By Jennifer Margulis
First published on Disney Family.com
Maybe you’re bringing the baby on a work trip. Maybe you’re moving cross-country with the kids and your partner is driving the moving van. Or maybe you’re a single mom or dad saving your pennies to vacation with the kids. Whatever the context, at some point in your parenting career, you’re likely to find yourself traveling alone with your kids.
Here are 10 tips to keep your sanity (and make your airplane connections!) when you’re in it by yourself:
1. Bring food: The last thing you need when you’re going it alone is a blood sugar crash. Stock the glove compartment or your carry-on bag with healthy snacks like dried fruit, nuts, whole grain crackers, and cheese.
2. Less is more: Though it’s tempting to bring the entire kids’ room, the less you carry or throw in the car, the happier you’ll be, says Debbie Dubrow, mom of three and founder of DeliciousBaby.com, a blog about making travel with kids fun. Don’t pack too many clothes or toys or books: you can always do laundry or buy some at your destination.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help: Hotel staff and even strangers are often happy to lend a hand, especially if you speak up. “You can tell which passengers like kids just by the way they look at you,” says Alisa Bowman, a marriage expert and mom of one, who writes the blog www.projecthappilyeverafter.com. “Ask these people to help you stow your luggage while you get your child seated. Flight attendants are there to help, too. Don’t be shy about pressing the call button.”
4. Train the kids to tote (or roll) their own: Kids are perfectly capable of pulling a wheeled backpack, so make them, suggests Jody Halsted, founder ofwww.havekidwilltravel.com, whose two daughters have been pulling their own packs since they learned to walk.
5. Embrace technology: Portable DVD players or an iPod that you can download movies, kids’ music, or books-on-tape are a solo-traveling mom’s best friend during long trips.
6. Make friends with other families: Kara Williams, mom of two and co-owner ofThe Vacation Gals seeks out the other moms with kids at the gate when she travels alone. “I trust other families to watch my bags while I take kids to get a snack or go to the restroom.”
7. Keep the kids moving: The more you let the kids run around at rest stops or in between airplane flights, the quieter they’ll be while you’re traveling. Have a race, do jumping jacks together, play chase—anything to get the little ones moving (which is good for you too.)
8. Plan to stop: Forget the timetable and make a few long stops. When she’s taking her three kids on long road trips by herself, Claudine M. Jalajas lets them play for at least 45 minutes at a rest area or indoor play space. “Then I buy them lunch to eat in the car,” Jalajas says. “The more things they have to do in the car, the quicker the time passes on the road.”
9. Use the Internet: You can research airports on-line and most Interstate highways even have their own Websites these days so you can figure out in advance where the play space during a flight lay-over is or which rest area has the best amenities.
10. Lower your expectations: It’s tough to travel alone, especially with babies and toddlers. If you expect disaster along the way and you give yourself extra time for everything, when things go wrong you’ll feel prepared. When things go smoothly, you’ll be doubly grateful.
Jennifer Margulis, a writer and mother of four, has traveled to Europe and Africa with her children and is a frequent contributor to Disney Family.