travel tip - Boston Moms Blog

As we started to plan for our first big family vacation, I thought I had it all together. We were flying south and renting a big beach house with several family members for a week. We figured out the logistics of getting to and from the airport, dealing with car seats, setting up a rental car that could accommodate three car seats, having cribs ready for us upon arrival, and the snacks. So many snacks. I had checklists. I did my shopping. And I read so many articles about how to keep kids entertained throughout a flight.

But there was one thing I hadn’t thought of.

I had talked to my kids — my 3-year-old son and 22-month-old twins — about the trip in fairly general terms and didn’t think too much of it. Then, one night as I was tucking my son in, he started asking questions about the trip, specifically the flight. He asked, “What if I don’t like it?” See, he is often anxious in new situations and takes awhile to warm up. There are times where he never fully warms up and just does not enjoy the experience. He also has a tendency to make up his mind beforehand how he is going to feel about a situation, and there is no changing his mind, even if the situation is better than he imagined. So the “What if I don’t like it?” question set off a big alarm in my head.

I imagined panic at 35,000 feet, with nowhere to go.

Then I remembered a tip his preschool teacher had given me when we shared his fear of unfamiliar situations. She suggested giving him a visual so he would know exactly what to expect. This could be in the form of looking at pictures online or printed out. I had tucked this tip in the back of my mind. The night my son expressed his uncertainty, I decided to give it a try.

I took to Google and went to work. First, I found photos of family members who were coming on the trip. We were staying with some relatives the kids see regularly, others they rarely see, and even a couple they had never met. I began using these photos to help my kids familiarize themselves with everyone coming.

Then I thought of the various parts of traveling that may be intimidating, such as the airport, security check, and the plane. I found stock photos of Logan airport and specifically sought out photos with lots of people so the kids would know to expect a crowd. I included a photo of the security checkpoint, and we talked about the various things that go on there. And I used several photos of the plane, inside and out, so we could talk about all things air travel. That included the fun stuff, like the TVs and snacks, but also things like keeping seat belts buckled and being prepared for a bumpy ride.

I added photos of the house where we would be staying (from the listing on the rental site), the aquarium we planned to go to, and the beach we would be visiting. I also printed a photo of our house to show we were coming home at the end of our vacation. (My son had asked a few times if we would stay there or come home to our house.)

Finally, I put the photos together in a Word file, printed them out, and stapled them into a little booklet. Each time we looked through the photos, I talked to my son about what to expect. Best of all, he was able to physically see it. I even caught him “reading” the picture book to his sisters.

Not only did this travel tip set his expectations, it got him really excited about the trip.

In the end, all three kids did amazingly well. There were no worries or meltdowns, and they truly enjoyed everything about the experience, from playing at the airport and flying on the plane to running around on the beach and spending quality time with family. Our travel experience was more carefree than I was expecting, and I believe our picture book really helped. Spending a few minutes downloading pictures and a few dollars having them printed out was certainly worth it!