Traveling on orders with your spouse is one thing- stressful, daunting, often confusing… but PCSing with children is a whole other beast. I’ve done it twice with young children, and I’ve learned a lot both times. My greatest source of help was blog posts and articles I found online; because of that, I hope to be an additional resource for others by writing this post!
My first time traveling with children was from Hawaii to Germany (with a pitstop in Virginia for about a month to see family!) with a 5 week old baby to start. I followed all the rules of flying with a baby! I had bottles and pacifiers for her to “suck” while we took off and landed. I had breast milk, my pump, bottles, sealed water bottles, and formula as back up! I had toys, our carrier, extra diapers and wipes for the INEVITABLE blow outs, blankets, and so much more. If you are a mama of a young one and you’re traveling on a plane, I encourage you to research the rules and restrictions about breast milk, formula, and other liquids before you pack your bags! I’ve found that every airport is a little different with how they handle it, but they will accommodate you! You have every right to feed your baby…
As scared as I was about traveling with a newborn, it was actually really easy looking back. She slept almost the whole time! My advice to moms of children this age, is to think through your whole day with a baby, and pack the essentials of that day! Expect a blow out after you land- DON’T FORGET THE DIAPERS. 🙂
Our second time traveling overseas was with a 3 year old and a 9 month old. And just to set the tone of the trip, imagine our little family, our dog included, with all of our baggage that we’d live off of for the next 2 months, kennel, stroller, etc… pulled up to the airport that morning with a few hours to spare only to find out that our flight had been delayed by 10 hours. Yep. 10 hours. This was a military flight, not commercial- so we were out of luck. We got to sit in that terminal (because who can haul around that much luggage and a kennel with a dog?) for over 14 hours. It was not a great start to our trip, to say the least. Luckily the USO had a family room where we could bring the kids to play, we could take our dog out for walks on the small lawn, and we could walk across the street to the PX for meals as long as one of us stayed with our stuff and the dog. By the way, I felt horrible for our dog. He had to spend all that extra time cooped up in his kennel before a 10 hour flight back to the states. 🙁 Don’t worry… we all survived.
That trip was difficult. We had to give up our son’s seat because by midnight when our flight took off, he was asleep in my arms. If the seat didn’t have a car seat in it, it was going to be given up to someone else. Ok. I get it. On top of that, my daughter lost it when she woke up and realized she and her dad were sitting in a different row from me and my son. That was completely unacceptable at 1am on a crowded plane full of strangers. Ok. I get that too. So I had two babies squished into my lap on a 10 hour, overnight flight. Whew…
Again, my advice is to think through your day, and pack the essentials. Also, have some surprises stashed to avoid meltdowns, create excitement through your travel day, and to keep them entertained as much as possible! Surprises like new snacks, little toys, new coloring books, new books to read, etc. Also, write down games to play when you’re waiting (because there is always waiting when you travel!) I spy, scavenger hunt- travel edition (pre-print the items to find!), finding rhyming words, spot the ABC’s, etc.
Being mentally prepared for the trip is the best advice I can give. Prepare for the worst. Imagine yourself on the day of travel and how much you’ll have to carry and keep up with. Consolidate as best as possible into bags you’ll need most often or at certain points through the day. Also think about bringing things like Tylenol, band-aids, and lollipops. A skinned knee can put a huge damper on your trip, but if you pull out the band-aid and lollipop, you might save yourself a lot of tears! Hero mom!
Things you may want to have on hand:
- Audio books for kids
- New game apps on your phone or tablet
- Treats like lollipops or m&ms
- Pre-printed game ideas! There are a ton of resources on Pinterest for ideas. (Maybe include games that they can play while seated and still and also when they have an opportunity to move!)
- A favorite stuffed animal
- Children’s headphones
- Extra wipes (and diapers)
- Travel crafts- mini coloring books and a few crayons, beads and pipe cleaners, stickers, etc. (I bought soft pencil pouches for 3 ringed binders and filled them with goodies, then connected them with rings. See picture! Side note: the Altoids box has crayons inside. They fit perfectly!)
- Small toys that will entertain
The second thing I’d recommend doing is reading this attached article! It is a GREAT resource for preparing to PCS with children. It breaks down things to do and think about months in advance all the way through to after you’ve moved. We followed a lot of the advice on this article, and it helped my 3 year old adjust tremendously compared to what could have been…
My biggest take-aways from this article were the books they recommend for children for different age groups, communicating with your children about the move frequently and positively, and researching family activities to do together at your new duty station. We love experiencing new things together, and when we first came to Fort Bragg, we visited all of the local parks, zoos, museums, and anything else we could do together. Not only do you get to bond with your children during these experiences, you get them excited about this new place they’re calling home.
I hope this helps you as you prepare for you PCS with children. You will get through it, and you’ll be stronger when you do. Just try to be as mentally prepared as possible, and on the day of, just go with it… worry with only what you can control. You’ve got this!