Thursday, May 01, 2003

May 2003 - Traveling with Children

Now that summer is coming with promises of travel, I want to pass on hints for traveling with children which I've garnered over the years.

You find yourself making new rules. When we went to Africa for the first time with a 5 1/2 year old, a 3 year old, and a just-turning-two year old, I made a rule: "No crawling on floors of train stations and airports".

This was an on-the-spot solution, but for many problems certain to crop up, advance preparation does help. On that first long, long plane ride not a drop of any drink was spelled by a child..... It only happened when another woman carelessly slammed into me as I was transferring an airline drink to one of our Tupperware sippy cups. So glad I'd bought those cups.


It's best to pull out all clothes you might want for each child a week in advance of your trip. If it's a baby you can put stacks in his/her room, but if children are older, put stacks in your room, so they don't get used. You will find spots on the clothes, missing buttons, rips. You have time to repair perhaps, or switch. Further, you cannot plan your life with children.

Once, All FIVE Children came down with a bug that week! Thank goodness for those piles.

Include some nearly out-grown or worn-out clothes. Thus when the child gets new things, you abandon the old, keeping luggage down. If worn-out, well, maybe your sister-in-law can use a new rag. If items are still good, find a Salvation Army collection bin or give them to someone. Once I had a dreadful time getting rid of a bright flowered sundress, size 3, being worn by a 5 year old. She kept rescuing it. Finally, I tucked it behind the flower pot on a small balcony in a small hotel on the Greek Island of Kos.

The maid thanked me later. After she'd tried to return the sundress!


For several reasons, I usually found it a good idea to give each child his/her own suitcase. You might be able to move as a group, each person carrying his own luggage. The smaller the child, the smaller the case.

Caution: you don't include the dress Tiffany is going to wear as a flower girl; you'd likely find her playing princesses in it. Baby clothes you can put with your own, but if they're separate it's easier to say to husband or older child, "Get me Sammy's yellow playsuit". You probably foster independence with these separate cases, besides the fact that each is carrying his own. The child chooses his own clothes each day, you only stepping in as necessary. I mean, you don't want them looking too weird when you are going to Janet Young's weaving establishment for tea. They can learn to judge what article is dirty and which can be worn again. And after you look the kids over, you can always say, "Go back for your sweater". If one child stays with Grandma in Oneonta, NY, while the rest of you move on to Corning, you have minimal sorting to do.

An obvious problem is the losing of one suitcase. Alice's once was delivered to her in Golden Valley, Rhodesia a week after it disappeared in Nairobi.

But the daughter didn't suffer much. We'd loaned her things, and she had acquired a couple new t-shirts, and a new dress.

Plastic bags

Don't give these to 2 year olds, but teach others how to store underwear, best shirt or dress, shoes, bathing suits. Yes, you should check that the wet bathing suit comes out of the plastic bag when you reach your next destination. I usually packed toiletries in one case for all, and passed out toothbrushes and so on when in the next hotel or at the next relatives. If older children collect little shampoo and lotion bottles in hotels, teach them about the uses of plastic bags, preferably zip-lock. Take AT LEAST ONE RAG! Several rags, rather. Kids mess up things fast! Relatives don't always have rags out for your use.

Carry-on luggage

Everyone has his own containing her very favorite doll or stuffed animal, security blanket, little toy cars, crayons, pencils, a few books. If you have a baby, EVERYONE'S bag has some disposable diapers, including your HUSBAND'S BRIEF CASE! That's being part of the family. You have glue, metal bandaid [plaster] or other small boxes containing cheerios or other cereal, costume jewelry, or other small things. Lots of costume jewelry fits in one bandaid box. Scissors must unfortunately be in a suitcase. The children's bags have some tiddly toys, a nuisance at home, but with which you can help them on an airplane, or in a hotel. Examples are sticker books, stickers, plastic forms to stick on pictures, paper letters and numbers.

The notebook, from a stationery store

Every kid say, three & up, gets one of these. On the front pages is glued a map. You can glue this there ahead of time. But you can also cut/tear maps from airline magazines. You mark "Prague", and later places you stop, unless the child is old enough to do this her/himself. One three year old insisted that her father "X" our hometown - she felt out of her element after visiting Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Seychelles, and Nairobi. The child is supposed to write in the notebook everyday. [They have never been known to do this, but they are thrilled now, in their thirties, to have those notebooks.] They're wonderful things to read later. Sri Lanka by 7 year old Alice: "I saw a boy with a cobra in a basket", with a darling sketch of boy, cobra, basket, and flute. AND on the next page: "I saw a fairy under a mushroom." Picture of fairy and mushroom. My husband and I puzzled over this for years. Alice was a child who might see fairies, but perhaps she felt that a boy with a cobra was so strange, why not see fairies? The children cut and glue pieces from museum brochures, whole or parts of postcards, and add a sentence or so. If they are bored in the hotel you can always hand over the packet of tourist info, and say, "Go work on your notebooks"!!