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How To Travel Well With Children?


We lived four hours away from extended family until my oldest was five years old. Early in our marriage, my husband and I decided we would make a concerted effort to honor our parents, even as grown ups.  As such, we prayed about how we might best do that, even while establishing our own home. Usually, that meant visiting them every few months and many holiday.

So we drove those four hours a lot. Four hours straight across two states whose biggest mountain together is a sand dune.

We drove the turnpike from South Bend, Indiana to Northeast Ohio. An easy drive. (Except the time I drove through a monsoon-like rainstorm that covered the entire midwest. It took me and my one- and three-year-old well over six hours. That was not an easy drive.)

One year, on our way home for Thanksgiving, we got stuck in traffic at the state border that took an extra two hours to get through. So many cars had to stop and pay the toll at the border, cars were bumper-to-bumper stopped up for about 5 miles.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This year we will travel overseas for Christmas. We leave here on Thursday to go home for two weeks. To love on our parents and our friends and our families. To be loved on, too. Needless to say, we’re excited.

Except for one little thing. I don’t really like airplanes. It’s kind of a secret that I’ve only recently come to terms with.

I used to love everything about them. The checking in. Walking really fast to the gate to find a seat so we could sit and wait for them to call our row. I somehow really enjoyed the thrill of knowing I was leaving wherever here was and going to end up in some other place. I loved the sounds of the stewardess button dinging. And the pilots voice. I loved the movies and the peanuts and the Sprite with the ice in those little plastic cups.

Then I started traveling with kids.

My oldest was eight-months when we flew for the first time with her. It started with her falling off the seat while we got our bags situated, banging her head on the metal strip that held the seat in front of us. It ended with a good flight. But that was only after and an ambulance ride and a CAT scan which showed no ill effects. Needless to say, it was less than ideal.

We added a second child to our family by the time we flew together again as a family. This time, it was an eight hour God-knows-how-many-minutes flight to Paris, France for a four-month expat assignment. No ambulances or emergency rooms this time. Only a few episodes of air-sickness for our then three-year-old and a nursing baby who refused to eat. Good times.

I think that’s when I started disliking airplanes so much. Not really fear. I just really dislike the experience of it. The stress that comes with the journeying. So many variables I cannot control.


But the end completely justifies the means for me. Absoutely no doubt about it. And I would do it even more often if it meant seeing more new places. Or visiting more people I love.

I don’t want to dread the traveling, though. I want to enjoy it. After all, it will take us the better part of two days when it’s all said and done. One to get there. One to get back.

I want to unwrap it like the gift that it is. The I’ll-be-home-for-Christmas that requires the I-have-to-get-there-first. I want to soak it in for all it’s worth. A part of Christmas just like the songs and the gift-wrap and the Advent wreaths.

So here’s where I ask you, my dear friends, how can I do that? Any advice for our upcoming plane rides? How to help my kids enjoy it? How to enjoy it myself? If you would be so kind as to leave a comment or send me an email with your thoughts, I would be ever so grateful.

And I promise to do my best to enjoy the gift of the journey. Then I’ll tell you all about it. After I get home.

4 Thoughts on “How To Travel Well With Children?

  1. Gibs is the only one who remembers flying- the other two only flew as babies, so I don’t have much advice on that. However, we have successfully managed 18 hour car trips with all 3, so… One of the best things that we have done is having little gifts that the kids can open on the trip- we wrap them and everything! Every couple of hours, they can look forward to opening a new gift. A new book, a coloring book, a movie. It has worked brilliantly. You could simply print out crossword puzzles or mazes that the girls could work on.
    Safe travels and sooooo happy for you! Wish we were travelling to Ohio this year!

  2. Kathy Strickland on December 18, 2012 at 3:50 pm said:

    Airline/airport food is so ridiculously expensive. Let them help you choose some snacks for the plane (and layovers). Pack favorite German treats for the trip home, knowing it will be the last time for a couple weeks. Then for the return trip, some favorite American snacks, sort of a “last hoorah”. (This was my second choice for advice…Becky took my first one! LOL!)
    Above all, see things through their eyes. Chances are, they love the running to the gate and the little plastic cups of ice, too!
    I will be praying for a safe and enjoyable trip for all of you. Merry Christmas!

  3. Ask if the girls can tour the cockpit. Highly unlikely, but you never know.

  4. Christy on December 21, 2012 at 1:24 pm said:

    #Nyquilmargarita…haha 😉
    Crafts are my answer to everything! Can’t wait to see you.

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