Now that my daughter is a rational, reasonable, logical human being (mostly) I love traveling with her. Her bodily fluids stay inside of her (mostly.) She’s helpful at the airport (mostly.) Her eyes see wonders that a solo traveling adult would miss. We wait to watch the airplane drive under us on the walkway to the terminal. (Yes, airplanes drive under walkways sometimes.) She notices a friend at a neighboring gate, and we have a lovely conversation that I would have missed with my head down in my electronic device. I’m an observant traveler, but she really makes me be present.
My absolute favorite trick to traveling with kids is a game I made up on the spur of the moment. It works for any kid who can count to at least 20. The day the game was invented we checked our bags and headed toward the security line (cue ominous music). In one of the mysteries-of-TSA moments the line was long. So long. Longer than the line had any business being. All around me adults were “F-ing security!” and “F- you, why didn’t we leave sooner?” and “F- I’m going to miss my flight!” In response to my rising panic that my kiddo would hear these angry adults, inspiration hit and I said, “Kiddo, how many big steps do you think it will take to get through this line?”
We started counting big steps. “Mom, how many do you have? 12? I have 23.” I watched as she took an extra big step and stood too close to the person in front of us. She nodded and said, “24.” We made it through one wiggle – a phrase coined during the game development which means one length of the barricade wrapped line – and after she tallied our steps she proudly announced, “I’m winning!” Of course because she has smaller legs it took her more big steps to travel a wiggle so she won. Silly grown-up me had assumed we were trying to get the least number of steps in per wiggle. Any game my daughter always wins is a great one, especially in an aggravation filled place like the airport.
Now we play the giant steps game through security. We play it down the jet way. We play it wherever there is a line where adults are acting like children who need to have their mouths washed out with soap. She always wins. It’s worked for five years, this giant step game. This year, at 8, she was a bit more shy and afraid of what people would think of our game so we played, but quietly, and she still won.
The other upside of this game is that we almost always attract the attention of someone else who is just trying to make the best of a crappy situation. We’ll get a smile or a nod, and it makes me happy being goofy with my kid and making others a little happier with our silly game. The downside of this game? I abhor long lines at airports when I’m not with her. It’s all I can do to keep from challenging the angry “F-ing” guy next to me – “Hey, jerk-o, which one of us do you think can take more giant steps through this line?” Wonder how that would turn out?
The final in a series of Kiddo Travel Hacks where I share my best advice for not just surviving, but enjoying travels with kids. Also check out the infant phase and toddler phase posts for other tips and tricks.