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Traveling with Children

Traveling with children can be difficult. Here are some tips to make it easier:

Preparation

It helps to prepare the children weeks before the flight. A big map and a tiny airplane make a great visual aid. Read the children stories from the region and show them picture books to help prepare them for the change.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

You may be feeling stressed, but it’s important that you convey a sense of security, says Maureen Wheeler, author of Travel with Children (Lonely Planet). Try not to let the children feel your own insecurity. “As a parent you are, of course, expected to know everything. You are the source of all wisdom and strength. Now is not the time to unburden yourself to your child,” Wheeler warns.

On our last trip from Kuwait—the one with the pets, the excess baggage, and no husband—I was feeling slightly overwhelmed. But I didn’t let on. Instead, we talked about our destination, pointed out interesting cloud formations and scenery, played travel games. It helps to involve the kids and keep them informed of your plans-where you’re going, how you’re getting there. Details are not only interesting but also convey a sense of security.

Baggage Claim

Whether it’s a permanent transfer or a leisurely vacation, you’ll need to plan carefully what to take along. Make a list. Pack enough essential items to get you through the flight and a little extra in case shopping is inconvenient. But not so much that you’re overburdened. Pack sample-size containers of shampoo, powder, lotion. To prevent leaks, pack medicines and toiletries in resealable plastic bags. Engage children in packing their own backpacks or carry-ons with toys, games, books, and other comforting items.

Carry a favorite stuffed toy or doll looped with an elastic to One mother I know gift-wrapped a few new toys and tucked them inside her carry-on. Notify the airline in advance that you’ll be traveling with children. the child’s wrist to prevent the tragedy of leaving it behind. They often offer special services for children such as kid’s meals served first and free travel souvenirs. Bring along your own snacks and carry a water bottle. Bring a stroller so you can strap baby in between flights.

Final Boarding Call

Ask the flight attendant if there are spare seats, giving the kids room to stretch out.

If possible, book nonstop flights to avoid changing aircraft and racing to another gate with children and baggage in tow. When that’s impossible, allow enough of a layover to let kids run and stretch in the airport, many of which are now equipped with playgrounds or nurseries. During her 7-hour layover in Amsterdam, one friend checked in at the airport hotel with her two children for a rest and a change of scenery.

Large, crowded airports hold lots of attractions for curious kids. Discuss with your children what to do if you get separated. For little ones you might write the flight information on a tag and put it in their pocket. You tag your luggage, why not your children?

ANN McDUFFIE worked as a reporter for the Honolulu Advertiser. She now lives in Kuwait.

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