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Travelling with adopted kids

A re-print from AFABC

Spring! A time of new growth, a time to fling open those heavy drapes and pack away the winter layers for at least a few months. For me, in addition to all that, it’s a time of planting seeds and planning adventures. I’m on a mission to pass my love of road tripping on to my kiddos. Many have called me crazy. Who in the right mind would take a collection of little people on the road, especially with all sorts of special needs and medical conditions? This is usually followed by the statement, “I could or would never do that!” I don’t agree. I think anyone can do it. Why would I let any of our special quirks keep us at home? It just takes a little planning and inspiration.

Our road travelling came out of necessity. It was the most efficient and cost effective way to move us around. I decided long ago that I wanted my children to feel connected to our vast group of friends and family, and to experience firsthand this beautiful country we are privileged to live in. We’ve yet to make it abroad, but it’s in the plans for the future.

At times our big white van has been crammed right full (that’s 11 seats with the back bench out for cargo). It amazes me how much I was able to carefully pack into that beast. It did help that the kids and their stuff were all much smaller then. However, we did have extra gear we don’t need at this stage of things, like a quad stroller and portable cribs. As the years have passed and the kids have grown, our setup has too. We still have our big beast of a van, but now we also have a large cargo trailer and bike rack–34 feet front to back. But whether you have a big beast like me, a minivan, bicycles, or are on foot, it’s all doable!

Route66Traveling can bring up all kinds of attachment and change issues for many of our kids. Many used to have great anxiety around leaving and returning. It’s not uncommon for many of our kids who have experienced multiple moves in foster care prior to adoption to be triggered into an anxious state or grief mode when they see their things being packed up. I have found that acknowledging this fact helps everyone. It took years of routine, loving confirmations, and consistency for many of my kids to be able to relax and enjoy being away from home. My Keisha would ask me “which house are we going to?” every time I would say we’re going home. It took years of consistency for her to know and trust what “home” was.

Most importantly, have reasonable expectations for yourself, your children and your holiday. There will be bumps along the way, you will most certainly forget things, and it’s a given that someone’s going to have a rough day or moments. Over the years, the grouchy, disorganized moments fade away. My children don’t remember any of it. They just remember the people, the fun, and the adventure!

Travel suggestions

  • Use rubber totes whenever possible. They’re stackable, waterproof, and reasonably indestructible. The summer we went on the road for 2.5 months, I set each of the kids up with a different coloured tote. They held their clothes, towels, back up security items and pillows. This provided me with an easy peasy way of keeping everyone’s things in order, and gave them each a space of their own.
  • Travel with lots of portable food and water. Kids always seem to eat more while on the road for multiple reasons, mostly emotional. I try to include a few special treats but always lots of the familiar.
  • Always travel with your own toilet paper! There’s nothing worse than having a whole gaggle of little bums sitting on the loo only to find out that all the toilet paper dispensers are empty! A large sack of wet wipes wouldn’t hurt, too.
  • VisitorInfoCenteStop by the local info centers along the way. They almost always have small museums and green space to explore. My kids love the museums. I love that it’s a free way to stretch our legs, burn off some of that ADHD energy, learn something new and get current information on local events.
  • Consider who’s sitting where in your vehicle. Can your “highly sensitive” people get some space if they desire? Sunglasses and head phones can be a great addition for these members of the family, to help with sensory overload. Are the “bigs” spaced out enough to be of assistance in passing things back and forth or to hold something for the baby? Can your chronic bathroom users get out quickly if need be?
  • Give each of your children their own map. This will save you many potential rounds of negotiating “control issues” (we all have a member of the family with a touch of OCD) and from answering the endless inquiries as to what town is next and how long will it take for us to get there. I simply remind them that they have the power to answer that for themselves!
  • When my kids were young, I made the decision to avoid trips to large urban entertainment places. This was for my own sanity as much as it was for my kids. I just knew the sensory load would be too much for any of us to truly enjoy ourselves. I made two exceptions: the zoo and the cinema. To make these trips as successful as possible, I would always schedule our visits for the least popular time, such as first thing in the morning on a Wednesday or a matinee during the week. I would do my very best to insure the everyone’s belly was good and full at the time of arrival and everyone was as regulated as possible.
  • I have found that it’s easier to get an early start rather than arriving at your first pit stop or destination super late. We make sure we’re all loaded up the night before, with just the last minute thing to add in the am. We lay out our clothes to ease the “I don’t know what to wears.” I get up, get ready, throw some of those readymade hash brown patties in the oven, and start waking and organizing and dressing. As the kids head to the van, I hand them each their hash brown ration and off we go. As home learners, we’re accustomed to full-on breakfasts. The hash browns, along with a bag of portable fruit, help with the quick transition from house to van and stave off the need to stop and eat a full breakfast before leaving. This insures that we’re usually good for several hours before we need to make a pit stop.
  • Strollers, slings and backpacks are your friends! First and foremost, they’re great assets in keeping everyone safely together. Secondly, they give you options. All that being away from home and exploring lots of new and exciting things can be draining for everyone. A good kind of draining… but still draining. Having a comfy safe place to chill out, nap snuggled up close or melt down safely is key to surviving your adventures. My Liam found being down low, walking or riding in the stroller, to very overwhelming in crowds. Being up on my back allowed him to be close to me and have the breathing room he needed to enjoy himself. I loved wearing him and packed him on my back until he was well past three years old. I think he’d still enjoy being there if I was up to it (he’s almost nine now)!

Shannon Shepley is an earth loving, veggie growing, frugal full-time attachment momma to four beautifully complicated children. Her family was formed through adoption, foster care and most importantly, choice.