Traveling With Kids
Traveling with Children
By Elinor Spokes
The air of summer brings with it joyful cheers of children fresh out of school, often with great expectations of traveling with their families to far-flung destinations. These trips often require much planning and research on behalf of the parents, who sometimes
fret over how to get there, where to stay and what to bring to keep their young and often weary travelers comfortable and happy.
Seasoned traveler Beth Rose of Owings Mills has many recommendations for family travel based on her own experience of taking trips with her husband, Jonathan, and two sons, Jacob, 8, and Max, 2. The Rose Family has traveled domestically to such destinations as Rochester, N.Y., Boston and San Diego. They also have visited the Caribbean, including the Cayman Islands and Puerto Rico.
“We are fully carry-on people,” she says, adding that she is a minimalist when it comes to packing for trips.
“I make a list of what we need for the number of days we will be gone, pack rolling suitcases for all of us and carry it all on,” she says. This cuts down on check-in time at the airport and avoids the issue of lost luggage.
Ease of travel is a priority for this savvy traveler who provided numerous helpful tips for stress-free passages: Pack a GPS system and EZ Pass; they can be connected in your rental car at your destination. For travel with young children, a combo stroller (car seat and stroller) is a life-saver because one can roll it up to the door of the plane and gate-check it, so it is available when one deplanes.
Rose also suggests bringing an empty water bottle or container to the airport, carrying it through security and then filling it with water for the trip, thus eliminating the necessity of purchasing drinks in the airport.
Finally, if traveling with young children, plan the timing of flights around the sleep needs of the child. Sleepy children make cranky travelers.
Most important, Rose says, “Don’t forget you are on vacation, so don’t worry if you are not on your regular schedule. You need to go with the flow and relax a bit.”
Love of travel was one of the many things that Oakenshawe residents Perry and Becky Bridger had in common when they first met. Having children didn’t hinder their wanderlust. In fact, each of their three daughters’ first birthdays was not only a cause for celebration, but also a cause for a new international destination.
Naomi, now 11, spent her first birthday in Lisbon; Rose, now 9, spent her first birthday in Buenos Aires; and Miriam, now 7, spent her first birthday in Paris.
Becky Bridger recalls many people asking her why they chose to travel when their girls were so young and would not remember their trips. She also remembers a woman saying to her, that you can never go wrong by exposing your children to the world so young.
When traveling, the Bridgers’ try to experience their destination like the natives. In the major cities of Buenos Aires, Paris and Tel Aviv, they rented apartments found through the Internet, which provided amenities such as a kitchen, and laundry as well as room to spread out. “When you stay in a neighborhood, it really acquaints you with life in the places you visit,” she adds.
At meal time, the family usually eats a big lunch at a restaurant when the girls aren’t too fatigued. At the end of an exhausting day of sight-seeing, they return to the apartment and Perry Bridger becomes the “hunter-gatherer,” says Becky Bridger, and heads out into the neighborhood to scout for food for dinner and bring it back for the family.
Not scheduling too much in one day and trying to gauge how much your children can do without overdoing it is key to a fulfilling trip, suggests Becky Bridger. When the girls were very young, the family would travel with two lightweight, collapsible umbrella strollers and a backpack for the youngest child.
Her advice for long car trips, such as the family’s 2,300 mile trip last summer to the Canadian Maritimes, is to pack a lot of healthy food, eliminating the need to stop at fast food restaurants and helping keep the peace in the car. The girls have learned to entertain themselves with portable games and books; no DVDS or hand-held devices allowed.
In preparation for their upcoming trip to France and Italy this summer, the Bridgers have a large map of Europe posted on their kitchen wall with their tour route highlighted so the girls can see where they will be going. In addition, they can acquaint themselves with the names of the towns they will see along the way. They also have been listening to Italian language tapes in the car so they can familiarize themselves with key phrases.
East Coast travelers Randi Schwartz, husband Robert Rubinson and children Stella, 10, and Leo, 8, frequent both New York City and Boynton Beach, Fla. to visit family and friends. Because this Roland Park family travels several times a year, the children are now experts in packing for themselves. They know not to pack too much, because it is their job to carry it.
During the car trip up I-95, the family partakes in lots of games which keep everyone occupied and engaged. Two games in particular include the famous “License Plate Game,” in which the family searches for license plates from as many states as possible, and “I See Something,” in which a family member may see something “blue” and the others must guess what it is.
When in Manhattan, the family has the good fortune to be able to stay with relatives in an apartment near Battery Park. They are well versed at traveling around the City on subway, which is now much easier because they can do so without strollers.
“Manhattan is very easy to navigate, even with kids. Just don’t get anxious and enjoy all that is has to offer,” she recommends.
For their trips to Florida, Randi Schwartz prepares a bag full of small games, puzzle books, candy and novelty items for the kids.
They now look forward to their mother’s “bag of tricks” for each trip and it keeps them occupied during the flight.
Sarah Davison also prepares a “bag of tricks” for flights, which include snacks and small arts and crafts projects. She and her husband Mark, who live in Lutherville, have taken advantage of traveling with their preschool-age children now because they do not have to be constrained by a school calendar yet. They know that will end in the fall when their son begins kindergarten. “School is important but traveling is a very different learning experience,” Sarah Davison says.
With trips by air to the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Colorado and Utah as well as road trips to North and South Carolina, Jack, 5 and Maddie, 2, have already seen a lot in their short lives. Their mom reflects that most of their travels have gone smoothly, but she does recall a flight returning to Baltimore from the Caribbean when Jack, then an infant, cried for the duration of the flight. She remembers feeling as if everyone on the plane was staring at her and that even the flight attendants were getting grumpy and fed up. Hard as it may be, her recommendation in that scenario is to put your focus on your child and try not to get too stressed.
This past winter, the Davison family’s flight to the Dominican Republic was delayed due to weather. Consequently, they missed their connection in Puerto Rico and were forced to spend the night there. Not only that, their luggage was lost.
“The kids were troopers,” says Sarah Davison. “They were excited by the hotel there because it was new and it was an adventure.”
Be patient, she concludes, when traveling with young children “It is a lot of work traveling, but it is so rewarding,” she says.