Traveling With My Kids
We didn't do a lot of traveling when I was a kid. We would take road trips to to see my grandparents, sometimes to go see my cousins (but usually they came to us), and we went on a few little family vacations, but we didn't go to a lot of new places. A lot of our vacation time was spent camping on some land my family owns up in the mountains, which was incredible and now I get to take my kids there. The only times I really ever flew anywhere was to go to gymnastics meets (more about my gymnastics here) that were out of state. As an adult, I've made long lists of all the places I want to travel to and am slowly checking things off. It has been really amazing to be able to take the kids on trips with us, and I love that by the time they are my age, they'll already have an incredible list of places they've visited.
Early on in our marriage we talked about how important it is for us to be able to "go do stuff." We love to go on little adventures like camping at the lake in Wyoming or Nebraska, but we also love to take big trips too. When we bought our house almost 12 years ago, we thought we'd stay a few years and then buy something bigger. Along the way, we realized that we are totally fine with our house, and we'd much rather stay here and be able to take a lot of family trips, than buy a bigger house and be limited in the adventures we can have. We've been able to travel a lot and I wouldn't trade those experiences with my family for anything. My son is 11 and he's been to 14 states and three countries. He's traveled by car, by air, by train, and by boat. My daughter is 6 and has been to 12 states and three countries, but hasn't gotten to travel by train yet. Our trip in December/January will take them to Texas, St. Thomas, Tortola, and San Juan, Puerto Rico, so they can add some more places to their list. Being able to travel like that never even crossed my mind as a kid. For them to be able to not only learn about new places, but experience them first hand is pretty remarkable.
I have a few things I try to always do when we travel. I'm sure we'd be fine if I did things differently, but I'm of the opinion that you stick with what works, so I don't try to mess with things. Also, I get major travel anxiety and have some pretty super OCD tendencies, so changing things up isn't really an option for me. :)
- 99.9% of the time I take the very earliest flight possible when leaving for a trip. This often means waking up at 2:00am, but it is worth it to me. I pull the kids out of bed, they get dressed, get in the car, and go back to sleep for the hour long drive to the airport. Once we are there, we check in, go through security, and then eat breakfast. By the time we are done it is time to get on the plane, where the kids often go back to sleep again.
- I let the kids pack their carry on bags. They grab a backpack and put whatever they want in it. I used to pack the bag for them, but I never have to hear "I'm bored, I don't have anything to do" now that they are responsible for what is in their bag. I actually get a kick out of seeing the things they opt to take.
- We always pack a treat. We don't do a ton of candy at our house, but we always take some when we travel. When I was growing up, my mom would keep a bag of gummy candy and we'd get a piece every hour of the road trip if we had made it through that time without fighting. It is something I always loved, and so I do it with my kids too. Plus, I personally require gummy bears to fly and I don't like to share. The kids can pick out their own treat and I get to keep mine to myself.
- We get to the gate and hang out there. My husband likes to stress me out and wander around the terminal while we are waiting to board. I like to have eaten, and taken the kids to the bathroom prior to stopping at our gate so that we are ready to board when it is time. He knows this drives me crazy, but wanders around anyway and upping my anxiety level every time we travel.
- I prefer to fly Southwest for a variety of reasons, but my biggest one is that I like to be able to pick my seats (without paying extra for them) because I want to sit in an even numbered row. I have a major aversion to odd numbers, and I like to be able to choose to sit in a row that doesn't end in 1,3,5,7, or 9. Some of my friends have suggested that this makes me look a little nuts. I, however, find this to be totally rational. :)
We just got back from a trip to Nashville, and I realized what great travelers my kids are. The kids and I took a flight a few days ahead of my husband and I was a little nervous about flying with both kids by myself. I flew a few times with just my daughter when she was a toddler, but that was easy in my opinion. I'd just strap her on my back in the Ergo carrier and cruise through the airport. Now at six years old, she has a habit of lagging behind, and it doesn't bother her a bit if she can't see me. I on they other hand, panic if I lose sight of her for two seconds. When the four of us travel together, it seems like my husband and I just naturally take responsibility for one of the kids, so I am just not really used to having to keep track of both of them in an airport. They were champs though and we sailed through checking our bag and car seat (you know, because I'm the Car Seat Nazi), through the giant security line, and to our gate. The flight home went the same way, despite being delayed and late in the evening. We have a big trip coming up again in January, which will involve almost 9 hours of travel flying home from San Juan, Puerto Rico. I'm hoping they can manage to continue their streak of being awesome little travelers through that trip!