Around this time of year, many of us are preparing to travel with our children, a prospect that can be equal parts exciting and stressful. (Neil, Lucien, and I are in California this week, after driving from Vancouver to Portland, Oregon, and flying from there to L.A.) Whether you are getting on a plane or embarking on a long car ride to visit extended family for the holidays or to spend a family vacation someplace enviably warm, or suitably snowy, here are some yogic lessons I’ve learned the hard way when it comes to traveling with a young child.
Keep it Simple
I know, I know it’s harder to pack for a week away with young children then to kick up into Handstand, and yes you did need all those PJs and pairs of underwear, especially if you won’t have access to laundry, but try and keep it to one suitcase per person. (Often Neil and Lucien manage to share one.) You’ll be happy you did, and won’t even remember the pile of clothes you almost didn’t leave behind.
Get to the airport ridiculously early. Between car seat, stroller, extra luggage and unforeseen diaper changes, you’ll need the extra time, believe me. (One 6am international flight I convinced Neil that we could get in the cab at 4:30am; we arrived at the check in desk two minutes after 5am, two minutes too late, and would have been turned away if not for a sympathetic person working the desk.)
Make it Fun, Make it Yoga Time
So you get to the airport early and have way too much time to kill at the gate. Time to make sure your kid’s legs get stretched. (Some airports, like Vancouver’s and Palm Spring’s have playgrounds right by the departure gates.) Now is the time for running, jumping, playing, and everything else that can’t happen on the plane. If there’s no playground, use your imagination and turn the waiting area into a play zone. Airport yoga, anyone?
Be Easy with Yourself, and Your Child
Now is not the time to teach hard lessons or put your foot down. Travel can be uncomfortable at times, and it’s the small pleasures that help ease the discomfort. Just like you reach for a guilty pleasure magazine or tear-jerker movie on a long flight, your child could also use a diversion—so bring a few DVDs for the ride or let her go crazy with the children’s channel on her in flight screen.
(I learned this lesson after Neil and I tried to cut Lucien off from watching a couldn’t be more harmless Cat Stevens concert DVD on an overnight flight to Europe. Instead of letting him have the extra screen time and fall asleep peacefully to “Moonshadow,” we ended up with a toddler screaming at the top of his lungs, seriously overtired and cranky.)
If you’re flying with a nursing baby, let him have all the milk he needs and then some—yes, you will feel drained, but (in my book) better a milky, sleepy baby than a crying, fussy one.
Get Some Sleep
No, it’s not always easy to turn a hotel bed or a relative’s guest room into a family bed, especially if you’re not used to sleeping together, but sleeping together on vacation can be a wonderful way to connect. Bring a small flashlight or a book light, just in case you feel like staying up past your child’s bedtime.
Jessica Berger Gross is the author of enLIGHTened: How I Lost 40 Pounds with a Yoga Mat, Fresh Pineapples, and a Beagle Pointer (Skyhorse), out in paperback now. She will soon be spending the year in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and four-year-old son. “Like” her author page on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter. Visit her at www.jessicabergergross.com.