Traveling with a child (a toddler to be exact) can be frightening. Last week, my husband and I embarked on a 5-hour plane ride and 7 day trip with our toddler. Lucky us, he is a happy traveler for the most part. In my opinion, the key to a happy traveling child is a prepared adult!
My young man is 26 months and he is a well-travelled youngster. He has been to Nova Scotia three times, Florida twice, and been on several car trips that are well over three hours in length! The biggest thing I have learned is to be as prepared as possible and then just let what happens happen.
Please understand there were many people on the plane and in Disney World that may disagree with my previous statement that my little one is a happy traveler. I am not going to kid anyone! Did he tantrum? Yep. Did I wonder what the heck I was doing? Yep.
While flying to Disney World he was relatively happy for over 4.5 hours, but he did he scream loudly for ten minutes. It appeared that his ears were hurting. He was crying and pulling on his ears. Things we tried that appeared to help a bit were suckers, giving him his water to drink, and being okay with him crying. When the plane landed, he got a big snuggle and my husband and I were able to breathe normally. When we got to our hotel and saw the excitement on his face, it erased any of the things that happened on the plane.To prevent the little guy from being overloaded we stayed at the hotel and settled in for the evening.
Over the next 4 days, we took in as much of Disney World that the little man could handle. There were several times that I was excitedly taking him to a ride I thought he would love and he saw something else. I stopped and let him make the choice to play where he wanted (that was tough to do). He was happy to hug the characters, ride the same ride a few times, and dance on the walk ways. The two things I stuck to were his times to sleep and eat.
Day 5 of our trip was the one day where we knew it was going to be a late evening. We went to The Magic Kingdom to take in Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas. To prepare for the evening we had a low key afternoon. To be honest I was worried that he would not enjoy himself which would mean it would not be fun for all of us. Surprise! He was squealing with glee during the parade and jumping up and down during the fireworks. When all was said and done he was in bed 2 hours later than normal.
Day 6 was comical. I knew that he would be testing limits and moody. Like most children, when he is sleep deprived he is affected for 24 to 36 hours after the missed sleep. He literally threw his rice at me during lunch and threw himself on the ground a few times. We were as patient as possible. This was the one day that I encouraged a nap in the stroller so I could walk around and take in some sights I wanted to see while he was asleep. I needed to take the time for me so I could recharge while he was napping. That evening was a quiet one for him and I got to have some more mommy time alone while he played on the beach with daddy.
On our last day, we were ready to go home. The time leading up to the plane ride was quite uneventful. I wish I could say the same for the flight. Yikes!
In total, he screamed at least three times at varying lengths. The big blow up was for about 20 minutes when he was kicking and screaming. If I could have jumped off the plane I would have.
Turns out he did not want to sit in his seat. We were given unsolicited advice to let him walk around on the plane. I thanked the lady for giving me the advice and calmly did not do that. That would have been a great lesson, scream bloody murder and get what you want without asking for it. When he finally calmed down he stated “no sit peez.” That I responded to. He was happy to sit on our laps and walk down the aisle. I thanked everyone for their patience.
Here is how I was able to put everything in perspective and not go crazy. This trip had a great deal of fun, exciting moments that outweighed the tantrums and moodiness. I would do it all over in a heartbeat. I felt prepared to handle the difficult times. In the grand scheme of things, the negative behaviour was about 2 hours of the over 7-day trip! I will take that.
Here are my tips and tricks to improve your ability to enjoy a trip:
- Be well rested yourself.
- Bring some creature comforts from home. We brought his “lovey” and some small toys he enjoys.
- Have a plan in mind, but be flexible. It’s great to have a general idea of what you want to accomplish, but your child will send you very clear signals that enough is enough, listen to that.
- Stick to a routine that is similar to your routine at home. For example, we followed the same sleep and feeding schedule we follow at home while we were away.
- On the day that we did have to veer away from the regular sleep schedule, we packed extra patience to deal with a demanding child.
- When someone offers you advice on how to deal with your child, simply respond with, “Thanks for your advice.” Then happily go about your original plan (unless the advice is something you agree with). Usually, people are trying to help.
- Do not take melt downs personally. They are a way for your child to let you know that they are done. Extra cuddles, down time, and child-directed fun should help out.
- Also, be willing to identify when you need a break and fit that in. Even if it is taking a few minutes sitting in the bathroom for no reason other than to breathe.
- For older children, let them have a say in what the vacation will look like. For example, let them pick the adventure for the day.
- PACK YOUR PATIENCE.