(By the way, to any American readers, I am very jealous that you have Florida. Thank you for sharing it with us. The warmest we’ve got is Victoria, and it rains there all winter.)
We have travelled a fair bit with our kids, and this trip got me thinking about how it might be useful for us to share with other parents what we’ve learned from travelling with our young children.
If you have a colicky baby, you might be asking yourself, “Why would I even consider getting in a car or on a plane to go someplace different? I’m barely keeping it together at home, where everything’s familiar and I have all the equipment.”
Well, you know how they say that sometimes a change is as good as a rest? It couldn’t be more true when it comes to travelling with a high need child, especially since rest is out of the question. And we know from experience. We did it at the height of Chloe’s colic.
So what can you do to make life easier while travelling with a high need child? Well, if your child is colicky (i.e. less than 4 months old), not a darn thing. The kid’s not on a sleep schedule anyway. You weren’t sleeping at home and you probably won’t sleep on your trip either.
But hey, you’ll have lots to do to distract you from your chronic fatigue. It worked for us… and it was surprising how much sleep we were able to get Chloe while walking around a town or through a forest with Chloe snuggled up in a carrier. As for high need kids who are old enough to be on a schedule, here are some tips that might help make your trip as pleasant as possible.
Get a place where you can put the little one in his/her own room if that’s how they sleep at home.
This tip is pretty important. If you’re staying in a motel room with no extra room for a baby, what are you going to do during naps and in the evenings, huddle under a blanket with a flashlight and book?
But don’t worry, you don’t need to get a mansion in order to get baby his own space. Stay at B&Bs where there are common rooms for you to sneak away to with a monitor or make sure there’s a walk-in closet for the baby. We have used walk-in closets on many occasions. One time, we had no choice but to put Chloe in her portable crib in the ensuite bathroom… we didn’t drink much water that night.
Stay in one place
Believe me, as interesting as all of those places sound, this is not the time for a driving tour. All kids (and even adults) need consistency and regularity. But spirited children thrive on it. Remember, these kids are easily overwhelmed. Chloe loves adventures, but she needs a certain amount of predictability in order to cope and to feel secure.
Having a home base for the duration of your trip helps to provide this security. For example, the first couple of nights on this trip she had significant trouble settling at night as she was obviously nervous being in a new place. But after a few nights, she felt more at home and went to bed easily.
Try to stick to sleep schedules
This won’t always be possible, but you’ll have a much better time when you can. This tip applies to some extent to all kids, but with high-needs children, a change in sleep pattern can really throw them off. When there is something special you want to do, go ahead and put the little one down late. Just remember that you might pay for it in the middle of the night or early the next morning.
Also, be careful where you choose to go. If you have lots to do in close proximity to where you are, it will be easy to get out and do something and still make it back in time for naps. Where a longer drive is needed, try to arrange a nap in the car.
We’ve all heard of those people that take their little ones with them everywhere, even to a 9:00 o’clock dinner, with no problem. But we don’t have these kids, and it’s easier simply to acknowledge it. Even if we were to take Chloe now to a late dinner, it would be a miserable experience – she’d crash and burn by 7:30.
A lot of places have secure babysitting networks, and even hotels often offer this service. If you want to go out for dinner, try for an option that lets your child go to bed on time.
See if you can rent baby equipment where you’re going
Many cities have agencies that offer this service. You can get everything you need without worrying about how you’re going to carry it all through the airport. Sometimes renting equipment can be worth every penny.
Set realistic expectations
This isn’t your honeymoon. Don’t plan to see all of the best museums in Paris. Instead, get to know a few playgrounds too. We didn’t get to see everything when we were in Nice for three months last year, but we are confident that we know the area playgrounds better than any other tourists!
And Chloe does like art galleries and museums – but in very small doses. Most cities have free days for museums. Try dropping in on those days.
Be prepared to be surprised
One of the most interesting surprises from our trip to Nice was finding that Chloe has a fascination for churches. I wrote a post about it on my blog. Much to my delight, Chloe asked to stop at every church we passed. We’d go inside, look around, and I’d answer all of her questions. It was an unexpected joy we wouldn’t have known had we not gone away.
Don’t be daunted in the face of a trip. Be prepared and know what to expect from your children before you go. You may be surprised at how well things go.
As I mentioned, we took Chloe on a trip (to B.C.) during her most colicky period. We had a connection in Toronto and almost abandoned the trip there. We’re glad we didn’t. The trip was just what we needed to step back from our misery and see that the world was still turning and that there would be light at the end of the tunnel.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember that life still goes on after colic.
Travelling can remind you that the world’s still waiting for you and your family when you’re ready.
Sean Sutton lives in Ottawa, Canada with his wife and two children, Chloe and Emily. He spent much of this year on paternity leave following Emily’s birth and started a blog to document his experience.
Photo Credit: Michelle Meiklejohn