Tips & Ideas for Traveling with Kids
Traveling with Children
If you have kids, you know that long car rides can get tricky! Not much time passes before you hear "Are we there yet?".
The best thing to do is to keep the kids preoccupied so they lose track of how much time has passed. Here's a few "tricks of the trade" that make the long trips more pleasant for everyone involved!
Flickr Photo Credit: By Jessica Lucia
The Key to Traveling with Kids
We have discovered by trial and error that a little advance planning will make our travels much smoother and possibly fun! The key to an enjoyable road trip is to keep the kids busy. Whether it is games, snack baskets, a movie or music, we have turned our car rides into a much more peaceful experience!
If your budget allows it, you could create a kids activity basket filled with scribble pads, colored pencils or crayons, mini games, travel activities, etc. They'll be distracted with new items so the time will pass quickly!
Keep in mind that the kids don't need to be occupied for every minute of the trip - just be prepared when they get bored, hungry or tired. Anticipate their mood and pack your vehicle accordingly - throw in a travel pillow and blanket if you will be traveling during nap time or late at night. I also don't want to interact with the kids 100% of the time, it gives me a sore neck from turning around! So I have some great ideas that will have the kids entertaining themselves with little participation from you.
My secret weapon is a "travel bag" that carries the necessities we need for our road trip. Below you will find my favorite travel bag must-haves.
Inexpensive Travel Helpers
These ideas will help you get a start on your travel bag. Remember, pick what is appropriate for the length of travel and your children's ages. It doesn't have to be expensive to be fun!
Books and Games
Of course this option depends on if your child can read without getting car sick. For little ones, baby board books can keep them occupied.
When I was younger, I always got a new word puzzle book when we took trips. You could let your child pick out a magazine or puzzle book that they don't normally get.
Most of the games we play only require brainpower - our favorite is "I Spy". The clues are simple ("I Spy something blue" would be a blue car traveling ahead of us) so it only takes a few guesses to figure it out. Another variation of this game is "I Am Hiding". It starts out as "I Am Hiding somewhere in the van - I am inside something". Then we take turns guessing what I am inside (the glove compartment, the steering wheel, etc). Sometimes we will play the color game - I will pick a color and we take turns finding something that color. Some games that we have stowed in our travel bag are Travel Bingo and Travel Scavenger Hunt. These are great for when Mom runs out of places to hide in the vehicle!
Great Travel Games - Busy Fun!
We keep a stash of snacks in our travel bag too - especially since we do much of our traveling during dinnertime. You'll want to keep in mind how messy some items can be, like chips. However, some great snacks for the vehicle are apple slices, trail mix, goldfish, chewy granola bars, popcorn, grapes, bite size cookies for kids and fruit snacks. They are relatively low on the messy scale (or are easy to clean up) and provide enough of a variety for the whole family. We also make sure to bring some drinks (make sure they are age appropriate like juice boxes, sippy cups or cans of pop with snap on lids). We don't overdo it on the drinks though, because this causes numerous "pit stops" on our journey.
If your vehicle isn't already equipped with a DVD player, you can get one relatively cheap at any store. The kind that mounts right to the headrest is great, so the child doesn't have to hold it. If you have more than one child, it's best to get the duel-screen DVD players, so it's easier for both of them to watch, and having them wear headphones will give you some peace and quiet.
We carry mainly Disney movies because they are entertaining for a number of age groups. Another great entertainer is a DVD filled with their favorite TV show episodes - like Spongebob. That way they get a little break after each episode and don't get bored with a long movie.
Portable DVD Players - aka Travel Life Saver!
iPod or MP3 Player
Both of my boys have their own MP3 player loaded with their favorite songs. This is saved us on many trips. It's a good time for them to get a little "down time" where they don't have to listen to the conversations around them and can just listen to their music while watching the scenery or closing their eyes for a rest.
If you think your child would enjoy it, you could also download audio books.