A milestone approach to traveling with children
So when do you start traveling with the baby?
The answer is now. Whether you have an infant, a toddler or a school age child, the perfect time is now. This is a bold statement to make but ultimately possible for any parent. It may sound cliché but there is never a perfect time. We are a family of four. We have been traveling with our children since they were 6 months old so we know a thing or two about traveling with children. Now that they are a little older, we continue to travel the world. A simple weekend getaway to reset, navigating through the pandemic uncertainties, and working around school. All for the name of, travel. We can confidently say that traveling with them NOW is more important than ever. An understatement spoken in many languages and dialects but continue to leave fear and uncertainty for many new parents.
We have traveled three continents on many different flights over 12 hours long. We have never been so excited in booking for another travel. We will talk all about what to expect and what specific attention you want to focus on as we tackle each milestone and developmental stage.
Birth to 3 months; eat, sleep, repeat
This is the perfect time for small road trips. Introduce them to travel as you begin your journey to become a parent. Pack your baby bottles, pump, and lots of diapers. A crying baby is normal in the car at this tender age. It is the only way they communicate to you. This is usually when they need attention, hungry and or wet. Expect several stops along the way. Every half hour to two hour is a good start. The baby will feed and if they are nursed it is a perfect time for mama and baby bonding out in the rest area or even in the car with the windows rolled down. This is the perfect time to stretch and walk the baby. The baby will usually sleep comfortably in the car seat after they have been cleaned, fed and cuddled. My children did just that and we crafted the routine so efficiently that we were able to drive from a two hour road trip to six or more hours on the road.
What is the 2 hour car seat rule?
Experts advice not to use car seats for longer than 30 minutes for babies younger than four weeks and not using car seats for more than two hours for babies of all ages. If you must travel a longer distance, the trip has to be broken up to accomodate for breaks in between.
At 4-6 months;
Probably the second part of the milestone where traveling is most easy because during this stage your baby can sit up, entertain themselves with anything they can grab onto. Make sure to watch them during this stage because anything will go straight in to their mouth.
The hardest part during this stage is when you eat your meal in the airplane. Your baby, regardless of them fed, will grab everything in that tiny space making it challenging to eat and navigate around your tiny space. The work around this for me and my wife was to alternate eating. While one eat, the other entertain the baby with a clear table.
This is also the time they start to teeth. Make sure to bring a teether toy and a baby drooling bib.
The best part about this stage is that your baby sleeps longer. They can be entertained easily without any stranger anxiety. Enjoy this time while they laugh and squeal in excitement and happiness.
8-12 months; Time to get fit and ready
Your baby is not going to sit still for long during this stage. This can be very challenging during take off’s and landing. The way around this is to use up the baby’s energy before the flight, feed them just before take off to promote sleep and release air pressure build up in their ears as they swallow milk. Time an hour prior to landing. You should start walking the baby around the plane several times. Just before landing, feed them again so they can stay still or even take a quick nap, and again relieve ear pressure as they feed.
1-2 years; walk the talk
Although traveling with children from 12 months to 2 year old is the most difficult, set the right expectations. After 18 months of age, children start to bargain with you. Prepare different small toys to alternate. You will have to entertain your toddler the whole time. Stickers, coloring books, airplane remote controls, empty water bottles, are a few examples to keep them distracted and entertained. Anything to keep them distracted with their hands can buy you time. Keep the screen time at a minimum if you have to use them. Rotate the cycle and hope to get them tired and finally fall asleep.
This stage gets easier while you travel. Many airports have play areas in them. This promotes exercise, use up your child’s energy, a small snack after and a potty trip prior to boarding the airplane. This is the make believe stage. Play along with the fun and learn what your child is feeling. Let them play pilots or captain of the ship. Remember to just play and use all that energy to promote nap while you travel. If you follow the rules and promote play as much as you can, your flight will be a lot smoother with tired and sound asleep children.
2 to 3 1/2 Years; just say no
Terrible two’s are not so terrible if you play along with them. Do not use up your energy rationalizing with your child at this stage. Just say “no” to everything that you want them to do. In other word counter them using reversed psychology. It doesn’t always work. Utilize this trick as much as you can until they figure out what you are trying to do. You will be surprised how smart they are at a very young age.
Be extra cautious during this stage. Do not leave your child unattended for long periods of time, especially around water and cars. This is the time you want to use a backpack with sling to keep them close by while you stroll down a busy street. The backpack is also a wonderful space to store dry clothes and few light snacks for them while on the go.
Children during this age group get frustrated easily. During this age they love to draw and express what they are feeling. Drawing is a wonderful vehicle to release unrealized emotions. We have bought them a very cheap doodle pad for many of our travel. Encourage them to draw a few objects or things they see as you travel. This is a wonderful tool to carry and it promotes creativity.
3 1/2 to 5 Years; friends are precious gifts
This is the most fun time traveling as the kids associate them with play. Introduce them to other children and have them play. We have encouraged our kids to bring small light toys in their backpacks and share them to other children. This is best when they start to learn to share and even give toys as they wish. It is wonderful to see this very valuable life skills through my children. I was so inspired that it gave me a wonderful idea. I have recently started to share small gifts like a printed picture on the go with the fujifilm instax SP-2. It is a wonderful tool to have on your travel. Read my review on the printer here.
This is a critical stage to teach your children how to look for help. Have them memorize a few basic things like their name and your mobile phone number. Teach them how to find their way when they are lost in an airport, out in the public or alone in an elevator. This is the stage where they ask a lot of questions and the perfect time to teach them about important life skills while traveling at an early age. Read my article here.
5 to 8 Years; learn about history
Children learn to cooperate with others during this stage. This is a wonderful stage as they apply what they have learned and will soon learn in school. Try to plan your travel around historic sites, museums, and national parks to integrate what they have learned in school.
There are national parks and UNESCO heritage sites where children can become a ranger for day like the missions in San Antonio Texas. This is a wonderful time as they are reading books on their own. You can download the booklet here for your future activity in exploring the Missions- San Antonio.
During the slower wave of the pandemic we chose to travel the southern states for our intro to American history and to learn about the rich history and culture that jumpstart the kids curiosity in learning about history and the people.
Children may not remember where you have taken them in your travel but one thing I’ve noticed and learn is that children become more empathetic towards other people of culture. They can tolerate or try to begin to eat different food. They prefer travel over toys. They get excited while we plan for travel. During the process of traveling by plane, train, car or ferry they learn to become more resilient in the demand and inconvenience of travel.
My one challenge for you is to begin traveling as early as you can. Book that flight and let the journey take you to wonderful, fun and engaging memories with the children. There is nothing to lose but a world to gain.
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