In 2014, I wrote about traveling with kids. I had just read a book about disasters, and piled on stories of surviving plane crashes and hotel fires. Friends gave me more practical advice for this summer . Jane Anderson Lemoine of Lafayette told about while at Disney, her 3 year-old son was constipated. One morning she gave him a laxative before heading out. “Within an hour it started to take effect….in front of the Swiss Family Robinson tree house he’s pulling down his pants, in the middle of the Magic Kingdom, because when you gotta go, you gotta go. I’ve never seen my husband run so fast…”
The moral of the story: prepare for bodily function disasters. Pack medications, like for pain or fever, some bandaids and ointment- you decide on the laxative. I’ve looked for pharmacies at night in unfamiliar cities- it’s no fun.
Besides meds, pack extra clothes for your kids, and you. Jane always packed more for her kids, anticipating spills and vomit. However, she didn’t pack for when her son barfed on her at the beginning of a plane flight. While he had fresh clothes at hand, she wore his vomit for 5 hours, even down her back and into her pants. Extra grocery bags to store those soiled clothes is a good idea too.
Speaking of airliners: tray tables, armrests, seatbelt buckles, and airvents are all touched by multiple people, and don’t get regularly cleaned between flights. They can harbor more bacteria and viruses than the flush button in the airliner’s toilets- and at one toilet per 50 passengers, that’s saying something! So pack disinfectant wipes and and hand sanitizer, and clean those surfaces as you settle in. You and your kids don’t want more bodily explosions when you get to your destination.
Kids can be embarrassing on the road, especially sitting close to strangers in restaurants and airliners. Jane’s son loved to chat up those around him. Loudly. At first she and her husband were mortified, until they realized that most strangers love kids, no matter how deafening. Kids can be fun for other folks, distracting them from their own traveling woes.
Tina Kelley of Maplewood, New Jersey, wrote me about camping vacations. Once she put her baby in the car for the night, in case of bears. That didn’t stop a park ranger from yelling at her, though the evening was cool. He’d probably seen too many kids left cooking in cars during the day. Her story reminds us of traveling safety, though car crashes are way more likely than grizzly attacks.
Make sure everyone, even the backseat passengers, are buckled in carseats or seatbelts. Identify your exits in planes and hotels, before you need them. If you go to a waterpark, don’t drink the water! Keep mouths closed and hands clean, and shower off before and after a visit. Think about all those other bodies, and diapers, you’re sharing the water with.
Besides safety, plan entertainment for your kids. Sure, phones and tablets are distracting, but there’s healthier options for childrens’ brains. Books on tape work great, for parents and kids. When mine were young, we listened to Harry Potter books on long drives. Everyone was so enthralled that even after an 11 hour drive, we’d sit in the car, in the driveway, until the chapter finished.
Books, board games, and coloring are fun too. Save the screens for when kids are tired of those things. Jane Anderson Lemoine, from above, only allowed screen time at night, after the non-electronic distractions. This was a treat for her kids, since screens were limited at home.
There’s generally two kinds of vacations. One’s the relaxing trip, where otherwise busy parents get to lay on the beach or by the pool. Then there’s Disney- dashing about miles of tarmac in the heat to get ahead in line, followed by standing in those lines. Then a brief rest on the ride before heading back into the rush.
Often your kids will have opposite needs of yours. If you want to relax, they’ll want to be busy. The things that work in car rides also work then- books, board games, saving screens for later. If it’s a Disney-Death-March vacation, you’ll ALL need a rest. Plan downtime in your schedule- an afternoon of napping and poolside rest in the middle of the park frenzy. Have fun!