And, yet, she takes it all in stride with grace and humor.

Without further ado, I give you…

The Traveling Circus

With the holiday season in full swing, many families are planning those extra-special trips to visit family and loved ones. You know, those people you moved heaven and earth to get away from. These trips may involve all manner of transport, including (but not limited to) planes, trains, and automobiles.

And while it seems like the hardest part of any trip would be planning the dates and purchasing the tickets, I can honestly tell you it’s not.

It’s bringing the children.

Before kids? I could buy a plane ticket or gas up the car, throw a few things in a small bag, get some cash and be off to enjoy the fun that a trip should entail. Since this didn’t include being frisked or body-scanned by airport security, the fun really did start the moment you got to the airport.

But now?  The amount of planning, coercing, and negotiating that goes into a family vacation is enough to make the boardroom in Trump Tower seem tame.

And there’s nobody to say “You’re Fired” to.

So I’ve devised a simple get-ready-for-travel plan for each stage of your children’s lives, a guide to help you survive your family vacation. You’re welcome.

Travel with Infants and Toddlers

Biggest issues: The most difficult things you will deal with when traveling with infants all relate to things leaving the baby’s body. This includes screams, cries, burps, drool, spit-up, projectile vomit, and basic bodily functions usually contained by a diaper. On a flight with a few hundred of your newest friends, any of the above mentioned things can cause them to turn on you. Quickly.

In a car? The sheer fact that you are all in close proximity to each other means that anything leaving the baby’s body directly affects all of you. And not in a good way.

When they hit the toddler stage, all of the above problems still apply, except that they are now bigger, noisier, stinkier, and can actually talk back.

Basic items to pack: diapers, toys that aren’t battery-operated or make noise of any kind, change of clothes for baby, wipes, change of clothes for mom, wipes, Cheerios, chewy snacks for toddlers (so they can’t talk), more diapers, tissues, paper towels, cash (for cocktails), earplugs (for your new friends), more wipes, and a ready supply of “I’m sorry” and “She’s teething” comments.

Good luck.

Travel with Adolescents

Biggest issues: Once you pass that whole itty-bitty kiddies phase, you’ve hit the big time: you’re traveling with big kids. There are still things leaving an adolescent’s body, but most of them involve whining and not bodily fluids.

So while you may not have to worry about extra wipes and diapers, you do have to worry about finding a decent restroom stop.

Which is about every 20 miles by car.

By airplane, it’s every time the “fasten seatbelt” sign goes on.

The next issue is the feng shui in the backseat of the car. Kid Number One can’t be too close to Kid Number Two, whose backpack full of toys and snacks can’t be bigger than Kid Number Three. There must be a distinct and separate pocket of air in which each child will breathe. Eye contact between siblings throws the whole thing off, so it’s not advised.

Children at this age not only talk back, but they have enough common sense to realize that your answers to their persistent questions aren’t always accurate. When you hear, “Are we there yet?” for the seventeenth time and you answer, “Just a few more miles!” your third grader is smart enough to realize you are lying.

Which throws a monkey wrench into the trip. Honesty is not always easy with adolescents.

Basic items to pack: every portable video game item you own, any snacks that you won’t mind being permanently ground into the carpeting in your car, paper towels, ear plugs (for you), pillows for children to use as a shield when they can’t even stand to look at each other, toilet paper (when you’ve gone past the last rest stop), and your anti-anxiety meds.

Good luck.

Travel with Tweens and Teens

Biggest issues: Now that your kids have reached their tweens and teens, they are almost like adults, and traveling with them should be fun! Just like traveling with friends! Only, not so much.

They may eat like adults and be adult-sized, but be forewarned that they are still little children when it comes to traveling with family. Seating in the car is not just an issue of feng shui but the size of growing bodies makes space an issue. So when Kid Number One has legs the length of the Panama Canal and wants to put his feet in Kid Number Two’s space there will be hell to pay.

If you are traveling by car and are the only true adult, another big issue is which kid gets to ride shotgun. Even if you find a fair way to decide this, shotgun will have to be monitored in terms of hours or miles, possibly involving an algebraic equation.

Music is also a huge thing at this age. On a road trip this summer with my two kids, I made the mistake of letting each make an hour-long CD of their favorite tunes to share in the car. About five minutes in, I realized the benefit of their iPods and headphones. Bring them.

But by far, the biggest issue with this group? Free Wi-Fi in the hotels and restaurants. I think Google should have a feature that maps the distance between free Wi-Fi spots. Of course, then you have to keep switching who is riding shotgun between stops.

Basic items to pack: sugary snacks, chargers for any and every electronic device your kids own, caffeinated drinks (for you), air freshener, twice as much money for food as you intended on spending, barf bags, duct tape (for mouths), and a camera.

So get out there people, and enjoy your family time this holiday season.

Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.