I have lugged my kids across the globe, from Paris to Bali, to Seattle and even Washington, D.C. Along the way, I know that our little family unit has irked other travelers. My son once accidentally spilled a cup of orange juice on the lady sitting next to him on the plane, and when my daughter was a colicky baby, she spent an entire night screaming in a hotel room. But while my kids are occasionally nuisances (aren’t we all at times?), I always make sure that we are on our best behavior and do everything possible to not disturb others. Here are five things I have learned while traveling with my kids that all families should know.
1) The airplane backseat isn’t meant for kicking. Is there anything more annoying than sitting in front of a kid who is kicking your seatback? Yes, sitting in front of a kid who is kicking your seat back and putting the tray table up and down, up and down. So your kids don’t drive other passengers nuts, fly equipped with toys, games, a portable DVD player and snacks. Before you board the plane, talk to your children about appropriate behavior. Another tip: Dress your kids up in nice clothing before they fly. This sends a signal to your children that they need to behave. If your daughter is wearing a dress, she’ll be more careful when she’s drinking her juice.
2) Dirty diapers are stinky. You’re on the airplane and junior goes poopie. What do you do? You certainly shouldn’t stuff the dirty diaper in the seatback. In fact, it’s better to avoid changing nappies in the main cabin all together. The other passengers will be appreciative if you and your babe take care of business in the bathroom. It’s also helpful if you carry plastic Ziploc bags with you while on the road. When you drop a diaper in a gas station bathroom, who knows how long it will sit there.
3) Sand is hard to remove from rental cars. Popsicles, chocolate ice cream sundaes, bags of sunflower seeds, bottles of sunscreen, insect repellent–none of these potentially messy items should be in the hands of young children sitting in the back of a rental car. Yes, the car companies wash the interiors of their cars but not as thoroughly as you think and the next renters will be frustrated if they go to put on their seatbelts and find them covered in sticky goop. Probably the worst stuff left behind in cars is sand. If you’re on a beach vacation, you’ll inevitably track a little in but try to make sure the kids empty their shoes outside–not inside–the car.
4) Sound carries in restaurants. Families often eat out when they’re traveling. Our family certainly does, and the diners sitting around us never appreciate it when my kids start fighting over the last piece of bread. To prevent these sorts of situations, I dine early and ask to sit at a table away from everybody else. I also arrive armed with coloring books and puzzles. I’m not big on bribing my kids but I’ll often offer the reward of dessert for good behavior in fancier restaurants. For every, polite action they make–putting napkins in their lap, saying thank you to the waiter who refilled their water–I give them a penny or I draw a star on their paper place mat. If they make it to five, they get a bowl of ice cream. Of course, stars can also be crossed out.
5) Hotel walls are thin. Before you step into a hotel room, remind the kids that other guests will be sleeping in the hotel as well. You can tell them that it’s disrespectful to turn the TV on full blast at midnight because the couple sleeping on the other side of the wall will probably hear it. You can even set the volume when you get into the room and tell your children not to touch it. If you have young ones who rise at 6 a.m., make sure that they walk silently through the halls to breakfast. And if you have teenagers who are hanging out in the hot tub at night, advise them to keep it quiet.