Traveling With Children

By: Dr Robyn Silverman
Going on a trip with children? Traveling in a car, plane or train? You must be bringing a carry-on bag. What you may not realize is that this bag can be a lifeline for you when boredom strikes or an inevitable mess occurs. After all, you are confined to a small space with children for a number of hours. You need to be prepared.

So, what should you pack in your bag-o-sanity? After some research, I've found that the items fall into 7 categories: Food, Toys, Clothes, Necessities, Books, Cleaning agents, and other things that could only fit into a category unto itself "Genius Miscellaneous."

1. Food: Leave the sugar at home. Granola bars, clementines, bananas, cheerios, animal crackers, juice and water are great choices. To lessen the sugar in drinks further, don't be afraid to mis water with juice to dilute the potency. These foods are all easy to handle and drinks can be easy too if you remember to bring your child's sippy cup.

2. Toys/Entertainment: Think compact. Toys should not take up that much room in your "bag o' sanity." Nesting cups, legos that snap together, children's playing cards, small dolls with layers of clothes can occupy a child's imagination for a significant portion of your trip. Even paper and crayons can go a very long way. 3. Clothes: Comfort is dependant upon being warm, clean and dry. Putting your child in his "feety" pajamas (if they don't mind their feet being covered) before the trip can ensure a comfortable trip and may even encourage sleep along the way. An extra set of clothes can be a valuable asset because it can be used for extra layers for children who run cold and for a clean change of clothes when a spill occurs.

4. Necessities: All the comfort of home. Don't forget to pack small packets of tissues, antiseptic hand gel, hand cream, band-aids, and Tylenol (for you and for your child). In addition, if you are used to using pacifiers with your child, make sure that you bring at least 2 or 3 on your trip in case one gets lost. Bring Zip-lock baggies or small trash bags for dirty clothes, dirty diapers or left over food.

5. Books: If your child is old enough, have him choose which book(s) he wants to bring. Books are a great way to keep a child calm and focused because it is an intimate and often "snuggly" activity. Books on tape can be a savior for parents who need to attend to more than one child at a time-- at the very least it can buy you some time.

6. Cleaning agents: Oh, the magic of wet wipes. No parent should be without themespecially on a trip when you are confined with your child for hours at a time. There are bound to be spills, dirty faces, stained clothes, and filthy surfaces to wipe down. Of course, if you have a baby, I am sure you can think of some other uses.

7. Genius Miscellaneous: These are the magic creations of the most prepared parents. For parents who have a baby and need to heat up milk on a plane, just ask for a cup of hot water and place it in the thermos you remembered to bring. The bottle can easily be placed in the thermos and heat to the temperature that you desire. It is also advisable to pack bottles with disposable bags so that you do not need to worry about washing the bottle out during the trip. If your baby or toddler is in a carry car seat, you know that you must keep the handle down during travel. Pack some Velcro and hang a bunch of toys on the seat in front of the child and behind the child. You can even connect the toys from one seat to the next and make a make-shift mobile.

One last thing that can make all the difference; an extra set of hands. Grandparents can be an exceptional distraction for children and a godsend for parents who need a break. If you are a single parent or do not have the kind of parents you would like to include on your vacation, bring a friend. While this may mean "extra baggage" on your trip, when one child needs to go to the bathroom and the other one is in a deep sleep, an extra set of hands can be worth its weight in gold. After all, you deserve a vacation too!
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