By Christina VanGinkel
Traveling with a young child in a car, plane, or train can be a trip all by itself, pun totally intended! At no other time that I can think of should you be prepared as much as you can beforehand. With the holidays upon us, travel with kids is almost a given for many of us, and no matter how many times we have done it in the past, we often dread it the next time we have to do it. Preparation is the vital key to surviving travel with an infant, toddler, or older child.
Put only your own personal basics in your purse, and leave the rest of the space for items that you will need to grab quickly. This rule stands even if your child is young enough that you have a diaper bag for them. A diaper bag is not always easily at reach, your purse usually is. You should toss in a travel pack of wipes, a small bottle of lotion, Chap Stick, and some small, but amazing toy. You know the type, something you may not normally buy because of the price, but the kids always ask for. They oftentimes are throwbacks from when we were kids, and have been turned into key chains. You can usually find them in checkout lines, as I said before, highly overpriced, but with major kid appeal. Some of my favorites include silly putty, mini Etch-a-Sketches, and doodle-boards.
If your child is too young for one of these, exchange the toy for a few items such as a brand new pacifier, formally referred to in our house as a Nuk, and a noisy, yes noisy, baby toy. The key being that it will be something that will actually engage the infant in play. Think of it this way, would you rather listen to the noise of a small toy in an enclosed space such as a car, or to the sounds of a toy as it engages your child in giggles and smiles.
If you will be traveling a long distance, and you have always said that you would never buy any of the new electronic gadgets, such as a personal DVD player, or one of the new hand-held game systems, now might be the time to break that rule. These are all great ways to keep kids occupied, both young and old alike. Games are available in a variety of genres, and they are not all violent. Many favorite cartoon characters even have games intended as learning devices. If you have more than one child, be sure to look at systems with dual screens, and let the kids pick some of their own favorites to bring along. Remember that an occupied child is usually quieter than a bored one!
Even the electronic wonders will need a break though, so be prepared to sing some silly songs, play a few games of I Spy, and other travel games that require nothing more than a bit of imagination. A favorite of ours is the Description game. The player up has to give a description of something, without using any part of its name. The first player to guess what they are describing gets a point. Play to any point level, or do not even keep track, just enjoy the talking. Lastly, remember that no matter how prepared you are when traveling with kids, the unexpected is likely to occur.