Monday, July 18, 2011

Tip 35 - Travel Smart

Summer is a time when many families travel to see relatives and take family vacations. Although vacations are supposed to be relaxing and fun for everyone, often parents are dismayed at how stressful the trip can become. Long car trips and airplane trips can be especially stressful for both you and your children. Below are guidelines on ways to make "getting there" stress free and as fun as "being there."

Traveling with infants ( under 11 months of age) -
  1. Schedule travel around your baby's schedule - Infants, of course, have no sense of past or future, and are comforted by regular schedules. When planning a long plane or car trip, try to keep this in mind. Do your best to schedule a trip when your baby is likely to be least fussy (usually the morning) or around nap time. Avoid traveling in the evening or at night, because your baby won't be able to sleep as soundly and disrupting sleep will increase irritability.
  2. Plane time is playtime, not your rest time - A baby's brain is a learning machine responding well to gentle stimulation. There is a temptation to think a long plane ride should offer you a time for rest, but actually your baby is going to need some play to remain comfortable in an airplane or car seat. For young babies, plan to sing, recite nursery rhymes, rock and play movement games like patty-cake and peek-a-boo. For six month olds on, bring favorite books and help your baby  learn new words associate with the trip by looking out the window at "planes" , ""clouds", "wings", "engines."
  3. Stay relaxed - Babies don't have words to understand why their world is so different when you travel. Your baby can sense when you are tense and will respond by crying - that of course will make you even more tense, and there will be more crying. Trying to force a child to eat will not help, because the baby is responding to your tension. If you stay relaxed, smile often at your baby, speak softly, and play quiet games like peek-a-boo, it will calm your baby much faster than jiggling keys or forcing a bottle.
  4. Sucking helps ear pressure on landing - Air pressure decreases when in flight and increases when the plane lands. For a baby, this increase on landing puts external pressure on the ear drum that can be quite painful and only be equalized by jaw opening or sucking. If your baby cries because of the pain it will actually help equalize the pressure, so it is not something to worry about unless your baby has a cold. (If so either delay your travel or check with your pediatrician about whether a decongestant or nose drops might be useful). To avoid crying though, you can let your baby suck on a pacifier or a bottle during landing.
Traveling with Toddlers - 1-2 years

  1. Schedule around your toddler's schedule - A well rested toddler is going to tolerate travel much better than a tired toddler.  Airplane (and often car) travel is too stimulating to hope your toddler will sleep for long periods, so don't be tempted to travel at night hoping your toddler will sleep. Your toddler may doze, so if he is a good napper you can try to schedule trips during the day before and extending into around naptime.
  2. Keep your toddler very busy - Your child does not sit around doing nothing at home, so do not think you can convince her to sit in an airplane or car for extended periods. Bring plenty of things for your toddler to do, books to listen to, toys to play with, and plan interactive games like taking turns making funny faces, songs with actions like eensey-weensy-spider, or Old MacDonald Had a Farm.  If on a plane, once the seat belt sign is off, walk your toddler up and down the isle. If in a car, plan rest stops about every 1/2 hour to 45 minutes unless napping.
  3. Screen time usually won't work -  Don't think that bringing a personal DVD player will entertain your toddler for long. Watch your toddler at home, before your travel. Can he sit and watch a video without getting up and moving around for more than 10 minutes? If not, don't expect that on a plane. Rather, plan interactive activities for the times when your toddler can't leave his seat - look out the window together, read books, sing songs.
  4. Snacks increase energy and irritability - Avoid sugary snacks, cereals, and juices. Stick to water, milk, and real fruit.
Traveling with Preschoolers (three to five years of age)
  1. Crayons, puzzles, and manipulatives (paper dolls, Play Dough, etc.) make time fly - Your preschooler needs to have plenty of things to do on a long plane or car trip. The more he has to "do" the better. Since there is no place to run or climb, he should still have things to do with his hands. Paper dolls and coloring books are great for little girls, boys may respond better to manipulable toys like Transformers. Just be careful that anything you bring isn't big enough or hard enough that it could hurt someone if thrown. And avoid anything so messy (paints or colored pens) that your child could damage property.
  2. Read, Read, Read - You will be surprised at how many times your child will be willing to hear the same story, repeat the same nursery rhyme or sing the same nursery song. One half of your preschooler's brain is entirely devoted to learning language at this age - so even the most active child will usually be willing to sing familiar songs or look at fun books (especially if there is something to move to or open and close.)
  3. Move around when you can - It is not a good idea to let your preschooler run around in the airplane lobby alone (even if you chase after him), but you can play catch with a soft rolling ball, walk around together and explore - looking out the windows at planes, learning about safety on the escalator or moving sidewalk, and learning new words for objects of interest in store windows.
  4. Avoid passive entertainment - As much as you would like to sit back and read a good book or watch a movie while on a long trip, your preschooler will probably not be pacified very long with a video or computer game. Plan  your own relaxation for after you arrive at your destination - during travel you will need to have lots of activities in store that you do with your pre-schooler. If an older child or your spouse can help out, plan that ahead as well.
Trips provide a wonderful opportunity to stimulate your child's brain. Travel smart with plenty of books and games to play to ease the tension of travel while building langauge and cognitive skills.

No comments:

Post a Comment