After enduring two eight-hour flights with the 7-year-old in tow, and seeking advice on other 'international travelers with kids,' I have compiled the following list of tips to jog my memory next time I'm attempting a marathon, er, taking an international trip with the little guy:
- Rolling carry-on: Big, big mistake on my part. I should have just sucked it up and spent the $20 on one of those kid's sized rolling carry-on luggage pieces. Asking a jet-lagged and sleepy Dylan to, at 3AM our time, carry a backpack stuffed with all of his toys/games/etc. versus having to carry his backpack, my backpack, his car seat, our two travel pillows, and my purse, were not options I enjoyed. Next time, I'm going for this. Lesson learned.
- Build up the excitement of being an 'international traveler': Per a friend's suggestion, I really started playing up the 'international traveler' bit days before our trip. We talked about how I do not know ANYONE Dylan's age who is an international traveler, so this is a big deal! Dylan was excited to learn he would get stamps on his passport JUST LIKE YOU! Also, how at the airport, they will look carefully at his passport and then at him to make sure it is Dylan who is the international traveler, not some imposter... which leads me to the next point:
- Set expectations: I also let Dylan know that it is very difficult to be an 'international traveler' and that he would have to perform certain duties, including getting up at 3AM and walking through an airport carrying his backpack (umm, see point #1), and riding on a plane for a looooong time, and waiting in looooong lines, and so on.
- Of course, bring fun stuff to do: We packed all the DS games, the DS, card games, books, paper, markers, crayons, a new DS game, and a new coloring set.
- Side note: Dylan mostly played his DS and watched the selection of in-flight kids' movies.
- Reward positive behavior (and patience in itself): Keeping in mind this is an exhausting, tiring and looooong trip for a young person, I brought small 'rewards' that Dylan would be interested in (currently: Pokemon cards and Blinkus) to surprise him with along the way. Every few hours, I would pull out a surprise and tell him he has been doing really well as an INTERNATIONAL TRAVELER! so he earned a prize. And yes, I do resort to bribery.
- Prepare beforehand: This doesn't really have anything to do with the actual plane trip, but I was excited to utilize the 'International Travel Clinic' offered by my son's pediatrician. I was impressed with everything we were provided- the doctor had researched the spots we were traveling to and gave us a nice binder with information on everything from traveler's diarrhea (which we also got a prescription for medicine to use just in case), sun screen, heat exposure, foods to avoid, and so on. She checked to make sure he had all necessary immunizations for the trip (which he had), and answered all questions I had about medical safety, and so on. She also had recommendations for the plane ride, which are part of this post.