Bridget Placek, our guest blogger today, is an ardent traveler and mom of 3 in 3 years. She writes about parenthood and family at The Missing Pants Project and shares this hilarious advice on traveling with kids on Playground.
As a mom of 3 children under 5 who has traveled a good amount and survived, I get asked a lot for tips on how to best globe trot with your kids. There are little tidbits I offer here and there about what to pack or where to position yourself on the plane, but mainly I advise this: Be mentally prepared.
How can you know what to expect? Well, friends, here is a little field guide. 10 things you can do before wheels up to make sure you’re ready to face the world at large with your precious angels in tow:
1. Rent the movie “Snakes on a Plane” and note the fear and horror on the faces of the passengers on said plane. Picture those faces as you board a plane but this time, the snakes are your children and you are not Samuel L. Jackson.
2. Try applying sunscreen to the fastest and crankiest person you can find. Bonus if they have an adamant opposition to wearing sunscreen. Extra bonus if they spit as a form of self-defense.
3. Go out to a restaurant and order dinner. When it arrives at the table, ask your spouse to go ahead and eat while you walk to and from the restroom at least three times, making sure you argue with at least one person about the necessity of washing their hands each time. Once at the table, change seats several times and drop at least three utensils on the floor necessitating three separate replacements by the waiter who loathes you more and more with each passing second. When your food is good and cold, go ahead and take four bites before you’re too tired and just want to go home. Bonus if you throw half of your meal into your lap and make noises loud enough to alienate at least two tables around yours. Alternately, pick up some chicken fingers to eat at home. Lots and lots of chicken fingers.
4. Pile up a few of the trash mags and books you’ve been dying to read. Now look in the mirror and laugh at yourself. You’re not reading a thing, dumb ass.
5. Begin getting ready for the local pool / beach / water park at 8 am. Arrive at the pool / beach / water park at 10:15 (allow for extra travel time if destination is more than 1.5 miles away). Watch the last shaded lounge chair go to the family who began getting ready at 7:55. Plop your crap in the sun. Repeat sunscreen application (see above). Resist the urge to drown yourself in the kiddie pool.
6. Lock your family into one room (or two rooms with obscenely thin walls) beginning at approximately 8 pm. Turn off all lights, hide all crunchy snacks, empty all grown-up bladders and then stare at your spouse until you both pass out in silence. Alternately, gather up a pile of money and set it on fire to emulate the suite / house you’ll rent to give yourselves distance between you and your sleeping children.
7. Practice convincing family members to come places with you for free. Assure them it will be the experience of a lifetime! Laugh heartily in secret with your spouse when they agree.
8. Walk past the local ice cream shop 20 times. Each time, practice a different scenario. For example, kid wants ice cream but it’s 10 am. You say no. Huge meltdown. Maybe instead you say yes. Sugar-induced excitement followed by mid-morning huge meltdown. Or perhaps kid wants ice cream and it’s 6 pm but they’ve already had ice cream at 10 am. You say no, huge meltdown. Or you say yes and you go to bed that night knowing your toddler is on ice cream two-a-days and you’re contributing to America’s childhood obesity problem. Perhaps you order an ice cream bar. It melts as kid takes sweet time eating it and falls on clothes / body parts / floor. Huge meltdown. You wipe mess and accept the fact that you’re an asshole parent because you let the summer sun melt your kid’s cone, while others watch you and judge you / pity you / celebrate that they’re not you.
9. Practice taking photos of people’s backs in front of a serene setting for the keeping of the happy memories. Many tantrums are undetectable from the back.
10. Learn the difference between a trip and a vacation. A trip is traveling with your kids. It’s akin to a business trip or a working weekend or a punishment for acts in your previous life. A vacation is a trip without your children or with your children and a helper, be it a sitter from home, a camp at your hotel, or a grandparent who can handle the hot messes that are your vacationing kids long enough for you to get a drink with your spouse. (Make it a double.)
Traveling with kids is great. Kids learn by doing, by experiencing. As they grow and begin to find their own places in the world, your time with them will become less and all of these family vacations, these adventures, will feel more precious. Remember this. And repeat this silently to yourself when you’re crying in the hotel bathroom and counting the years until you can go on a trip without your cherubs and have a real vacation again.