This is Part One of a five-part series on tips for traveling with kids! Be sure to subscribe so you won’t miss the other posts in this series!
Our family loves to travel. Ever since we first became foster parents, we have traveled several times each year. From road trips to cross-country flights, we cover a lot of earth with our children—including those who share our last name and those who are only with us for a season of their lives.
In fact, whenever we travel, if it is at all possible, we bring our foster children with us. While there have been a few times when we were not able to due to visitation schedules, we find that traveling together has provided wonderful opportunities for bonding and empowering our children. One of our little ones took her first steps at Chicago’s O’Hare airport during a layover, with a crowd of fellow travelers cheering her on. Another child has been invited into the cockpit of our plane several times. The grin on his face in the photos we have says it all! We have introduced two children in foster care to the Atlantic Ocean. And when we brought one of our foster sons to meet his distant relatives/adoptive parents, who lived on the opposite of the country, the whole family came along.
Whether flying cross-country or heading up to Mt. Rainier for a long weekend, we love including every child in our home.
Over the years, I have honed my strategy, and in the next few posts, I’ll share my tips for traveling with kids (and making it as fun as possible for everyone—including me!)
Tip 1: Talk about the trip in advance.
This is important for all kids, but especially for kids who come from trauma. Surprises are not fun for them. Unknowns are particularly hard. Talk about your plans. Show them where you’re going on a map. Use a calendar to count down the days til you travel. Let them be involved with packing (more on that in the next post).
Even with preparation, be prepared for some dysregulated behaviors. If your child is prone to anxiety, preparing for a big trip will almost certainly trigger those feelings. That’s natural, but by pressing on with patience and guiding your child through the stress, you can help build their confidence and equip them for new experiences. (High protein snacks and water help too!)
Whenever we are bringing a child on his or her first airplane trip, we have them watch this video from TSA on what to expect at security:
In my experience, kids get excited when they get to see “Stop, Screen, Go!” in real life.
Remember, kids mirror their adults’ emotions much of the time. If we are nervous and stressed out, our kids will often be nervous and stressed out. But if we are confident and upbeat, kids usually follow our lead. In all the times we have flown with our kids, we have never had one who was afraid or waylaid by anxious behaviors.