Traveling with Tots in Tow!

Santa Baby in Luggage 1

Two weeks ago our out-of-state family was en-route to South Dakota! Whoo Hoot! Doc and I whispered prayers for physical protection as loved ones traveled but before we closed I added one more important request- mental protection.

I knew my sister-in-law would be busy making her exit strategy from home and that my niece Katie (and hubster) would be traveling with two littles.

As Doc and I prayed specifically for Katie and her crew I had visions that had nothing to do with sugar-plums! I remembered Doc and I prepping for out-of-town family trips in which I swore the tiny humans that I claimed as precious progeny would morph into uncooperative aliens.

I knew this for three reasons:

They no longer understood my language.

“Why are there no PJ’s in your bag? Mom asked you to pack your PJ’s. Are you going to sleep naked?” The aliens would look back at me like I’d grown a third horn. (No doubt my impatience had convinced them that I already had two.)

They no longer spoke my language.

Whiny, guttural, elongated syllables would form and flow from their small mouths. Please and thank you took a hike. They’d been hijacked with verbal communique like “Nooooo! You can’t take that, it’s miiiiiiiine!” or “Stop touching meeeeeeeeee.” or “How come she gets to sit up frooooooont?”

They would disappear.

Alien technology enabled them to beam themselves to a locale other than where I needed them. The end result?  I would be left alone with five-gazillion items to round up and pack into the car Every. Single. Time.

Me and my flattened sugar-plums would gut out the process while Doc (who was usually scrambling to leave work) entrusted me with the job of getting everyone ready to go.

Once the vehicle was filled with baggage and bodies (not to be confused with body bags because yes, they were still alive) Doc would lock and load and we’d hit the road. Aaaah, yes. Finally, a moment to sit and breathe. Rest the feet. Renew the spirit. Recharge the mind.

Thank you Jesus that we get to take a family trip.

It didn’t take long for me to learn that THAT moment would last approximately 90 to 120 seconds.

The aliens would become restless. Oh, it wasn’t their fault. It was more like that movie from 1982, The Thing. “Things” inside of them would start to come out. Ugly things that messed with their bodies and temperaments. Things like:

“I no longer have a bladder and I must stop every 20 minutes to pee.”

“I no longer love my siblings and it’s a breach of my ethics to sit by them for an extended period of time.”

“I no longer want to take this trip because I’ve just realized that the only place I will ever want to be for the rest of my life is my own back yard.”

Poor things. They never knew what hit them. The alien invasion was back and by this time I no longer had the strength to morph into Sigourney Weaver and fight for them to get their happy back.

And so we come to the point of this post (and my overly-sarcastic 500 word lead in).

I needed DoAheads.

I could NOT have survived without them.

It’s been a while since I’ve traveled with little’s but I’m certain you’ll find the tips helpful. (I polled the entire family over Thanksgiving!)  If you like, you may go to the DoAhead Destination tab on the home page to find tips and tools for travel ease but if your journey involves kiddos you’ll definitely want to peruse the information below.

Without further adieu’…DoAhead Destination’s Tips for Traveling with Tots in Tow.

#1 Let them participate in the planning. In as much as possible (depending upon their ages) engage the kids in conversation about the upcoming trip.  If they’re invited into the planning process they will be much more likely to participate in the work required to take the trip! And remember, your attitude will become their attitude. If you’re excited and upbeat about it they will be too!

#2 Love it, List it or Lose it! List’s are an indispensable part of travel planning. The really great news is that if you can carve out a small amount of time to make out a list of everything you (and your family) may need there’s a good chance the list can be reutilized for future trips. It may need modifications but the skeleton will be in place. If the kids are big enough, have them make up their own list. You may be pleasantly surprised at what they come up with!

#3 A place for everything and everything in it’s place. Now that you’ve announced the trip and you’ve taken a little time to think through what you need it’s time to find a tiny piece of real estate in your home in which you can start collecting items you want to pack. I’ve been known to set out my luggage two weeks in advance, that way if I think of something (especially if it wasn’t on the list) I can grab it and throw it in. The kiddos can do likewise. Put a small laundry basket in their room. If they think of something they want to take have them put it in the basket. (Of course it may need culling prior to packing but there’s no rushing around or worse…forgetting the teddy bear someone has to have to fall asleep.)

#4 Zip it! You can never have enough baggies. When packing, baggies are great for separating and organizing clothes or hygiene items.

#5 Games and Activities Galore! By prepping early you’ll have more options for pulling together things that will keep alien resurrection to a minimum. Below is a smattering of ideas:

  • Have the kids string “O” shaped cereal on a piece of yarn. The activity will keep them busy while you’re scrambling to pack PLUS it will be fun for them to munch on when their traveling!
  • If you’re traveling by car take a cookie sheet with magnets, or a plain box along with a new package of crayons. They can decorate the plain box while they travel. Both options keep little hands busy.
  • Tiny loom for making a potholder.
  • Travel sized magnetic checker game.
  • A new notebook with stickers.
  • Aluminum foil is a great medium for creativity. Pack it and see what the kids will “build”!
  • A retro Etch-A-Sketch
  • Classic games like “I Spy with My Little Eye” or “The Alphabet Game” (finding the next letter in the alphabet) or “The License Plate Game” (spotting plates from as many states as possible.)
  • Easy to read books.
  • Take a few extra one dollar bills. Have the kids fold a bill into various shapes (simple origami). Whoever has the best shape get’s to spend his/her dollar at the next gas stop. If blood may spill because of a competition then skip it. However, require everyone to work nicely (and quietly) on their shape. If they comply than everyone gets a treat! 🙂
  • Audio tapes and/or video tapes are no-brainers. Thank heaven for electronics BUT we all know too much of a good thing isn’t a good thing. If the trip is long be prepared to mix it up a bit. Doc and I would allow electronics for a certain length of time and then we’d unplug and revert to any of the above.
  • Pack a gift sack or box full of surprise goodies. A variation on that theme for our children was the “camping box”.
  • Daydream. That’s right don’t forget to make space for nothing. The mind and body do well to look out a window and dream (even when you’re little :)).

#5 Munchies are a must. Home packed snacks are usually healthier and definitely less expensive (granola bars, fruit snacks, juice boxes). You won’t forget this step if you start collecting them early. Put them in your luggage or clothes basket in advance of the trip.

#6 Plan for Comfort. Tucking away a few blankies or pillows can reap great dividends, especially if the trip is long. A particularly nifty item is a pillow that slips right over the seat belt. Here’s a link for an extremely affordable version——–the Valuetom Pillow.

#7 Be Unflinchingly Flexible! Last but not least…electronics aren’t the only thing best enjoyed in moderation.  Over planning must be reigned in as well. A DoAhead Woman is about balance. She know’s the best DoAhead will be the memories she’s making for her children to cherish in years to come. Planning before the trip is wise but it’s also wise to be flexible and adaptable. Check out this post, Plan to Unplan, for a few more thoughts.

That’s it! Here’s to hoping, praying (and planning) on safe and fun-filled travels for the upcoming Christmas season! (Oh, here’s a link to a nifty site I found that might be helpful for you and yours… The entire website is dedicated to family travel.)

Your DoAhead Friend,

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