I love all the sweet pictures of your children as they accompany you on your travels. You always make it seem so fun and effortless. How do you do it?
Asked No One Ever
Dear No One Ever,
Hahahahaha. Instagram is a clever sorceress, isn't she? Have no fear, I will let you in on my secret. In my back pocket (and purse pocket and backpack) I have a handy little tip that never fails me, ever.
Don't judge, No One, I know. I know. I've heard it all and I do not look forward with any anticipation to undoing the damage I've done to their tender little brains. But when travelling, especially for work and super-specially for fun, some rules go out the window. Screen time is one of them. One simply will not survive long-stretches of travel with their wee ones without screens.
Yes, that is a blanket statement. But bear with me.
On our most recent trip to a little mountain village in Germany for a conference held by the organisation we work for, our children spent 9 hours a day in kids club activities: swimming, crafts, storytime, singing, games and cosplay (heh). The other 4 to 5 hours of their wakefulness were spent eating, running up and down hotel hallways, frequent toilet breaks, and tooth brushing. My kids were engaged to the max on this trip and it was wonderful.
But like most trips, when you're actually en route to Grandma's or overseas or across the country, extended periods of "I'm bored" have to be dealt with. For instance, this most recent trip included a 2-1/2 hour bus ride, plus 5 hour airport layover and a short-haul flight. Even when not on the road, my kids need downtime. And so do I! So we give 'em a screen.
Then, at some point when we feel they should be interacting like real-life humans, we even tell them to turn it off. I mean, we're not animals!
Now a practical warning: with screens come accessories. We bring earbuds and headphones. We bring extra games. We bring half our body weight in electronic adapters, cords and batteries.
Don't worry, we bring books and paper and colouring pencils, too.
OTHER TIPS INCLUDE (BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO):
Plenty of water. Each gets his or her own water bottle; we drink up before security and refill afterwards.
Every child brings a hoodie. Modes of transport are either extremely hot or extremely cold, so layering is key. If we're really on our game, the children all sport the same colour shirt or hoodie. And we ALWAYS pack an extra set of clothes + underwear in their carry-ons.
For the most part, the children carry their own bags. Ash is still in this phase of throwing off anything that encumbers him emotionally or physically, but even he gets a little backpack (that I usually end up attaching via carabiner to my own carry-on bag).
We pack little bits of snacks, just enough to get us to the next destination. This summer I packed each kid reusable breastmilk storage containers of trail-mix. (What? Those little things are amazingly durable and I knew they'd come in handy again someday.) By the end of the trip, we usually end up with one cup of just raisins, one of peanuts and one of pretzels, because you know my children will still pick through what they won't eat. But you mix the leftovers up and look! More trail-mix (sans M&Ms because you know we didn't have any leftovers of that).
Books on tape. My children are obsessed with Chronicles of Narnia and Adventures in Odyssey, listening on their own ancient iPods for quiet time.
Do all these great tips insure you're children won't be crying and/or yelling at you at any given moment? No. I occasionally had to slip them my smartphone at the breakfast table so I could catch up with a long-lost friend. And they fought like beasts as they shared the same room (and king-size bed) for 5+ days. And one child may have climbed up on a statue, while another semi-bathed in a fountain and a third made it halfway over the railing of a footbridge. But this is the reality of traveling with kids, and also of parenting.
Survival is mandatory. Thriving is the hoped-for goal. And making new friends, learning new songs and knowing they are loved by a whole bunch of new people - and wholly loved by a great big God - are the icing on top.
The screens just make sure your kids - and you - get there and back again in one piece.
How do you travel with kids? Are you also melting their brains with screens? Any tips for new games, apps or videos?