By Danelle at The Stamps Family Farm
This weekend I traveled from the rural countryside to Chicago with my three kids, ages 7, 3, and 1. I did this on my own, since my husband has to take care of the farm animals and we're lambing.
For historical record, this was the weekend of the NATO 2012 conference and Chicago was on high alert. I was delivering pork and couldn't reschedule. Chicago folks assured me that it was safe and navigable. And it was.
This got me thinking about sharing how I do museum and field trips with my littles. They are pretty young, like to run, and like to touch things. One of them also likes to lick things and she's not the baby. I usually like to take them to places during off hours with little to no crowds, but in Chicago that was not possible. It was loud, crowded, and busy.
Here are a few things I did to make keeping track of them a little easier on me and safer for them.
- Shoes without laces. I was not about to stop and retie over and over, nor did I want them tripping.
- All kids and mama in the same bright colour the entire weekend. We went to a thrift store and bought 10 orange shirts in various sizes. That's all they wore for the trip, even for jammies. This way they (and me) get used to seeing each other in that colour and .can register it faster in a crowd or a panic.
- Black permanent marker, written on their skin on their backs my name and cell phone number. Why? If they get lost, they can tell someone that's where the data is. It isn't somewhere they can see it and mess with it. If they were to get snatched (unlikely)- that data won't wash off and is easily checked for by authorities. I got the idea from a medical show, patients writing on good limbs or bellies to remind docs which things they didn't want done. It occurred to me that a kidnapper (again, unlikely) could change the kid's hair and clothes easily but permanent marker takes 21 days or harsh chemicals to remove if they even realize that the data is there. Ha.
- Hair. Down. They usually wear pony or pig tails. Let's just be honest here- in close traveling quarters that style is too tempting to pull and yank on and sibling fights will escalate. Trust me, I know.
- Extra clothes. We had extra orange shirts. One of the girls threw up in the car, and changed right away into another orange shirt. Ice cream has necessitated clothing changes too. These are kids, kids eat messy.
- Protein for breakfast. Forgo the hotel sweets and go for eggs and sausage (except for the last day and sugar crash them for the drive home!).
- Bring snacks. We brought in our very small bag venison meat sticks, cheese, and water.
- Water. Drink it.
- Dinner. Lunch. Snacks. Try and bring food the kids are used to. New foods or processed foods they are not used to eating can upset their bellies. Nothing like a vacation full of vomiting in the car, poop emergencies at the art museum. Bring food you know they like and won't upset their digestion.
- Get them to eat, but don't force the issue. Excitement makes my kids not want to eat. Pick your battles.
- Baby wear. Much easier than trying to haul a stroller. Sometimes my 4 yo will take off and I can chase her with the baby tied on. A stroller full of baby doesn't allow that.
- Only bring out of the car what you will need for the amount of time. 2 diapers max for 3 hours is what I need. Why haul a diaper bag all over for that? Two disposables will fit one in each pocket. Cell phone with one, credit card and cash in the other (front pocket).
- Water, sippy, snacks. I also try and plan the intensive activities around his nap (in the baby carrier) so I can guide and talk to the girls better.
- He gets the marker treatment too, but really, since he is ties to my chest, he isn't really a flight or baby stealer risk.
In the Car:
- Music they like. Nothing is more aggravating to a kid than being forced to listen to talk radio for a 7 hour car trip. Find kid music that won't drive you batty either. I like They Might Be Giants. The Beatles is another favourite. Kids like oldies they can sing to.
- DVD player. When things get tense, break out a never before seen classic cartoon. Works every time. No one can say they hate it if they have never seen it.
- New sticker books. Puzzle paper. Crayons. Fresh brand new crayons are always a treat at our house.
- "Box of ponies". My girls love My Little Pony dolls. They can brush their hair and sort the dolls while buckled in.
- Song games, I spy, just talking.
- Lots of potty breaks, big movement breaks, fresh air run around and play breaks. They are kids and kids need to move.
- General Reminders:
- Keep phone charged and on at all times.
- Don't carry a lot of cash
- Be aware of who is around you and where
- PAPER MAPS- GPS can fail, be wrong, or suddenly die. And then you will be scared and lost and a little freaked out (like I was in Houston two years ago). GPS is fine, but keep the paper maps close by anyway.
- Print off a list of local hospitals
What do you do to keep kids safe while traveling?