It was almost 4:30 a.m. and the airport security woman walked over to me, leaned in, and asked,
“ Is that your son?”
I looked up to see my 12 year old son, surrounded by security guards at the Portland International Airport. I nodded.
“ We have to search him.” she told me and they did. Meanwhile, my husband was pulled aside to watch as they emptied our son’s backpack. Amongst about a million other items, some knives and three large metal keychains, shaped like small guns fell out. After they had thoroughly checked our things and found that we were not a threat to national security and that he was just an adventuresome middle schooler, they finally let us go, warning him to leave the items in the checked luggage.
Although we still made our flight, I was so angry at him- he knew better than to have items like that in carry ons! We had flown many times before and he should’ve been prepared but one look into his tired brown eyes, and I realized I shouldn’t be so hard on him. We had just had a whirlwind vacation in a week and had only gotten a few hours of sleep the night before-- he was exhausted!
It is easy to understand why traveling can bring out incredibly stressful situations for families, as the structure and normalcy of everyday life typically is nonexistent. People are thrown together in close quarters with very little privacy for extended periods of time, and are expected to take part in activities they may not be interested in. Of course, kids are going to get cranky and may forget to pack properly for a 5 a.m. flight but here are a few tips for parents to help children transition when traveling:
Create a travel tote for each child, complete with small magnetic games, activity books, reading books, crayons, etc. Most of this can be found at a dollar store, along with many small toys as well, but it’s best to have a few educational items in the bag too. I always liked to include a plain notebook and a few pens, and encouraged my kids to either draw or write about their experiences. Another positive way to learn is through the history of wherever you are visiting-- no matter where, every place has a story, and often, they are pretty interesting.
If the family will be in the car for extended periods of time, make a CD of music they enjoy and mix it in with the rest of the music in the car. Countless hours were spent singing in our family vehicles as our children grew older and, as teenagers, you will hear their music blaring out of our speakers everyday. I know more lyrics to Eminem and Katy Perry songs than any of my favorite music.
Get them their own luggage and make them be responsible for it. On a plane, you can have one carry on and one small additional bag without ever having to check them, making the entire process much easier and faster through airports. Not to mention, it’s just too difficult for parents to have to carry everything all the time! Some fun new luggage for young children include a line that was designed by two amazing little kids and brought to life by their inventive parents, Mark and Rachel Stephens. According to travelintales.com, you can purchase six year old Archie and nine year old Imogene’s designer 2 piece luggage set at the Crestview Hills Dilliards as well as on trendykid.com.
Finally, involve children in planning activities and truly listen to their opinions. Remember-- the entire point of these family vacations is to create happy memories to cherish forever. Kids also have needs and when they are finally fast asleep, fulfilled after a long day of thrills and glee, you will be happy you stayed out late the night before the flight-- after all, the airport story has become a family favorite and it brings laughter into our lives every time we tell it. I wouldn’t change a thing!