As a rule we try not to travel over major holidays and birthdays. With six people in our family, we always seem to be carrying a lot of stuff with us, even though we have rules to keep our luggage light. Everyone gets one carry-on bag. Each child has their own, unique, rolling bag from the Disney Store. They are bright and colorful so there is less chance of mistaken luggage. Each adult has one travel backpack. We designed these family travel rules to maximize our mobility, and to teach our children responsibility for their own belongings while traveling.
It is in part because of our desire to travel light that we don’t want to travel over Christmas Day or one of the children’s birthdays. We don’t want to have to bring extra things with us for the holiday/birthday, only to take them back home again.
Last year, we decided to travel to France during the winter break. We left the day after Christmas, and returned on January 6th. Schedules both with school and my husband’s job dictated in part our travel dates. The only problem? January 6th is our oldest daughter’s birthday.
We came up with a plan that would uniquely celebrate her birthday and minimize how long we would have to carry a birthday present around. Flying to Europe, we take a long flight to Heathrow, and then a shorter flight to our final destination. Our flight flies into Terminal 5 in Heathrow, where there is a delightful toy store. Our children are always begging us to buy them toys from there. As we passed through Heathrow on our way to Paris, we told our daughter that since we would be flying home through Heathrow, on her birthday she could pick out a toy from this toy store. We tried to create extra enthusiasm for this plan by telling her how special this birthday was. Because we were traveling west, her birthday would be the longest birthday ever! We thought we were brilliant. And bonus, we combined a lesson about planetary motion with our birthday plan! All during our trip, we tried to build excitement for her. She would have the longest birthday ever!
She was excited to have the longest birthday ever. She still thinks it is cool and special that her birthday lasted for about 36 hours instead of the traditional 24. The rest of our plan, however, did not go so smoothly.
It is true that on the way to Paris we traveled through Terminal 5. Unlike previous trips, however, we did not return through Terminal 5. We returned through Terminal 3. Now, Terminal 3 is a very nice terminal. We ate a delicious brunch. We perused a branch of Harrod’s. There was a kids’ area for them to play and get their squiggles out. The problem? There was no toy store. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Our plan was ruined! What could we do?
As luck would have it, there was a book store with a decent children’s section. While in France, none of our hotels offered the Disney Channel with shows our children are used to watching while we travel. Instead, our children discovered Ninjago. The book store had a book about the characters of Ninjago. So our daughter chose this book to be her birthday present. And she loved it. She still loves Ninjago. In fact, we made a special trip to Legoland when Ninjago World opened.
These are the lessons I take away from this experience:
- It is a good idea to avoid travel on birthdays
- If you must travel on a birthday, bring a small, suitable present with you
- Do NOT rely on airport shops to buy a present
- Having a longer birthday because of time changes is really cool for children (and adults)
- You can never prepare for every situation, so be adaptable
- Teach your children to be adaptable
What are your experiences traveling on a birthday or holiday?