Thousands of military families are feverishly planning for the busy travel season. Whether you’re staging an OCONUS PCS or a simple family vacation, simple elements of travel can get pretty tricky when young children are involved.
Traveling with kids, especially babies and toddlers, strikes fear into the hearts of many parents. Fortunately, a little preparation can go a long way, and if you use a few simple strategies, your experience is much more likely to be a pleasant one for everyone involved.
Take a few tips from veteran military spouses (and travelers) for keeping your children happy and healthy as you go about your 2013 travel.
- Download the PCS Guide! It will help you plan your travels in a more efficient, organized manner. The 2013 version is coming soon!
- Embrace the familiar and the unfamiliar. Be sure to bring your child a few things she holds near and dear to her heart in the car or on the plane. When she is feeling insecure, they may mean the difference between keeping her calm and dealing with a meltdown. That said, unfamiliar objects may make your travel even more peaceful. Be sure to visit your local dollar store and make a wise $20 investment in a bag of new goodies. The unfamiliar can buy you a precious 15 minutes at a time when you need it most.
- Flying? Think long and hard about keeping your baby in your lap. Current guidelines for air travel allow parents to hold children under two years of age in their lap. If your child weighs more than 20 pounds, is walking or is particularly squirmy, opting to hold them may be opting for hours of struggling. If you can afford it, a seat and a place to install your child’s familiar car seat may be well worth the investment. Children are also more likely to behave when they are buckled in, as they are used to being still while riding in the car. Flying Space A? Space and regulations may vary.
- Remember good hygiene. Travel may mean you’ll be using planes and public transportation, which can unfortunately can be Petri dishes for illness. The last thing you need is a sick child – you have enough on your plate. Although it would be impossible to disinfect every surface your child touches, you can take several important precautions. First things first: wash those hands! As backup, wipe down surfaces ahead of time when you can and use hand sanitizer regularly. If you’re flying, the air in planes is filtered as it circulates so the air coming from your vent is pretty fresh, but the filters won’t protect you if your row mate is coughing or sneezing. For the sake of you and your child, if there is space on the plane, don’t hesitate to request a move. The same rule applies when you stop for lunch. If someone at your neighboring table is sick, ask for a new seat. Here are a few more health and safety tips from the experts.
- Consider a quick visit to the pediatrician before you’re set to leave. It’s a good idea to get refills on any necessary prescriptions before you go. Also, if your child is prone to ear infections or allergies, their condition may worsen in a new environment, so it’s good to get their doctor on board with a plan to manage any issues ahead of time. Otherwise, you might be forced to go to the ER for minor issues. If your child is prone to ear infections and you’re flying, remember fluid in the ear can be extremely painful for children, and will only worsen as you change altitude. Make sure there are no budding infections ahead of time. If you treat problems with a few days to spare, you can be more confidant any tears your child sheds are not caused by ear pain.
- Be conscientious to your fellow travelers, but don’t panic if your child cries. It feels awful to be the parent with a screaming baby on a plane, but you’re a paying customer and you have an equal right to fly. If you’re really worried about making a scene, you can make a kind gesture such as bringing ear plugs to pass out to those sitting near you. This kind of small effort can go a long way in encouraging kindness.
- Be prepared, but be ready for the unexpected. By planning for 90 percent of your travel experience, you’re more likely to be calm and collected when the unexpected happens.
- Keep a good sense of humor and try to have some fun along the way. The burden of travel will pass and you’ll make it to your destination one way or another. Keep an eye on the big picture and keep calm.