“Are we there yet?” A crucial part of planning a long trip to the other side of the world with a young child is to help them prepare to be the best travellers they can be! Knowing what to expect, and what is expected of them throughout a 30-40 hour journey with several planes, transfers, and time zones not only reduces a child’s anxiety levels, but also makes for a calmer experience for parents! Last year, we used a simple DIY Toddler Travel Timetable with our almost 3 year old at the time. This year, we used a different, but also very easy, DIY travel timetable to help our almost 4 year old to prepare for the long journey ahead…
Firstly, a laminated world map (with our travel route highlighted) provided a great overview and reference for lots of chats. B quickly learnt to identify Australia and loved finding it on different maps. But… I had in mind that a clearer visual checklist would also be required to best explain the journey to our young travelling buddy.
So I set to work on a little expandable paper ‘flow chart’! All that was needed was a couple of pictures printed of planes, cars and airport terminals (photos or drawings would also be fine); some paper, scissors and glue. Then I added arrows to show direction, and numbers (representing hours) to be used like a countdown of time remaining.
It folded down to a tiny book size – perfect for small airplane tables – and pulled out to become an impressively long story across the floor (of the airport lounges, at home or at the destination).
Master 3.5 years old loved telling friends and family that we were going to take “a BIG plane, another BIG plane, then a little plane”!
We used this little customised book to also talk about, and get used to the idea, of what we would be doing on the plane during all of those hours – from general activities (sleep, eat, play, maybe watch something on TV, sleep again…) – right down to little details (put our seatbelts on and look for the seat belt light, keep our water bottles in the little pocket in front of us, go to a really tiny toilet, make a nice comfy ‘bed’ on our seat with airplane cushions and blankets, eat food from little packets…)
And of course, we both had fun playing with the mouldable, shapeable, paper ‘toy’!
Although it is clearly impossible to know exactly how long journeys such as ours are actually going to play out… visual checklists like this, make great travel timetables for kids. When kids know what is happening (now and next), they are much more ready to cooperate; and without unnecessary anxiety, they are more able to enjoy the adventure too! Well, I should say, everyone is!
If you are planning a trip with little ones, good luck and have fun!
Happy playing (and travelling!)