As one of five children, I remember the look of sheer exhaustion on my parents’ faces when we would take a family vacation. In particular, there was the year we went to DisneylandⓇ and all five of us shot off in different directions as soon as we screamed through the gates of the supposed Happiest Place on Earth. Each one of us reaching sticky fingers for a Mickey-shaped candied apple or urging my mom onto the Dumbo ride right now. I think that trip resulted in some of us getting baby-leashes shortly thereafter. Not the cute ones they have nowadays, disguised as adorable monkey backpacks–the harnessed leashes initially designed for medium-sized dogs.
If you’re traveling with kids in tow anytime soon, skip my family’s tether system and be prepared for the chaos that comes with scheduled or surprise layovers. So just breathe and try to remember it’s not your fault. There’s nothing wrong with your child being curious, though cats may not agree with me on that sentiment. And when you’re faced with the monstrous stretch of time known as a “layover,” consult our tips to help you be prepared instead of scared.
Have You Been Working Out? Your Biceps are Huge!
As a parent to young children, you’re probably well-versed in packing everything but the kitchen sink. And the only reason the kitchen sink got left behind is because you didn’t think it would make it through security. Pack as many things as possible to entertain your antagonistic troops and keep them from sticking gum underneath seats and screaming, “WHY CAN’T WE YELL ‘BOMB’ HERE?!” Load up your purse or man-purse (no judgment here) with snacks, activity books, toys, and most importantly–entertainment. You definitely look like you’ll have no problem lugging everything around, check out those guns! If you have access to a tablet or portable video game device, bring it. Long layovers are not the time to nurturing your child’s mind. Let the infiltration of “Dora the Explorer” and “Spongebob Squarepants” into their gray matter begin. Your kids will be happy and momentarily occupied. And hey, you definitely wanted to hear “Let it Go” from “Frozen” for the 500th time, right?
Pick Up More Germs Than You Would by Licking a Subway’s Handrail
Play areas. The travel gods hath giveth these to parents. Most domestic airports have a designated play area to let your toddlin’ tikes run wild. If your layover finds you at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, or even Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport, you’re in luck. Check online ahead of time to find one in your terminal or grab the nearest airport employee and tell them if they don’t direct you to the closest play area, their lounge seats are in for some redecorating at the hands of a crayon-wielding maniac. And hey, even if they do pick up a few germs, just consider it as bolstering their immune system. If you have a considerable amount of time to kill, leave the airport and check out any nearby attractions.
The Action of Distraction
I know, I know. Your child is doing really well in pre-K and probably even received the prestigious “Student of the Month” award at some point this year. Although every other kid got the award, too, you don’t need to start doubting the fact that your child is a special little snowflake. But that doesn’t mean they’re not easily distracted nonetheless. Recruit another one of your offspring or a willing spouse to go along with your musings. Have the two pair up to play some games a.k.a mommy nap time (thank you, Buddy System). Pick out items within your line of vision and have your intrigued participants go on a treasure hunt of sorts. Who can walk to the coffee stand and come back with a napkin first? Ok, now who can high-five a bald man in khakis the quickest? Another easy activity to pass time, which is my personal favorite: the Story Game! Have each member of your family add on a sentence or two to your very own narrative, and pretty soon you’ll be laughing about aliens and dancing acorns named Esmeralda Firejumper. If neither of these games pan out, you can always see who can eat the most peanuts without barfing. I hear that’s a real crowd-pleaser.
Don’t let the layover defeat you. You’re traveling with your family and you are going to have fun, dangit, or else.