The Temperament and Travel series moves on to take a look at another temperament trait that deserves much thoughtfulness during travel: Sensitivity. As with each of the major temperament traits, most of us fall somewhere in between distant ends of this trait, but if your child skews much more toward the Highly Sensitive end or the Low Sensitivity end of this spectrum, you may already know some of the challenges that come with traveling with these children. Do either of these sound like your young traveler?
Highly sensitive – Is he easily upset by loud noises, bright lights, and does he tire more quickly than other children in stimulating environments? Does he wake up easily from unexpected noises? Turn his nose up at the smell of foods that don’t seem to bother anyone else?
Low sensitivity – Could he happily go about his business in the middle of a tornado? Do you need to remind him to adjust his volume in some social settings, or not to play with other children’s toys without asking?
We’ll tackle travel with the Highly Sensitive Child today.
In the restaurant or along the boardwalk, the food options, noises, or odors may make it difficult to feed this child at the same time and place as others in the family. So when possible, plan a vacation that will take the pressure off at meal times rather than put it on.
Having flexible dining options and the ability to create custom meals at your accommodations could be especially important ingredients for a happy family vacation with the Highly Sensitive child.
In addition to experiencing her own frustrations, this child picks up on other people’s frustrations as well, so also take care with how you express yourself when the trip doesn’t go as planned (flight or train delays, traffic jams, lost luggage, etc.).
If she is sensitive to noise, remember to request a room away from the elevator or ice machine, and prepare for takeoff and landing by saying “We’ll hear the engines start in a minute, they’ll sound like a loud hum…can you hear them now?” to help assure her unfamiliar noises and sensations, including those in her ears, are as they should be.
Accept that Disneyland-type experiences may simply be overwhelming for this child in her early years—three rides may be enough for her, regardless of how long you planned to visit the theme park (or how much you paid for passes).
Be careful not to plan too tight of itineraries as what feels like a full, fun day to you may get to be too much pressure to arrive too many places on time, and too many different experiences to process in her own special way.
THE SILVER LINING: If you’re thinking travel with a highly sensitive child sounds like too much trouble, just wait until you hear her recounting memories from your vacation of things you’d barely noticed at the time, all making you realize how deeply she experiences travel and appreciate what a keen mind she has for details. As she grows, you can look forward to some great travel journals from this kid (believe you me)! 😀
Read More from the Temperament and Travel Series:
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More tips and advice are on the way! For help for planning travel of every kind–with babies and children of every temperament–in Travels with Baby: The Ultimate Guide for Planning Travel with Your Baby, Toddler, and Preschooler.
Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning Travels with Baby guidebooks
What?! Your kids aren’t babies anymore? Head over to Family Travel 411