Traveling with Children

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Roland Dodds

Roland Dodds is an educator, researcher and father who writes about politics, culture and education. He spent his formative years in radical left wing politics, but now prefers the company of contrarians of all political stripes (assuming they aren't teetotalers). He is a regular inactive at Harry's Place and Ordinary Times.

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37 Responses

  1. Avatar Chris says:

    What a beautiful part of Mexico in which to spend Christmas. Is that part particularly dangerous? One of the biggest things I remember about traveling with my son when he was that age was his occasionally becoming completely restless and sick of the car seat, at which point I would pull over and let him stretch his legs, arms, and curiosity for 10 or 15 minutes, at which point he’d be good to get back in the car seat and remain relatively relaxed (or fall back asleep, as he tended to do when riding in the car). I dunno how much roadside violence is a problem in that area, though, so that may not be possible. I know a friend of mine from Mexico City who used to ride his motorcycle home every year for the big motorcycle rally there won’t ride at all in northern Mexico anymore, but I dunno what it’s like that far south.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      I’m not clear if Roland’s traveling the Mexico City -> Morelia leg by land or air?

      According to this, “Morelia has Mexico’s highest number of kidnappings” as of 2014, though hopefully as an American, Roland is a less-attractive victim (I imagine getting Americans and their govt. involved, may draw more heat than the average kidnapper wants).

      Maybe don’t hail taxis on the street?Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Ah, I saw “ride” and my mind automatically assumed a car.

        Highest number of kidnappings is impressively disturbing, given the number of kidnappings elsewhere.Report

    • Avatar Roland Dodds says:

      This is my first time this far into Mexico (I grew up on the Mexican border across from Mexicali, but that is a different Mexican experience).

      The kidnapping thing does worry me a little, but I will also be traveling with my brother in-laws who are in American law enforcement and were born in Mexico. That should make me stick out a bit less.Report

  2. Avatar Doctor Jay says:

    I can’t say much about foreign countries, but my advice on traveling with children consists of this:

    1. Umbrella strollers are awesome. If you don’t know what they are, they are the very lightweight ones. They are so easy to manage, fold and unfold, and carry. Most have a way to buckle the kid in, so you can use it as a way to put the kid down to use both your hands, too.

    2. Wait to feed the kid (breast or bottle) until you are on the plane. The sucking will help clear their ears, which makes the flight much more pleasant for them. Your child may be too old for this, so instead give her something to chew.

    I feel like I once knew more, but I don’t remember it.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      Pacifiers can mimic the chewing mechanism. So can gummies (if she can manage them).Report

    • Avatar Roland Dodds says:

      Great advice about feeding on the plane. We do have an umbrella stroller which has been helpful in the past, and I am bringing it on the plane as my carryon.Report

    • Avatar dragonfrog says:

      Strollers may be good or not, depending on the quality, extent, and existence of road and sidewalk surfaces where you’re travelling. You could wander around a bit in Google street view and picture using a stroller on the sidewalks you see.

      Travelling in Brazil when our daughter was about 1 1/2, we used a carrier rather than a stroller, and it worked well – cobblestone sidewalks, high curbs, bumpy and uneven sidewalks, dirt roads, paths, etc. were common enough where we were that a stroller would likely have been more bother than help. Also people there don’t tend to use strollers, so the buses didn’t have anywhere to put one, which the buses here do.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        A good carrier (the Bjorn works perfect for me while Zazzy greatly prefers the Ergo, so try a few out) is worth its weight in gold. I can throw the wee one in there for hours on end with nary an issue (except the tell-tale sweat patterns they leave).Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      Doctor Jay: Umbrella strollers are awesome

      They are! That’s why there’s one in the Mindless Diversions War on Xmas shopping guide!
      https://ordinary-times.com/blog/2015/11/30/the-fifth-annual-mindless-diversions-unsolicited-shopping-guide/Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird says:

    When we travel with the cats, we make sure to give them a fresh catnip toy in their carrier.

    What is the child’s favorite drug?Report

  4. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    Bug was 18 months before he took his first plane ride. Finding Nemo on the iPad was a godsend.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      Yes. Forget your values about screen time. A 30 minute show or 90 minute movie isn’t going to kill her.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain says:

      This past summer I drove across the Great Plains with an about-to-turn-two granddaughter. For her, it was Lilo and Stitch [1]. We also planned on 90 minutes for lunch and a couple of other lengthy rest stops where there could be a bunch of running about. Oh, and tried to schedule things so that we were getting into the car at her normal nap times — she dropped off to sleep pretty quickly.

      [1] There’s a market out there for a movie player app that’s (a) almost impossible to get out of and (b) has controls to start/stop the playback and to make modest adjustments in the volume, but no more than that.Report

      • Avatar gingergene says:

        On an iPad, there is a feature called “Guided Access” (under “General” -> “Accessibility”, I believe”). Once you enable it, you triple tap the home key to lock into a single app. Volume limits are in a separate place (“Music”?) and can be locked via the passcode-enabled restrictions. It’s a bit of work to get it set up, and Apple could certainly make sh*t easier to find in their menus, but once it’s in place, you’re good to go.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

          Even my Android tablet has a kids mode that I can use to limit what apps Bug can use. At least until he figures out my passcode…Report

          • Avatar gingergene says:

            Yes, you can put all kinds of restrictions on, locked with a passcode. The Guided Access thing locks you into a single app until you passcode out of it. As it is sorted under “Accessibility”, I think it’s meant to avoid accidentally closing out an app, maybe for folks with limited fine motor skills? But whoever is in charge of the Apple menus has a very limited imagination, or just thinks radically different than I do, because things are never where I’d put them. (For instance, I am always looking for the menu to change the lock screen timer under “Display and Brightness” because in my mind, it’s about how long the display is on until it locks itself.)

            I am increasingly frustrated with my iCrap. The main things that keep me from jumping ship are: (1) I’d have to learn new things. I hate learning new things! (2) I’d have to re-invest in a lot of apps. I’m the sort of person who will spend small amounts of money to avoid ads or to get premium features. At this point, to replace all of them in one go would be really painful.*

            *In the psychic sense. I could swing it, but it would annoy the crap out of me that I paid for the same app twice.Report

  5. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Just last night I put the boys and their mother on a cross-country flight. A few tips…

    1.) Plan, plan, plan. Anticipate. Have a plan, a backup plan, and a backup to the backup plan. Especially when traveling overseas. Have food and snacks aplenty; familiar items you know she enjoys. Bring books and easy toys she can play with on the plane. Extra clothes. The like. Pack it all but light and smart, if possible. By this point you know what you need to get through X hours away from home; have ALL that in one bag and nothing else. That stays on you throughout the duration of the travel portion of the trip.
    2.) Make use of down time. Sitting in the terminal? Get her out of the stroller and moving. Bring a ball she can chase. Or just run around. Find an unoccupied gate and make it your playground. Sure, some people will give you and your “out of control” child looks as you climb over seat backs. But know you’re meeting her needs.
    3.) Assuming you and babe and mom are all traveling together, when moving through the airport, assign one of you to kid duty and the other to everything else.
    4.) Stay calm. As Zazzy and I hit snags getting to and moving through the airport yesterday, her anxiety ticked up and, accordingly, her management slipped. Now, it was easier for me to remain calm since I wasn’t actually getting on the plane… but still: it was a lesson in our vast differences as people and parents. You’re going to be in the security line for a while probably. It sucks. But is stressing going to help? No. Especially not for the little one. There will be times she bogs you down, stopping you from moving ahead when the line does. Guess what? It doesn’t matter. You’ll close that gap before anything of consequence goes down. She will feed of your energy and emotional response. So keep it cool. TSA Agent giving you grief? Smile and say, “Thank you!” and say, “Wife goodbye, Little One.”
    5.) To hell with everyone else. If what your kid needs to do at a given moment is plop down on the floor and eat some snack and cheese, do it. Don’t be in people’s way, but if people want to judge you, tell ’em to fuck off. Well, don’t say that. Not with your words. Use your eyes. If you need to change a diaper in a place that isn’t typical for changing diapers… hey man, nature calls. Again, don’t be rude or dickish. But know that the rules of the world weren’t written with small people in mind so sometimes meeting their needs means breaking a few. Have at it.Report

    • Avatar Roland Dodds says:

      Thanks for the great advice @kazzy. As for your 5th point, I have found this to not be a problem with Mexicans. The idea that you have a family and kids require a bending of rules seems to be pretty normal in said culture. I have been to many public events where the kids just plop themselves down in the middle of a dance floor and everyone just accepts this and moves around them. Hopefully that will be the case in Mexico proper.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      Since it has probably become apparent by now, Zazzy and I are currently separated. Long story… lots of twists and turns… blah blah blah… I have a half-written essay exploring the entire thing but I don’t know if it will ever get there. But rather than people try to parse out some oddly cryptic language, I figured I’d officially let the cat out of the bag.

      Not to derail the post here but I am in a good — better — place right now and the boys are well cared for. Zazzy is also well.Report

  6. Avatar dragonfrog says:

    The thing that made the biggest difference for us was making sure our daugher understood what the plan was – if we were going to check out of our hotel, travel by night bus, wake up in another city, we made sure to tell her this, repeatedly, during the day.

    When she got on the bus knowing that that was where we were going to sleep, she was able to settle right down and sleep as soon as we got rolling. The first time we did that we messed up and the plan was sprung on her, disrupting her expectations, which led to a rough night for everyone.Report

  7. Avatar Vikram Bath says:

    It seems like you have a lot of good advice already, but here’s mine.

    1. You need a bag you carry everywhere with you that holds the necessary supplies for both “ends” of your child.
    2. Reset your expectations for what is possible. If you can, relish going slow. If going to the Post Office is going to take an hour either way, enjoy taking your time rather than futilely trying to rush through it.
    3. Enlist paid help if possible.
    4. Reset your expectations for what constitutes an adventure. The aforementioned post office could totally be one.
    5. Don’t fret about anything safety-related that you don’t see other locals worrying about. You’ll just drive yourself nuts.Report

  8. Avatar Kazzy says:

    More things to think about…

    Time zones? I’m not sure where you are or where you’re going or how time zones work in general, but if your trip is shorter and/or it is at all possible, try to keep your daughter on her home sleeping schedule. So if she usually sleeps 8pm-7am and naps from 1pm-3pm local time but you are traveling somewhere an hour behind, have her sleep 7pm-6am and nap from 12-2. That is if you want to keep everything running smoothly during and after the trip.

    THAT BEING SAID, trying to enjoy a foreign country (or, hell, even your local town) with those time restrictions can be… restrictive. So you could just throw all caution to the wind and go for broke and let her sleep when it works and just be really understanding and patient and things should be okay. Where you will find things trying is when you return home and you jump back into your normal routine within a day or two and she may need a week or more to get back to it. So if you are willing to suffer through that, you can have a more flexible trip.

    I don’t know anything about the spot you are traveling to, but when we traveled to a vacation spot in Florida, we found a whole bunch of companies willing to rent us kids’ gear for cheap. Porta-crips, buckets of toys, high chairs, etc. Sometimes it was cheaper to rent than check that stuff and, even if it was a bit more expensive, not having to lug that through the airport made it work the $10 difference or whatever. Do a little sleuthing to see if that is available in the local area. And if not — and the area gets tourists — well, your relatives can corner the market. When I learned about these companies I just thought, “Wow. They must print money.”Report

  9. Avatar Mo says:

    Do not board when they say families with small children board first. What you should do is have one person go in during the appointed boarding time go in with all of the gear while the other person remains in the gate area so the kid can burn off energy. The advance party should load all of the bags and prep things for their spouse and child. When last call hits is when the kid and the keeper should board. This will a) minimize the amount of time the child is strapped in and b) give more time for the kid to burn energy.Report

    • Avatar J_A says:

      As a frequent flyer with super duper elite status and with no children, I think this is absolutely the best suggestion so far. I’ve seen so many infants boarding ahead (with me) and then fret for half an hour while the plane is full of noise, people walking by, and excitement all around, while they are essentially tied up. Kids calm down very quickly once everybody s sitting, and there is no more movement and noise around them , and the hum of the plane quickly soothes them? The boarding chaos is very hard on infants. If you can avoid exposing them to it, you, and them, will have a much better time.Report