12 Tips (Learned the Hard Way) for Traveling with a Small Child
Rules of the Road
It occurs to me fairly frequently that I might have chosen a better time in history to make my living as a travel writer. Years ago, as a teenager traveling to Europe with my mother, and as a college student blithely flying back and forth between Oregon and Pennsylvania, my biggest concerns were missing the plane (which I managed to do with some frequency), forgetting my tickets or passport, and arriving at my destination looking and smelling as if I’d been, well, traveling.
Those are still perfectly good causes for anxiety, but now we have the added drama of terrorism, SARS, the bird flu, the airlines’ financial difficulties, and war. Add to that the stress of traveling with a small child (and my unshakeable belief that there is no rational reason for an enormous, passenger-filled hunk of metal to stay in the air), and my dream occupation can be, at times, less than relaxing.
Yesterday, however, as I watched a couple in the aisle ahead of me try to comfort their screaming baby for much of a flight between Miami and New York, I took consolation in the fact that my son is now four, and that he’s become a relatively seasoned traveler (perhaps a little too seasoned). The world was a slightly simpler place when he was a baby, but taking a trip with him was, nevertheless, an exercise in precise planning (not one of my strong points) and in making sure that we learned from the mistakes we made before we made them again.
For those of you who know only the relatively simple pleasures of traveling as unaccompanied adults but who want (or need) to test the warm but unpredictable waters of taking a first vacation with a baby, the following suggestions (many of them the hard-earned results of the aforementioned mistakes) may be useful. Keep in mind that you know your child or children much better than I do, and that experience and an understanding of their individual temperaments will be your best guides.
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