It’s a Friday night after one of those oppressively new hot days in town, and local Miss Manners is cracking open her second beer to ease the stresses of the day.
My kids have sprayed bleach cleaner on each’s clothes (while wearing them), washed the kitchen counters with apple sauce and sucked on a bath bomb. And that was just between lunch and dinner. I’ll save the evening shenanigans for a future column on restaurant decorum.
The idea of a family vacation sounds appealing — yet highly unattractive. While the word “vacation” implies rest and relaxation, I think most parents know that when traveling with children, one bear’s the same responsibilities but with a nicer view.
And given our last vacation resulted in one kid’s broken elbow and a permanent scar on the other, I’m not exactly champing at the bit to get on an airplane with them.
But we’ve committed to visiting family afar, and I have to admit this heat is driving me and, obviously, my kids a little stir crazy. So I’m packing the kids’ carry-ons and heading for cooler climes.
This is no haphazard pile of toys.
While my wild children may give the impression of a permissive and lax parent, I pack with military precision. There is nothing worse than being trapped next to a whiny child on a long flight and, even worse, when that kid is yours and you didn’t remember their beloved Bun-Bun stuffed animal.
Last week, I reached out to local parents for their travel tips and revisited my own tried-and-true suggestions for babes in arms and older children to make travel less bumpy for everyone on board.
• If budget allows, purchase an airplane seat for your younger child. Domestically, age 2 and under fly free, which is enticing, but once your child can walk and squirm she doesn’t want to be confined to your lap. It’s hard to do an activity or eat comfortably, making her more likely to become frustrated. Try booking the window seat for added entertainment.
• Pack your carry-on smartly. Don’t wait until the last minute, when you might overlook activities, batteries or a blankie. Make the activities last by doling out one at a time to sustain attention spans, throwing in a surprise new gift. I’m not in support of tech for toddlers as a first resort, but desperate times call for desperate measures. If putting a movie, game or music on is the equivalent of a mute button, then by all means press play. And don’t put your bag of tricks in the overhead bin, where it is out of reach.
• Arrive with plenty of time before departure to allow for long security lines and a chance to use the washrooms right before boarding. Anyone who has had to accompany a 3-year-old to the lavatory knows this.
• Set expectations for behavior and describe the environment in advance.
• Learn sign language. Knowing a few key signs (not sentences) equips baby with tools to communicate and may avoid a tantrum as you frantically go down the list of possible causes.
• Bring whatever the baby or child needs to eat or drink. You can be over the 3-ounce rule and just have to open them at security. Allow some extra time for screening.
• Have your child pick a small toy from home to give away to another child who may be having a rough flight or just for fun. Kindness at altitude is refreshing.
• Pack extra diapers and wipes, especially in the event of an overnight layover.
• Wear your baby in a carrier through security (with no metal parts), down the aisle and during the flight when permitted.
• Balloons or an inflatable ball provide entertainment in the terminals, get your children moving and attract other children to interact with. And they pack flat when not inflated.
• Exercise and exhaust your child in the terminal. Some airports have designated play areas.
• Triangle-shaped crayons don’t roll off the tray table.
• Dog waste bags are the perfect size for storing a stinky diaper.
• Bring an extra set of clothes for the kiddos and yourself in case of leaks, spills and spit-up.
• Avoid sugary snacks and juices, which lead to hyperactivity.
• To avoid ear discomfort at takeoff and landing, nurse, have a pacifier or something to chew, sip or swallow to help clear ears.
Little tots are a fussy, fidgety bunch, which is normal behavior. With kids in tow, it’s important for parents and fellow passengers to remember that this, too, shall pass. Being prepared exhibits an awareness for passengers and your little screecher, which will earn your wings and peace of mind.
Bizia Greene is an etiquette expert and owner of the Etiquette School of Santa Fe. Send your comments and conundrums to 505-988-2070 or firstname.lastname@example.org.