I think we all can agree that we have taken traveling for granted, especially since this past year going anywhere has been hard. Now, I find myself encouraged as things begin to open up again, and I long to see and explore the world God has gifted us with.
Between 2008 – 2015, my family and I traveled internationally a lot. We lived and worked in West Africa, so we flew over the ocean and desert many times. I chuckle now at the memories we made, and how those years of heavy travel taught me not only to cope with a 24-hour journey, but how to enjoy it! In fact, it was only through travel failures that I learned to better manage our adventures.
So let me share a few tips and tricks I picked up along the way!
One of my most traumatic travelling experiences was when I lost one of my sons in an international airport in France. As I frantically ran around looking for him, trying to ask people if they’d seen him, we discovered he was looking at the store display … in the original spot I had left him! Ever since that episode, I’ve been dressing my boys in identical t-shirts for any type of travel because it helps identify them more easily in crowded areas.
Another piece of wisdom is to not give snacks to your kids in the middle of their natural “night cycles” (even when they ask for them!) I learned that by doing so, my kids’ stomachs did not digest their food properly, which often caused constipation or diarrhea. Therefore, a set of extra clothes for both you and your kids is a must. Always bring them along for emergencies, or you might have to spend the rest of the trip not smelling the greatest.
With all of this in mind, I have left the best for last. This was the best trick in my bag. I pulled it out whenever I was worn out, beat, and just needed some shut eye. It took some preparation and planning, of course, but it was worth it every time … I gave my kids a WRAPPED GIFT.
This is how it worked. First, I would tell them they each had a wrapped gift as a surprise, if they could wait patiently and respectfully for it. If we were in transition (like a security checkpoint) and I needed them to cooperate, they would go through it with better attitudes knowing that there was a reward on the other side. Sometimes I had them hold on to their wrapped gift for 20-30 minutes before they could open it. Oh, their imaginations went wild! The conversations they had about what it could be took their mind off of their travels.
Finally when I allowed them to open it, they would spend another hour (at least) happily entertained with it. Eventually they’d feel tired of traveling again and get bored, so I’d repeat the cycle. Wait, obey, open, play. I usually planned a small gift or surprise every two hours, yet I found I never needed to use up all the supply of gifts I prepared. Inevitably, one of the gifts would hit the interest jackpot and time would fly! Before we knew it, we had made it to the other side. What a win!
Simply said, know your travel companions. Learn their love language and remember what they’re like when they’re hot, uncomfortable, tired, or hungry. Find any creative way to distract and comfort them (like playing hours of tic-tac-toe and “I spy”). Also, ask them what makes them feel better before the trip. Can you prepare them for what’s ahead through a discussion? Should you tell them about the trip, so they can be extra excited and expectant, seeking an adventure in everything, or leave it as a mystery and a surprise?
In the end, remember to be encouraged, be adventurous, and be creative.
Kasha Jankowski is a mom to two bigs and two littles and is originally from Poland and speaks three languages! She enjoys cultural diversity, food and music, and is even more passionate about loving God and loving people.