traveling with kids made easy

traveling with kids

Can traveling with kids be easy? Read here about the tips that can transform stress into fun.

Did that title get your attention? I hoped it would. I want you to know it can be done. We can travel with children and relax at the same time.

Most of the responsibility rests on us, I know. But hear me out. We have to make some EXPECTATION adjustments. All of these can be made WAY, WAY in advance. Planning takes on a whole new meaning when traveling with children. In fact, I would say it quadruples. But the payoffs are also quadruple!

Here’s my top 5 Expectation Adjustments for making travel easy:

1. Time:

Time either runs slower or faster than you anticipate when traveling. The plane ride you thought would be a quick, easy flight turns out to be, well — not. Plan for the worse case scenario. Sickness, boredom, spills, screaming baby (hello, earplugs! If the other people on the plane didn’t plan for this, it isn’t your fault. Any reasonable traveling adult knows that there might be a crying baby aboard. It would be like going to a rock concert and expecting a nap).

2. Behavior:

Having the same basic ground rules that you have at home helps. However, some kids don’t adjust well to new surroundings and act out accordingly. Ask yourself, “Is this deliberate? Or is this a by product of being somewhere different?” The three year old who decides to prostrate in the middle of the airport in protest could be both. Can you give them a time-out? Sure, if you want to be late for your flight. Desperate times call for desperate measures and that means that you scoop that wailing tot up and get moving. They’ll get the picture pretty quickly.

3. Activity Level:

A basic rule of thumb when traveling with children is that there is an inverse relationship between what the expected activity level is for the activity to what they actually display. Want them to sit still and watch a cultured live play? Expect ants in their pants. Want them to join in on the loud Conga line around a party? They will surely want to sit still and stare into space. Most of this has to do with their own method of adjusting the stimulation level around them to suit their needs at the time. This is when knowing your child’s personality and being flexible is KEY.

4. Possessions:

A good rule of thumb when packing for ANY trip is this: lay out everything you think you need and divide it at least by 2. Keeping track of too many things is the most likely activity to drive you crazy. If you are especially gifted in organization, assign a color to each kid — and to the parent. All of the purple stuff in my house is my husband’s; all of mine is red. So when you ask them, “Can you hand me Mommy’s ________ ? Even a two year old can quickly come to the rescue!

5. Accoutrements:

When packing for a trip with kids, it’s important to know that you cannot recreate home somewhere else. The key items of familiarity are important for making them feel secure (blankets, stuffed animals and such) but trying to bring every home convenience with you is exhausting. It’s a chance for them and you to try new things, new ideas, new ways of doing things. Parents discover quickly that they don’t need 6 pieces of baby equipment while traveling. Nor do you need the same types of entertainment. Kids are natural fun-finders. Let them discover on their own that it’s better to wash their hair outside with the pool shower and jammie up in the room.

Will traveling be easy with children? Honestly, not completely. But these are tips that have helped me over the years with my four that have helped ease the traveling experience into more fun and less stress.

What are your best tricks and tips for traveling with kids?

How have you adjusted your expectations when you are traveling with kids?

Kathy Helgemo



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helping kids choose wisely

helping kids choose wiselyHelping kids choose wisely is no easy feat. They might be our kids, but rest assured, they have their own minds.

Kids have a very short-term view of the world. They tend to only look to the fun or payoff of the moment. They don’t think past that moment to where that choice might lead. Rules and boundaries can sometimes seem restrictive, stifling and overprotective.

Take my daughter Molly. She’s a thrill seekerI love her adventurous spirit. But I’ve learned I have to help her reign it in now and then. I remember a few years back, we were at the beach as a family. Molly, then-13, had brought a few of her friends along.

After a little while, she came up to us and asked, “Can we go jump off that bridge?” She motioned to the end of the dock that extended into the ocean. Molly said it nonchalantly like she was asking something innocuous like “Can I walk to the neighbor’s?” Her friends crowded around and anxiously waited for our reply.

“Uh. Nooooo,” my husband said in his “What? Are you crazy?” voice.

Molly turns to her friends: See?! I knew it. We should have just done it!

Then she turned her attention to her thrill-kill parents: Why?! Why can’t we?! It’s perfectly safe! People do it all the time! We talked to some guys over there who’ve done it and they said they’ll jump with us!

So, with the hearty and highly valuable endorsement of “some guys over there,” we gave them our blessing. Not.

Dad: Okay, so if someone told you to jump off a bridge, you’d do it? That’s comforting.

Molly: Dad!! Come on … watch! You’ll see other people doing it. It’s really safe!

Me: Well, no one is getting paralyzed on our watch. You don’t have to jump off a bridge to have fun at the beach.

Molly: Yes, you do!

My daughter’s fun-loving, risk-taking nature collided with her teenage thirst for freedom and feelings of invincibility.

Whatever their ages, kids generally push against boundaries. Our challenge is to help them understand that God gives us boundaries for our protection and to give us freedom. Freedom from being enslaved to addictions, freedom from physical and emotional harm. Freedom from the separation from Him that we feel when we insist on doing it our way.

So how do we teach our kids that boundaries bring freedom? It’s not always easy, but here are a few things that I’ve found useful in helping kids choose wisely:

Instructive Examples. 

Sadly, there are plenty of cautionary tales out there – in Hollywood, among our kids’ classmates and in their communities – about young people who have made unwise choices and are reaping tragic consequences.

It’s important to open dialogue with our preteens and teens by asking questions like, “What do you think about their choices?” and “What do you think led them to make those choices?” Helping them make the connection between seemingly “fun” choices and the bondage and danger those decisions lead to — on their own — is so important. Especially with teens. Hysterical or judgmental lectures don’t work (not that I’ve ever done that, of course).

Loving boundaries.

I’ve learned that always communicating love as the primary reason for giving them a consequence makes a huge difference in their attitude about their offense. They may be angry or upset at the consequence, but when they’re confident that the motive is love, I’ve noticed their hearts soften much more quickly. (Sometimes I have to wait until I feel a little more loving to communicate this effectively.)

happy mom

Share your journey.

Kids aren’t the only ones who make mistakes and reap consequences. Especially as my kids have gotten older, I’ve been more open with them (without giving unnecessary detail) about what God is doing in my life and some of the painful lessons I’ve learned the hard way.

Emphasize God’s faithfulness.

In addition to talking with them about what God is doing in my life, I also encourage them to pray (and pray with them) about all the little obstacles throughout the day. Bringing Him into their daily experiences and concerns emphasizes His love for them and concern about the details of their lives.

child praying

Our kids have free will. They make their own choices and will make their own mistakes. We aren’t always going to be able to talk them back from the edge.

But with God’s help, we can help our kids to look before they leap.

That’s where the true freedom lies. 

Melinda Means

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staring into the rearview mirror of mothering

are you staring into the rearview mirror of motheringWhat would happen if we constantly looked into our rearview mirror while driving?

That’s right.

We’d crash. Fast. 

Mothering is no different a journey — one that is long and full of past instances, past successes, and yes, past failures. In order to move forward in parenting it’s important to recognize the past and keep it in mind, but focus on the road ahead. Otherwise, our forward journey will be unsafe and miscalculated.

The rear view mirror of mothering reminds us of where we’ve been. For me, I’ve been in some strange lands, sometimes lost and confused. Some of them were deep, dark wildernesses that were very hard to navigate. At times, I could barely look forward. I instead focused on what I should’ve done the day before — the day that was always present in the rear view mirror of mothering.

That mirror lies. It tells me that the only thing worth looking at is what I’ve missed, what I’ve messed up, what I should’ve done better.woman whispering

The rear view mirror of mothering prevents us from looking forward. Ahead of us is always another hour, another day. Another decade, if the need be. Slow and steady movement in a positive direction is all we can do.

Aren’t we are all journeyers? Isn’t mothering a constant trip?

We are all here to learn about this road we were taking on as parents and as Christians. No small trip, really.

stepping feet

Here are a few tips regarding our universal journey as moms, and as Christians:

–Pack light. Keep life simple. It complicates itself enough. Purge unnecessary loads often through prayer, forgiveness and reconciliation.

–Only carry someone else’s burdens a short distance or you won’t be able to carry your own. This is wise advice to all moms. Our kids need us, yes. But building their lives toward independence is our jobs. We can’t do this is we aren’t stable on our own. It’s a continuous, disciplined  process.

–And DON’T continuously stare into the rear view mirror of your life. Wherever we’ve been, let it go. Let it get smaller and smaller. Let it disappear.

Looking forward and moving toward God’s plan in our lives can feel scary as a mom. However, it’s a road worth seeking and one that we won’t ever be alone traveling.

How are you moving forward on your mothering journey?

 Kathy Helgemo

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learning to trust your mom instincts

mom instinctsMy mom instincts told me something was wrong.

Something seemed off with my newborn son from the very beginning.

He would scream for hours on end. No matter how often I fed him, he would scream for more.

People meant well. They’d reassure me, “Oh, it’ll get better. Those first months are always hard.”

They just didn’t get it. This was not the normal newborn experience. Micah would scream for four to five hours on end. He was inconsolable and then would finally sleep from total exhaustion.

That would last about 30 minutes and he would wake up for another hours-long round of screaming.

He also quickly expelled whatever he ate via one end or the other. We dubbed him “Sir Poops A Lot.”

But as time passed and nothing resolved, it just wasn’t funny.

My mom instincts were telling me something was wrong. Really wrong. And it was getting louder and more insistent.

I kept telling it to shut up. It clearly didn’t know what it was talking about.

My baby is going to be fine, I would tell it.

His doctor says he’s a little on the small side, but it’s nothing to worry about. You’re overreacting, I would say.

Until that little voice in my gut would be silenced no longer.

Micah was six months old, but he looked like a three-month-old. His skin was pasty. His eyes were hollow. One day, he went for 24 hours without digesting a single drop of formula.

For months, I’d been frustrated with the answers I was getting from his doctor. I was done. I called a new pediatrician in town who already had a great reputation and a long waiting list.

I prayed and picked up the phone — and miraculously got an appointment.

After two weeks and lots of testing, my mom instincts were proven right. Micah was diagnosed — by Kathy’s pediatrician husband — with cystic fibrosis.

You would think after that I would have given my gut a little well-deserved respect.

But I still spent years second guessing it. Ignoring it.

Why? Because I lacked confidence in my God-given intuition. 

As I’ve written about before, I grew up with my mother’s untreated mental illness — and the accompanying self-focus that involved. As a result, I didn’t receive as much validation and reinforcement of my decisions as I needed.

That lack of confidence presented some real problems in mothering. So how did I finally learn to trust my mom instincts instead of telling them to put a sock in it?

1.) Seek out at least one person to affirm you. For me, that person was Kathy. If my gut was telling me to do something, but I wasn’t sure if it was right, I would call Kathy. I’d relate my dilemma and she’d say, “Your instincts are right. You have a good gut.” She said that to me over and over again. Patiently and sweetly. Having that long-awaited voice of affirmation made a huge difference.

Or she’d say, “You say you don’t know what to do, but you really do. You just don’t want to do it.”

Look for someone sweet and encouraging, but also someone who is honest and isn’t afraid to tell you the truth.

mom friends

2.) Pray for a “good gut.” We have voices in our head telling us to do all kinds of things. Some are wise. Some not so smart — even when they seem like good ideas. I pray everyday that the Holy Spirit will help me discern which impressions and voices to listen to. He is faithful.

3.) Follow your intuition — even if it’s in a small way. Each time I followed my instincts and I  was right, it boosted my confidence. I learned to ignore them at my own peril.

We have so many voices talking to us as mamas — spouses, our little ones, social media, friends, parenting experts.

But the wisest one is the voice the Holy Spirit puts inside our mama hearts.

If only we will listen.



Do you have confidence in your instincts as a mom? In what area do you doubt yourself the most?

mom instincts

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