Travel-accustomed kids? Yes, please!
Many parents dread the very thought of traveling with their own children. They find it extremely exhausting to go on a family trip. Flights can be exhausting even when traveling alone. Just the very thought of a security check can be enough to irritate a lot of people. Traveling by car is no better. Hours together in a small space with heavy traffic everywhere. Crowded highway stops with long lines to get to the toilet. Tired kids on overdrive in the backseat. They can, however, be pacified with tablets loaded with films and games. (That is, if they don’t get motion-sickness!)
We have always embraced the notion that “Cool parents get cool kids”. By that we mean that when both parents and children are accustomed and comfortable with all the aspects of traveling (and the stress factors it clearly involves) then everyone will stay calm and relaxed.
Anton had his first travel experience when he was 6 weeks old. He slept through most of the trip, but I am absolutely certain that he felt the commotion around him. The movements and the sounds of the airplane. The ever-changing air-pressure in the cabin as we took off and landed. But he had 2 calm parents right by his side at all times. We went on several flights during his first two years and every time he got more familiar with the routines and he really looked forward to go every time.
Over the years we have also spent somewhat more than average time in the car. Together. We have a good time with lunch-boxes, books and music. We chat and we joke. We may listen to audio-books instead of music. Oftentimes we drive at night and Anton will sleep in his safety-seat. There are quite a few familiar routines here as well. Blankets, pillows and comfortable clothes to sleep in. It’s all part of the experience and he loves it!
When going on long-haul flights we do see that onboard staff are mostly friendly and accustomed to kids. They are “handled” professionally and with a smile. People not accustomed to children are mostly more of a burden, as they do not care for parents “not able to control their noisy children” or parents who “don’t know how to pacify their screaming beasts”. However, mostly negative vibes will accumulate tenfold if children see angry faces around them, which really isn’t what anyone onboard need. And remember, all parents really want as well, is a nice and quiet flight, without any screaming and shouting. If a child cries, it is usually for a reason. For instance, it can be very painful for children to get adjusted to the ever-changing cabin pressure by take-off and landing. It hurts!
Very rarely we have had any issues with Anton. Most times he will only be a burden if he starts to get bored. Most airlines, however, have some quite nice entertainment options onboard, with options for children of all ages. It would be nice, though, if the cabin crew could keep the announcements to a minimum. All entertainment will be paused whenever an announcement is made. Particularly on a long-haul flight from Munich to Dubai, flying with Emirates, we had this issue. Constant announcements in four different languages. I do not care for tax-free shopping or useless frequent flyer programmes that are hardly of any use anyway. So, keep it down friends. Please!
Children do know how to travel easily. And they are happy to do so. Particularly with their parents. And the more involved they are in the planning the better. Let them have some influence on the activities you are planning. Show them pictures from your upcoming destinations. Watch some documentaries on YouTube. In fact the internet is a great source and it makes the whole preparation phase a lot easier and more exciting for you all. You may even be able to visit art museums with your kids, nicely and quietly, if you prepare them for what they are about to see. Many museums even have fabulous activities for children that are both engaging and will keep them busy.
Bottom line: Kids are great when they travel and you have no reason to dread your future family trips. All you need to do is to prepare them. You cannot expect to travel completely on your own terms, but that has nothing to with your children. That is only a matter of your own attitude. Right?
Teach your children how to travel at the earliest possible time!
Stay calm and relaxed! So will your children! (Mostly!)
Create some fun and good routines around all the phases of traveling! (Packing, shuttle to the airport, security check etc)
Involve the children in the actual planning!
Let the children have some influence!
Learn about what it is you are going to see: Look at pictures, read books and watch documentaries about where you are going. Discuss what you have seen with the children!
Let children be children! Leave room for playing!