Long trips can be trying for even the most seasoned of travellers, and that’s especially true for parents. However, Brenda Hackbarth has honed a winning strategy to keep her children entertained and behaved on those seemingly endlessly flights back home and to other locales. Below Hackbarth, a K3 ECE teacher at the Yew Chung International School of Beijing, tells us more about packing properly for those long hauls.
What suggestions do you have to make packing for a long journey with children efficient so that space is maximized?
Plan ahead. Find out what is available where you are going and don’t over pack. We are very light travelers and only bring what we anticipate needing immediately. We will wash clothes or buy a few extra things if we need them, though we rarely do. We also splurged on high-end backpacks that really put space to good use.
What extra items do you bring with you to ensure the children stay entertained and in a good mood?
It is tempting now to use technology. However, when our four older children were young we always purchased something new for them before we would go on a trip. It was usually a new sketchpad with new crayons or markers, or some type of toy. Kaleidoscopes and Etch A Sketches were always hits. You also can’t forget about snacks— our favorite was Combos because you can eat them in one bite with no mess to clean up. You should also make sure your children bring water along, but also remember the confines of a trip. Sometimes a restroom is unavailable when the need is great!
What do you do if your children become restless and fussy and the items you bring to entertain them don’t work?
If our children became restless or fussy, we try music and silly jokes and stories to lighten the mood. They are very helpful. Stress begets stress! Sometimes parents’ stress magnifies the child’s, so my advice is to laugh. It helps!
What preventative steps can you take to minimize fussiness, sickness and discomfort of your children on a long journey?
We try very hard to sync travel with children’s natural rhythms and patterns. If you can’t do this, try at least to keep some of the routines alive. A good example: favorite songs before you expect them to sleep. I downloaded many things onto different bits of technology so that we would have access. Also, favorite teddy bears or snuggle buddies to sleep with and favorite snacks can help. It can be very difficult on long flights to organize this; the best you can do is plan for the worst and hope for the best!
Do you have any “horror stories” about traveling with your young children in the past? If so, how did you solve the problem?
Once, my husband and I were driving with our children in the middle of summer around the Great Lakes and suddenly, on a whim, decided to continue traveling up into Canada. Our four young sons had been in the vehicle for many hours and were tired, hungry, and eating suckers— every rule I told you above was broken! We got to Canada and realized we had not brought their birth certificates. Remember this was a whim and it was long before we needed passports to enter Canada from Minnesota…yes, we are old!
The four crying, sticky, hot, and complaining children looked at us as the woman in charge said, “I’m sorry ma’am, but the children can’t go with you into Canada!” We confidently smiled back at her and replied, “Great! We’ll be back to pick them up by dinner!”
Laughter…it does fix a multitude of stressors! If you can’t change it, remember it will be a good story later and that you are not alone!
This article is sponsored by YCIS Beijing
Photos: Uni You