Oliver and Viktor doesn't want to go home.
Aaah! Once again I have made it across the pond with my two boys. We've enjoyed two lovely days in Stockholm and are now on the train on our way up north. My boys are pretty used to the brutal trip over by now but even so I'm always a bit ...shall we call it tense..before we go - not knowing how they will hold up and what unexpected events will occur. Through the years we've had many delays, meltdowns and bags lost but each time it's worked out somehow. This trip we had to double our flight time on our first leg due to weather but finally were able to catch our original flight for our second leg over (which thankfully also was delayed) and landed happily 'only' 4 hours late. As long as I don't have to stand in that line to figure out overnight stays and rebookings I'm calling it a success.
I figured I'd share a few of my travel tips that I've picked up over the years. When it comes to traveling with kids there's a bit to gain from experience. If you have anything to add to my list please share in the comments below!
This is just as important for you as it is for your kids. We spend the last week before we go talking about everything that's going to happen. We discuss how we're going to travel, how many flights we have to take, if we're going to sleep on one of them, where we're going to get something to eat, what activities we're going to pack, what we're going to enjoy once we've arrived as well as what we're NOT going to do (argue, fuss, be loud and crazy, eat sugar..you know what I mean). For myself, this is a reminder that I'm not going to sit there sipping wine and enjoy a movie, I'm going to primarily be there for my kids and do this trip with them. Sounds like a mom would know this but somehow I've noticed that I tend to dream up a different scenario in my head so it's a good thing for me too to get realistic expectations of just how good I can expect the kids to be and to set it straight to myself what success actually looks like. A grumpy mom is the WORST threat to a successful trip.
Pack less than you think you need
Hauling heavy bags does not add to the fun of traveling. Keep that in mind when you pack. And especially when it comes to your hand luggage which you will be carrying with you everywhere. That said, there are a few things that I never leave out of my carry on for these long trips with kids.
• Extra change of clothes. For you and the kids. Not making it to the restrooms in time, spills and stains do happen during trips too. Not to mention that luggage does get lost for days. I don't think I've ever actually needed to use the spare clothes I've packed, but just knowing that I have them make me relax and THAT is worth a lot.
• Pens and paper for doodling, practicing writing, playing tic tac toe etc. Weighs almost nothing.
• iPads. See 'Screen time' below.
• zip lock bags - a lot of them for keeping trash away, keeping extra clothes dry and clean, Putting wet/dirty clothes away, distributing snacks and fruit etc.
• Wet wipes. Even if your kids have outgrown them - great for wiping everything that needs wiping - everybody getting up to wash hands before snack is not realistic.
• Water bottles. Preferably one with a large opening to make it easy to fill when you're on a bumpy flight. I always pour over water from the glasses that they give you on the plane to individual water bottles. That way I can relax a bit more during the meals knowing that at least they won't tip over a glass making everything wet. Also it's good to know that we always have water when they ask for it.
iPads were made for this - use them. Limiting screen time is great most of the time, but a long trip is not the time to count the minutes. Just let everyone enjoy the peace. Do make sure to bring headphones though so your neighbors don't have to make the same entertainment choices you do. I also bring a splitter so I can watch a movie together with the kids. That way all that screen time becomes family quality time. I usually get us a new movie to watch for each overseas trip..that way I enjoy it more too.
Snacks yes, sugar no.
Energy is critical to keeping a good mood and it doubles as entertainment too. My kids are picky about food and even though I order the kids meals for all flights they almost never eat it. We've also been on flights where they've forgotten to order kids food or simply ran out of it. I NEVER count on getting food for the kids on the plane or even at the airport. You may think that you will have time to buy something at the airport to eat but when delays happen or the security line is a mile long and you end up running to make your flight, you'll be screwed. Been there, done that. I always bring plenty of snacks so I know that we can keep their tummy's happy. And although I'm not generally super strict on the sugar front (a cinnamon bun here and there is part of why life is great, you know!) I am VERY careful with it during trips. If you bring a sugary snack for your kid, chances are you will reach for it if they have a meltdown just to get them to calm down. Which of course generates a sugar high and then a crash and you're right back where you started, only now you're both even more tired and with less options. I don't even make it possible for myself to fall in that trap anymore. I bring lots of fruit, sandwiches, dry crackers and yoghurt that I know they like. This year I also packed carrot coins and silver dollar pancakes for us to eat on the plane for lunch. That made everybody happy.
Feel and look good
Feeling good and looking good aren't as inseparable as you'd think. At least for me. Before each long trip I make sure I have a great travel outfit that is comfortable, practical and looks good. Usually I end up buying something new to fit the bill. Sounds crazy perhaps but I've noticed that it makes a big difference. I need to wear something soft, not to warm or cold that can keep up with the kids as well as all the odd activities and postures with dignity. Sweats would fit the bill so far, but I would feel miserable looking like that in public. Better to feel good about yourself - it will lift your spirits and you will need that edge 14 hours in when you haven't been able to sleep and you have to figure out what to do now that they've lost your luggage. Not that that will happen to you, of course it won't. Either way you're going to feel a little bit better if your clothes isn't one of the things that bother you.