Top 10 tips when traveling with kids

Summertime is fast approaching, and that means vacation! It’s nice to look forward to a break, especially when you have kids.

But that variable is also what makes travel difficult – kids. 

Here is a list I’ve culminated over 8 years of traveling with children:

1. Pack lightly – A big mistake I used to make early on is packing like tomorrow was the end. Make sure to pack things you specifically need like medication, training pants, favorite toys, etc. Otherwise you can always buy stuff at airports, at rest stops, etc.

2. Backpacks are a lifesaver – After years of hauling around diaper bags, I bought a backpack and it changed the way I travel. No more falling off the shoulder bags, aching arms, or tipping strollers. 

3. Stock up on candy/sweets – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve prevented a potential tantrum by just whipping out a lollipop or bag of fruit snacks. I save these treats for travel time, and that just makes it all the more sweeter.

4. Dress kids in clothes you don’t mind tossing – While I’m not a fan of just throwing away perfectly good things, I certainly don’t want to hang on to a pair of pants covered in vomit. Things happen during travel, and it’s one less thing to worry about when you can just toss a shirt or pair of pants. Diarrhea happens. Vomit happens.  Leaks happen. Sometimes they  happen together. I keep things they are about to outgrow, little faded, maybe has a tiny, itty bitty hole – basically stuff I can’t pass on to anyone. 

5. Purchase a few new things for the trip – A coloring book, a small toy, a puzzle. Kids love being surprised with something new while traveling. 

6. Let kids have their own luggage – Now my husband is not a big fan of this because he’s had to lug around 2 kids suitcases because our girls were tired, but on the whole they were a good buy. Kids love copying parents with their own personal things. And they enjoy rolling them around – makes them feel important. Plus I pack a change of clothes, underwear, snacks and toys in each kid’s suitcase so I end up carrying less, too. 

I personally am a big fan of the Skiphop Zoo rolling suitcases. They’re roomy, light, and have a convenient strap on the back that I can swing over my shoulder or a stroller handle if my kids get tired. Plus if you search around, you can often get them for less than $25.

7. Be flexible – When you have too many expectations, it ruins your trip. Layovers happen. Delays happen. Make room for flexibility. Plan your layovers/rest stops wisely. Let kids run around. Keep a few portable food items so just in case they get picky, at least they’ll eat something. I often make a batch of French toast to keep in my bag. Pack a few juice or milk boxes. The last thing you need is a cranky, sleep deprived, hungry kid. 

8. Don’t forget the wipes – Perhaps one of the most essential items to pack when traveling. They can clean hands, refresh your face, wipe gunk from clothes. 

9. Invest in a DVD player/tablet/electronic kids toy – And don’t forget the headphones. When all else fails, these things help divert children from going over the edge. Remember to break it out ONLY when you need it. Otherwise it loses its “new” factor. 

10. Remember to rest – If you’re like most parents, you forget to take care of yourself. Get a good night’s sleep before the day of travel. That way if you’re on the road, you’re able to focus. And if you’re flying, you don’t get cranky or frustrated. 

Most importantly, remember to have fun! 

Chicken in creamy white pasta sauce with a secret

  
It’s a delicious and healthier take on your simple white pasta sauce. Because it’s packed with veggies! 

All you need is a cup of cauliflower purée and 1/2 cup of carrot purée, or more if you like carrots. 

Chicken in creamy white pasta sauce 

Ingredients

1 pound cooked chopped boneless chicken breast

1 cup cauliflower purée 

1/2 cup carrot purée 

1/4 cup cheddar cheese

1 tsp garlic powder 

3 tbsp unsalted butter 

1/4 cup cream/milk

Salt and pepper to taste 

Dash of Italian seasonings (optional)

Directions

1. Boil pasta of choice 

2. Melt butter over medium-low heat in saucepan. 

3. After it is melted, add the cream/milk. Add garlic powder, salt and pepper. Stir until mixed. 

4. Add the purees and mix. Then add the cheese. 

5. Let cook on low heat about 5 minutes. If it’s too thick, you can add more milk for desired consistency.

6. Add the cooked chicken to the sauce. Voila! 

A healthy, delicious dish you and your kids will devour!

You can sub whole grain pasta for a more nutritious meal. 

Tip: Keep veggie purees frozen for a quick addition to pizza sauces, pastas, etc. 

When your kid knows more Farsi than you

Can I tell you how embarrassing it is to have your 7-year-old translate what a taxi driver is telling you? 

Yeah, I’ve had those moments. At the local fruit stand. Even at the airport. 

“Fatima, how do you ask if we have to take off our shoes?”

Although since I started school, my grip on Farsi has been much better. But still, nothing beats how our transplant kids pick up the local lingo. 

My husband is in charge of homework duty since sometimes I cannot even decipher what FZ’s teacher has written. 

But all embarrassment aside, I really do stare in wonder at how my daughter has picked up reading and writing Farsi so quickly. She’s enjoying reading Farsi more than English. 

Now she tells us she wants to learn Arabic as well, because she wants to become a doctor when she grows up and she wants to be able to help patients who speak different languages. 

I often wonder why many bilingual parents in America don’t teach their children how to speak other languages. It’s a loss, really, and not only when you’re in other parts of the world, but when you miss out on beautiful poetry or stories. 

Instill the love of language in your children, especially when they’re younger. It will open their minds and expand their worldview.

Sibling showdown 

If it’s not a chair they’re fighting over, it’s the color of the chair. 

To successfully cohabitate with children, one must learn to quietly cry. 

Because dealing with sibling rivalry is not even about being a good referee, it’s managing each kid’s mood, too. So one kid is a biter? And the other a pushover? 

Why don’t we add a drama queen to the mix? Just to spice things up.

So in between the “I hate you!” “Go away!” “He took my pen!!” here are my house rules regarding fights: 

  1. Never fight over food. Just never.
  2. If you don’t want to share a certain toy/thing, put it away. If you show it, you share it.*
  3. Use your words. No hitting, biting, pushing, screaming.

*I established this rule after FZ became a big sister and I realized that everyone has a few personal things that they value. Be it a special gift or artwork. 

While we enforce sharing in our house, I also teach my kids to respect each other’s personal things and space. But I make them responsible to take care of their things. If they leave out a special toy, then it’s their fault if baby brother grabs it. 

And while I have rules, who says my kids follow them? It’s a long process, folks. My goal is sometime between now and my first gray hair they finally listen to me.

And so I have learned to quietly cry. In my pillow, when I have those early morning pre-breakfast “I want the blue plate!” fights. In the bathroom, when I have those mid-day “That’s my book/pony/string!” fights. And in my head, when I have those post-brushing, “I want Mama/Baba to sleep with me!” fights.

While it may seem like they’re fighting all day, the beautiful moments of love and friendship shine through on occasion. When they laugh, or share a book together. Or hold hands as they walk. And you feel like you got this. You feel like yes, kids are great. You feel like baking cookies and dunking them in milk.

Keep holding onto that feeling.

Conscious parenting 

Sometimes it’s easy to fall into the trap of parenting on auto pilot. As soon as they’re born, babies cry for milk and the warmth of their mother. A new mother automatically puts her child to her body and if you’re lucky, a bond is formed. As the days turn into months, you might start just thinking that fulfilling kids’ material needs means your kids will survive. 

And they will. We all need shelter, food and clothing for our survival. But what about being conscious of the words we say? Of the way we behave? Do we really think about our behavior and how if affects our child? 

One snide remark. One burst of sarcasm. One critical retort. One eye rolling. 

It might seem insignificant on its own, but after a few times, kids will pick up on these reactions as the way to respond to others. 

And on the other hand, do we know how much of an effect a big hug has on our child’s day? An “I love you?” A reassuring smile after a hard day? Our full attention during a story? 

I call this conscious parenting. I admit I was guilty of running on auto pilot but now with FZ almost 8 years old (I know, I can’t believe it!), I’ve become more watchful of my behavior and words. I’ve had to dig down deep and rethink how I parent. 

I’ve had to come out of my comfort zone so they can experience a childhood of imagination, mess and creativity. I’ve had to take a mental timeout so I could be there for the whining and help them get past it. 

But it’s just easier to say “Stop whining and just get over it!!” And there are times I might say that, but now I take every moment as a learning experience – not just for my kids, but for myself. 

I believe my kids are a trust from God. I’ve been privileged to serve as a mother to these little creatures of God. If I screw it up, it’s not just my life that will be affected, but their lives and the lives of all those they come in contact with. 

It’s a big responsibility and I pray that from here on out, I will take my parenting seriously. I know it’s not easy, and I’m sure there will be plenty of more hills to climb. Not to mention lots of hills I’ll be rolling down. But I will get back up, and I will try my best.