I did six cross continental travels with my first baby before he turned 6 months old. Each single one was an exciting experience, and the preparations for each one was a nightmare. I was always nervous about how would my son react to 16 nonstop hours on a chair, and it always turned out better than expected. Now, with my two hand-baggage (read kids), and a husband with a zest for long drives, we are on road/rail/plane a lot, and I have mastered the art of traveling with kids. The secret is in details, indeed. But taking care of the details need not be a difficult task.
I have a soft copy of “things to take” that is updated with every travel. As kids grow, nappies are replaced with story books, and so on. But having ready access to this list makes packing so much more easy and fun, and I have forgotten fretting about ‘have I forgotten something ?’ The list is quite an interesting combo, developed from voyages both short and long. After a camping trip (when my daughter was all of 3 months) , I added mosquito repellent as a must-take in it. My once in three months 36 hour train journey from Bangalore to delhi results in points like polybag dustbins and balloons!! So, in some ways this “things to take” list actually reflects the experiences we’ve had on our trips. You might want to start creating one now!
As far as infants are concerned, if you give your little one a lot of attention, she’ll bask in the glory of being the central one in your life, and the journey shall pass quickly. The basic needs of a baby are pretty simple – full stomach, dry diaper and available parents. Catering to the needs of a slightly older child is bit more difficult. He might need his life size leopard in the train, or want to get off the plane right now , barely five minutes after take off. It takes more ingenuity to keep him occupied. Apart from stocking up on his toys and books, also consider playing travel games and giving treats that are strictly rationed at home. For example ,our son is not allowed to play any games on the cell phone at home. Cell phone games are strictly for the car. He is generally so immersed in playing ‘snake’, he hates it when the traffic jam clears up and we reach home!!
Travel games have to be simple , and ideally should not need much stuff. Counting games are good for little kids just learning numbers. Count how many green cars pass you by, for example. Pretend play is great for travel too!! You and your son can become policemen trying to shoot down every thief (tree with yellow flowers) in sight. There are other aplenty games to play. You can give him hypothetical situations and ask him how would he feel and react in them. How he feels when grandpa comes home. What would he do if he is lost. What would he do if he is thirsty in a desert. You can also give him puzzles. Start with easy ones to build up his confidence and interest (Which animal is the largest on land and has a huge trunk? ) , And then move on to slightly tougher ones (Which black and white animal is endangered and lives in china.) Another hot favorite in travel games is memory games, where you ask your child to remember some things and then try to recall it after some time.
Finally, it’s all about having fun with your child. If you are all worked up, the child can sense the tension, and will react by being tense about the journey herself. You would probably find out, as I did, that although prior preparations are a must, the best part of a trip is often things and games that come up unexpectedly, as so many good things in life do.