Children can be such a comfort. Well, sometimes. Last week, I wrote about the calming effect my kids had on me when I boarded a plane in a tremulous state. Getting them settled and their infectious excitement mellow me. But sometimes the kids need comfort, too. They often find this in something they hold and cherish, and I don't mean their mother. I am reminded of this need a day before our journey to Brussels. I have just been checking the kids' suitcases to see what they have packed. I leave it up to them now and check the contents after they have gone to sleep. Savanna, eight, by far the most sensible of my three kids, has packed three of everything for the three-day trip. There is only one single item - her blanket. It's not really a blanket, but just a big tatty scarf her dad brought her from Istanbul. She takes it with her wherever she goes.
I've noticed she hasn't packed her My Little Travel Wrap - a product that boasts of being a woolly nest for children to snuggle in on their journeys (www.thetravelwrapcompany.com). It has won Luxury Gift of the Year, but not Savanna's heart. More such products are coming out. Dusky Moon has brought out Dream Tubes, a portable bed guard made of two big squashy shaped pillows, which squeeze into a small carrying bag, joined by a fitted sheet (www.duskymoon.co.uk). You spread out the fitted sheet and inflate the tubes, making bolsters on either side of your child wherever they are sleeping.
But both these products have missed the point about what children look for while away. They don't crave comfort. It's not the blanket-like nature of the scrappy scarf that makes Savanna take it on each trip. It's because she has had it for years and it was given to her by her father. Fond associations and familiarity are not things you can purchase, although My Little Travel Wrap costs about US$200 (Dh735).
In fact, my kids don't really need anything for comfort while travelling. I think it's a bit of performance for them, insisting on filling up the luggage with items that have no real use just to annoy their mother. Savanna's twin brother takes delight in placing his collection of toy cars at the bottom of every suitcase, knowing I will take them out again. Although, perhaps, there is one thing they would feel a little lost travelling without. Me.
Do you have family travel tips that you'd like to share? E-mail Dea at firstname.lastname@example.org