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The Journey of Our Traveling Backpacks

A Family Afar


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Jon Bailey and Triton Klugh with their daughters, Ava (left, age 11) and Sophia (13), in Costa Rica

Since our girls were tiny, we’ve always traveled as a family. The destinations have been both pedestrian and exotic. The kids have been from Italy to Costa Rica, and Mexico to Florida.     

Like most parents, our anxiety about travel never stems from the destination, nor the hotel we’ve chosen, the activities we’ve booked, or the sights we’ll see. It’s the unknown horror of the flight that will deliver us to our destination, and how to avoid being those parents. You know the ones—anxious to calm their screaming kid; frantically singing songs and stuffing little mouths with Goldfish crackers while desperately walking up and down the aisle just to keep little hands away from everything and everyone.

Admit it: You’ve given those parents a dirty look served up with a quick side of judgment: I would never allow my kids to behave like that on a plane… I did it too. Before I became a parent.

Yep, we learned this lesson quick. Thus, the advent of the Traveling Backpack: A holy grail filled with items to keep each of our girls entertained for those long plane rides. Each is filled with age-appropriate activities—books, stickers, art supplies, and games—anything to hold their attention for more than a few minutes. There may be a few surprises packed in, favorite snacks or a new cuddly stuffed animal. Adding a journal for each trip is also a great option. Kids can chronicle their own adventures and experiences in each book and paste keepsakes they’ve collected, creating their own “Places I’ve Visited” library.

“Admit it: You’ve given those parents a dirty look served up with a quick side of judgment: I would never allow my kids to behave like that on a plane… I did it too. Before I became a parent.”

This actually works. We flew all the way to Paris when the kids were six and eight, and didn’t hear a wayward peep out of either of them. The practice is still in place.

The Traveling Backpacks have evolved. The girls have grown older and stuffed animals don’t carry the cachet they once did. Now The Backpacks are brimming with headphones, homework, issues of Teen Vogue, iPads filled with back episodes of Vampire Diaries, and other tween angst.

At home, each Backpack is tucked away in a safe, hidden place. The girls know the routine. When The Backpacks come out, we’re about to embark on a family adventure, and it’s like Christmastime again! The Traveling Backpacks have a special meaning to them, associated with fun and family, surprise and delight. And to us? The Backpacks mean we’re prepared parents who can overcome any obstacle; that our girls will be well-behaved little darlings.

That’s what we tell ourselves, anyway. And if all else fails, there’s always a little dose of Benadryl. 

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