Zen and the art of traveling with four year olds 

Step 1: Never forget that you are not on vacation. 

It’s an endurance test, you need to keep everyone on an even keel and the prize is keeping everyone on an even keel (doh!). Think the Food Network show where they have to cook without proper kitchen equipment. You are parenting in the wild and dealing with unfamiliar everything but trying to puppet master everything to be normal. 

Step 2: You will do a fraction of what you want to do

Write a list of everyone you want to see and things you want to do. Half it, then half it again. Then strike everyone off your list that won’t come to you. Then panic that family and friends will get upset that you don’t have time to see everyone when it appears that you are “under scheduled”. Then remember that you can count on one hand the number of family and friends who have visited you in the ten plus years you lived abroad and half the list again. 

Step 3: You will spin plates and move mountains to keep mealtimes, TV time & bedtime consistent with home 

Small children like routine and consistency. Even if the majority of their regular day is unstructured play they like to know that food will appear at predictable intervals, and that if they get a chunk of screen time after lunch that they can still get that wherever they are. So you’ll spend your vacation menu planning and cooking. 

Step 4: Everyone needs to stay hydrated and you need lots of coffee 

When in doubt find a cafe. Works every time or at least delays everyone’s melt down. 

Step 5: Everyone needs a stipend  (especially four year olds) 

It doesn’t have to be much just a pound or two for each museum or place of interest you hit that has a gift shop. Enough so that the children can buy something small to help remember the trip and you know hold their shit together when they are somewhere that they didn’t choose to be (regardless of how cool the place is). 

And you need a reward for getting through the vacation because you won’t actually get to browse or shop at any of the gift shops to you go to. 

Step 6. You will all get sick

And then you’ll end up doing even less. 

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Flying with small children: a blurry recap 

  

This is a photo of me arriving in Edinburgh after the overnight flight with the Pingus. My mum sent it with the caption “No rush, really?” – oh she’s a card that one. 

Yes rush because Zoey hadn’t peed since New Jersey, so no flat white for me in the airport. Quick but loving hugs and into the cab to the bathroom at granny pingu’s! 

But let’s talk traveling, specifically flying solo, with small kids so we’ll rewind +10 hours. 

LOVE IT. 

LOVE IT. 

LOVE IT. 

It was exhausting as the girls wanted 100% of my attention to talk about everything they were seeing, but hearts for eyes people the whole experience rocked. 

They loved everything about the airport, particularly the vehicles that drove around inside. 

“Inside vehicles, mummy! You didn’t know there would be cars in here!” 

And the moving walkway. And the yogurt we bought and ate sitting on the floor waiting to board. And sitting on the plane. 

It was just brilliant talking about everything over and over again. They talked until they passed out (Zoey was asleep by Maine and Nomi hung on till Nova Scotia). 

I barely needed any of the surprises of packed. Which was good as I could eek them out over our many train trips. On the plane the girls played with new small cars, play dough and we read new books (“I Stink!” & “I’m Dirty!” by Kate Mcmullan). Since they needed to sleep I kept the seat back TV screen set to the map. But, really they just wanted to talk about all the things. 

My two mistakes were food related. I woke them up for breakfast (they rejected all airplane food), and I should have packed even more snacks and real food. We had just enough but any delays would have pushed us over, or the kids would have had to eat airplane “food”. 

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