In airports and hotels, and at tourist destinations, we are constantly asked "How do you do it?" We are also greeted with comments like, "I'd die before traveling with 2 little kids." "I don't understand how they are still standing." and, my favorite, "Better you than me." And considering that we have been in 9 countries and on 17 airplanes in the past 2 years, I've decided to take a stab at writing down a few things that have worked for us. Here goes:
* Each kid gets their own backpack. In it they have their favorite stuffed animal for cuddling and comfort, snacks (healthy ones like fruit and crackers) and treats (unhealthy ones like lollipops and M&Ms,) a NEW book, a NEW sticker/coloring book, a small box of 4 crayons, a pair of headphones (for airplane movies,) and a few other toys (Toby usually gets cars, and Charlotte some little ponies.) They carry their own bags and they cannot open them until we say so.
* I carry a diaper bag with the diapers, wipes, sippy cups, snacks for grown-ups, and also a complete change of clothes for each kid. And sometimes also pajamas for each kid, cuz you never know.
* In airports we like to: ride the escalators, have the kids race from one spot to another (over and over again,) give the other passengers silly names (like Harriet and Tornado Man- nothing derogatory) watch airplanes, and discuss workers and what jobs we see them doing.
* On road trips we like to: make up stories (everybody can add in bits,) read books, look for things out the windows, and do the backpack thing. We don't have DVDs or handheld games in the car at all, though Santa may be changing that soon. ;)
* In hotels we like to: play ball (we bring a soft one with us,) have hot chocolate parties with the provided cups (bring some packets from home in your suitcase,) watch TV (we do rely on this pretty heavily in the evenings when we are exhausted,) jump on the bed, and let the kids look through photos on the camera.
*When waiting in lines we like to: give people funny names some more (I don't know why this is so amusing, but it works for us,) put the kids on our shoulders or backs to give them a break and a change of scenery (I'd be bored looking at people's knees for 30 minutes too,) have a snack, talk to strangers in line with you (I know, I'm a bad mom, but you can tell pretty quickly if people are toddler tolerant or not-- some really enjoy passing the time chatting with Charlotte or tossing a ball with Toby, and that gives us a mental break too.)
* At tourist sites we like to: play 'I Spy' and have the kids look for something (like 'pictures with horses' in an art museum, or 'blue flowers' in a garden,) celebrate when they are good at a "boring" place with an ice cream cone or fruit snack reward afterwards, and make sure to visit parks and playgrounds between destinations to burn off energy.
So those are a few things that we do. We are not completely meltdown-free on all of our adventures, but for the most part we have a good time together, and the kids enjoy it too. We hope they will have happy memories of all our family adventures together some day. :)
Waiting in the airport in Zadar, Croatia.