Friday, December 17, 2010

Comfort on the go makes traveling easier

I often joke that the key to parenting four young children is to always have food. A stick of gum or a piece of candy works wonders in the grocery store. A sucker is a little bit of magic when we’re on the homestretch of a long trip. A few crackers can stall before-lunch anarchy.

In other words, small comforts, made possible with just a little bit of planning, can make life easier, and generally more pleasant, for our busy family. Our wee ones are less apt to melt down, and we do a better job of keeping our budget intact when we’re prepared for outings. This is true whether we’re heading out for a day of running errands, or taking a trip across the state, such as the one we’re planning this holiday.

No matter what your personal situation, you’ll be better prepared to deal with the stress of holiday travel when you plan ahead. You’ll also save money when you take time to make some relatively small travel preparations. After all, who hasn’t been so desperate in an airport that you resort to eating a $6 pretzel, or been so famished that convenience store beef sticks, packaged alongside unrefrigerated cheese, suddenly look appealing?

While it’s impossible to account for every possible travel glitch—lost luggage or sketchy roads, for example—you can be ready to deal with two inevitable aspects of traveling: hunger and boredom. We’re able to deal with the former by picking up special food items in the days leading up to our trip. These include treats like juice boxes and crazy-long licorice ropes.

Just the sheer anticipation of something out of the ordinary helps our children deal with the seemingly endless prairie stretched out before us. And though the idea of a foot of licorice may not be appealing to you, you can plan for your own kind of travel indulgences.

For road travel, for example, you could brew your favorite coffee at home and take it along in an insulated Thermos. Or you can buy yourself candy you love, or pack your own boxed meal for an airline flight. Make homemade granola or simply stock up on your favorite energy bars. With preparations such as these, you’ll make a small upfront investment, but you’ll save money and feel more satisfied in the long run.

As for dealing with travel boredom, we have our own specialized coping mechanisms. Namely, these include new or favorite books and CDs, stickers, and pocket-size notebooks and crayons. When the situation gets really desperate, we break out press-on tattoos and the aforementioned suckers. We’ve even been known to stop at a park and brave subzero temperatures, just as a way to get everybody out of the car and break up the trip.

Again, press-on tattoos and wintery romps in the park probably won’t suit you, but getting a free download for your digital reader or checking out books or back issues of a magazine from the library could be an appropriate (and budget-friendly) substitute. An audio version of a book is yet another way you can pass the time during your travels – especially if the plot is a thriller guaranteed to keep you alert during long hours of driving. Or you could even write a few handwritten notes or finish a knitting or embroidery project, if these kinds of pursuits interest you.

Amid the busyness of the season, take time to pack a few comforts to pamper yourself and your family. A little planning goes a long way toward making us calmer and happier during stressful holiday travels.

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