"Traveling With Small Children"
By Anna “DisneyAnna” DiMare
➢ While some people are seasoned veterans at travelling with their children, many people introduce their young child to travel by planning a wonderful trip to Walt Disney World. Although this is a great first time experience for a child, there are many considerations in planning a Disney trip, or any other big trip for that matter, when taking a baby or toddler along. The idea of an ideal vacation may vary from family to family. Some may enjoy a relaxing vacation at a resort soaking up the sights and sounds at the pool or beach or even basking in the sun on the deck of a grand cruise ship. Others may prefer a tour full of rich heritage, history and culture in a foreign or ancient land. It may even be the action packed adventure of exploring some of the world’s most amazing theme parks, attractions and entertainment (wink-wink). Either way, it is best to prepare for your child’s adventure so that he or she will have a pleasant time, thus making your time pleasant. An overtired, bored, hungry or carsick child may make your trip memorable, but not in the way that you want. My goal is to share my personal experience gained from travelling with small children over the past 14 years, as well as the advice that I received from others with similar situations. Doing so, I hope to make your travels a little more pleasant, manageable and magical. I wrote this in an outline style to make reading it more logical and organized.
➢ Before I get started, I’d like to tell you a little bit about myself. I am a mother of 4 children, three boys ages 14,11, and 7 and a 16 month old baby girl. Thanks to my husband taking me to Walt Disney World on our honeymoon over 18 years ago, I have become a Disney fanatic, loving all things Disney. It was my first time and my husband’s second. He was there when he was 7 years old. Since my first time, I have been there countless times with and without kids, with and without adult friends. My husband and I go on a yearly date, just the two of us, to celebrate our anniversary. Although it’s a lot of fun going on a “date” to Disney, taking our children and seeing the World thru their eyes is truly magical. I’ve also sailed on the Disney Cruise Line and have been to Disneyland and can’t wait to return. I’ve been a proud member of the Disney Vacation Club since 2001 and always look forward to the sweet words of “Welcome Home” when we check in. Among my friends and family, I have become the “go to” person for advice and information regarding vacationing at Disney World.
• Getting There
➢ Travelling By Plane
• You will want to bring along items to keep your children occupied in the airport while waiting to board the plane. Since my 3 oldest children are boys, electronic gaming devices always worked in the past. Now it’s the IPods that they don’t leave home without. Your baby may want their favorite toy or blankie.
• Be sure to pack snacks and buy drinks for them after you pass security. Eating keeps them occupied too. If you have a long wait before you have to board the plane, a good idea is to just walk around the terminal and check out the shops. There will be plenty of time to sit around on the plane. Now is the time to use some of that energy. If your child is walking, find a corner near your jet way gate to let them run around. But don’t take your eyes off them for a minute.
• If traveling with a stroller, or “Buggy” as our British friends say, you can keep it with you until you board the aircraft. The airline employees will make sure it gets on board when you are about to board. It will be available on the jet way as soon as you step off the plane.
• Many flights show movies or even have personal video screens at every seat. If your flight does not, perhaps you have a portable DVD player or laptop that you could bring along with your child’s favorite video. Be considerate of your fellow travelers and bring extra earphones. For small children who may not wear earphones, place them close to their heads so they could still hear the audio without disturbing other passengers.
• The best times to travel are very early in the morning or late at night. From past experience, all of my morning flights have left on time, which means less time sitting in an airport getting cranky. Taking an early morning flight will give you a better part of the day at your destination to do whatever you want. This time can be used to settle into your resort, maybe a little pool time to reward your well-behaved children, or just a little down time lying around watching the “Stacy Channel.” Late night travel is especially useful when returning home. Sleep deprived babies and kids, and even parents, will find it easy to fall asleep on the return flight home. This also allows you to get in as much “magic” as possible before leaving for home. We typically use this time at Downtown Disney to reward our “well behaved” children with a treat from the World of Disney, Once Upon a Toy or the Lego Store. We also reward ourselves with a nice lunch at Captain Jacks or the Earl of Sandwich.
• Try to book seats on the plane where your party can sit one row behind the other instead of across the row. Have the youngest child, who may be tempted to kick the seats, sit behind someone in your party to avoid disturbing other passengers. You will find that passengers who are not parents are sometimes not as understanding when your child is having a melt down.
• Sitting by the window kept the kids busy also, as they can check out the scenery and clouds.
• Sitting in the last row of the aircraft can be noisier but you will have less people around you.
• Don’t forget diapers and wipes for baby.
• For your ride, be sure to have, plenty of drinks and snacks easily accessible. For the kids, keep sugar content low and absolutely no caffeine!
• A reliable GPS is a worthwhile investment. Regardless, have written directions and maps with you always.
• Since reading and video games could cause carsickness, having a portable DVD or an IPod could be a good substitute. If your children have never been on a long car ride, be warned; during a long car trip, even kids who don’t normally get car sick, may get sick if too much time is spent looking down at video screens or a book. Keep a few plastic bags ready.
• Have plenty of tissues, wipes and garbage bags in the car and always ask who needs to use the bathroom when nearing rest stops. You don’t want a child or adult for that matter in overflow mode just after passing a rest stop.
• For long trips, we suggest leaving in the middle of the night and have the kids sleep the rest of the night in the car. Not only are there hardly any cars on the road, but also it makes for a quiet, peaceful, enjoyable journey. Two o’clock in the morning is a great time to drive. Make sure you have a nap before leaving and a good cup of joe will work wonders.
• Don’t forget to stop along the way. A good stretch, quick nap, good meal or snack works wonders for your well-being. Do not push your limits, you have precious cargo aboard.
• Maybe along the way, you will have time to stop at a tourist attraction. The journey to your destination could be part of your vacation. This should be planned ahead of time. Research can be done on-line or through AAA if you are a member, or a good travel agent can be helpful. Carry favorite hotel chain phone numbers with you in case you need to stop overnight. A one-hour nap in the car at a rest stop helps you reenergize for more driving. Many states have Visitor Welcome Centers, which provides tourists with credible information, maps and brochures.
• If you decide to go by train, packing is a little different. Your train ride will likely be an overnighter. You want to make sure you bring your toiletries, medication, change of clothes, and snacks in a carry on bag. You will also want to bring along the same things that you would normally bring to entertain yourselves and the kids on a plane. We recently took Amtrak’s Autotrain and the kids really enjoyed it. The Autotrain runs nonstop between Virginia and Florida and enables you to take your own car with you. We were able to move about the train, go from your seat to the lounge car. Dinner with wine and breakfast is served and is included with your train ticket as well as complimentary snacks; fruits and hot drinks are available in the lounge car. Meals are not included with coach tickets on other train routes, but can be purchased in the dining car. You can also purchase light meals, snacks, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages in the lounge car. There are 3 dinner seatings and 2 movie showings. The second seating for dinner is the most popular and is a good way to break up the evening. This allows you to watch the later movie after dinner and then tuck yourself in for the night.
• You do have the choice of Coach Seating or a variety of rooms on the Sleeper Cars. Some even have a private toilet and shower. Some routes also have first class seating. We traveled on Coach. Seats were comfortable, spacious, reclined and also had a footrest. Make sure you get a blanket and pillow when you first board, but I recommend bringing a blanket and pillow from home.
• There are lounge cars to hang out in, dining cars for meals, and smoking cars for smokers. The smoking area is an enclosed, vented room on the lower level of the lounge car. I would not recommend the seats by the stairs. The lights by the stairs stay on all night and it may be dangerous if your child runs from his seat. Seating is assigned at the station when you check in. At that time, you will be asked to select your dinner seating time as well.
• When travelling the Autotrain or other double deck Superliners, keep in mind that if you have a hard time going up and down stairs, be sure you book the seats on the lower level. There is an additional cost for lower level seating. Handicap accessible seating and restrooms are also located on the lower level.
Check back often as we will be adding tips and suggestions from time to time. And be on the look out for more Traveling with Children editions coming real soon. And if you have any tips that you would like to share, please send them in.
We hope you find this both informative and enjoyable, and we encourage you to post your comments, suggestions and requests whether by email or the "contact us" form.
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