Travelling with kids is a chore, there’s no disputing that. Fortunately even relatively “quick jaunts,” like Toronto to LA, can be made easy if one goes prepared with electronic devices and snacks. But the longer trips? Ones to far off countries? Those are a different story.
I live in Canada, but my childhood was spent in India, with close family and friends always around to share in the daily excitement. Today with those loved ones on the other side of the world, my husband and I don’t think twice about jumping on a plane to attend a wedding, a birth, or to simply soak in the colourful Indian festivals that seem to pepper every season. Since we became parents a decade ago these plane rides have become even more important to help us build a sense of belonging with a family so far away.
So my husband and I have become experts in travelling with kids. We’re veterans of trips where you pack up the family along with everything you think you’ll need into four giant suitcases for a 16 day haul to the other side of the globe. Here are some practical tips to help you prepare for long travel excursions and to make the family’s adjustment afterwards that much easier.
Before The Journey
Plan the arrival and departure times of your flights in the daytime if possible. If that doesn’t work, try landing at your destination early in the evening. A quick shower, meal, and sleep will help with the transition.
Take a nap the day before the flight to build up sleep credit. You’ll need it soon.
Pack extras of everything: spare changes of clothes, toys, and electronics.
Pack your ability to say YES. I am constantly trying to help the kids make healthy choices, but a tin can 35,000 ft in the air is not the place to quibble over healthy balances. “No, you can’t take the seat belt off, the sign’s still on. Here’s a bag of chips, honey!”, TV, and junk food make flying easier, I promise.
On The Plane
Hydrate. Drink as much water as possible, and if the kids don’t like water, give them juice.
Set your clocks to the time of your destination and try to eat and sleep according to this new schedule during the flight.
It’s the return of normal routine that I feel is like an episode of the Twilight Zone. Everything doesn’t quite fit right, so go easy on the kids. Skip an activity or two, but for sure send them to school, even if it’s just for half the day (mainly, for the sake of your own sanity but it’ll help the kids with their adjustment too).
Go for a walk shortly after you get home to get limbs moving and to soak up the sunshine. It’ll help with the jet lag.
Your biological rhythm will be off. Be prepared for 4 AM picnics and keep some extra snacks by the bedside. Dry cereal and trail mix are handy snacks and dim lights will encourage the kids to go back to bed.
Taking young kids in a plane to the other side of the world is hard work, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Living away from ageing parents and grandparents I’ve learnt one thing – some trips are important enough to make the effort. They can’t be pushed back and it’s easier when the kids are young and they have the opportunity to build their own connections. A little bit of preparation and fortitude has helped our family renew friendships and keep the bonds of the family strong. Perhaps it will help yours too.