You may have noticed that we’ve been traveling quite a bit this summer. We decided to limit the number of camps and lessons we scheduled for the kids so we could spend more time playing, attending conventions, seeing the country and simply enjoying the time together. It’s only a matter of time and our teenager will have a summer job and our opportunities to travel as a family will be even more limited.
Ever since the girls were babies, we have taken on the task of traveling. Sometimes to visit family, other times short weekend trips, as well as grand adventures to New York, Acapulco, Disney, Turks and Caicos, Hawaii, and a Hot Wheels convention, just to name a few. We even took the kids on a cruise. As the girls have matured, the travel experience has definitely gotten easier. They do their own packing, communicate their needs (IE food/restroom breaks) while on the road and spend less time asking “Are we there yet?” But traveling is tiresome on its own; trying to factor children into the trip is an additional challenge. By packing the right distractions, venturing out with children can be fun. Here are some ideas for keep kids entertained and comfortable during long trips:
No matter how old the kids are, some things are universal. Playing car bingo or looking for license plates is entertaining. I remember a road trip when I was a kid and how excited I was to see a Hawaii license plate. I had a travel notebook with all the states listed and marked them off as I discovered them. Depending on the length of the trip, those simple tasks will only go so far. Be sure to pack snacks and activities for everyone on the journey. If your vehicle has a built-in entertainment system, pack movies that are friendly for the whole family. You can even find a handful of board games and compact puzzles like Hexus, Katamino and IQ Link that are perfect for use in the car.
Baby / Toddler Travelers
Babies and toddlers are going to get tired, bored, hungry and anxious. Let me repeat that. It isn’t that they MIGHT get antsy. They will… so be prepared by packing with a plan!
Feeding items: Bottles or sippy cups, food, bibs, wet wipes. We always pack a couple plastic travel bowls to help prevent snacks from ending up all over the rest of the vehicle.
Change of clothes: For those times when the mess is just too much to deal with. Sometimes that means they spilled their sippy cup, but let’s be honest and admit all the other unspeakable incidents. It’s happened to the best of us. With the change in eating habits, higher anxiety as well as excitement, sometimes their stomachs just cannot handle the change. Or worse, maybe they just get carsick. Keep a change of clothes handy just in case. It doesn’t take up that much room and you’ll be glad you have them if you need them.
Zipper bags: Pack a box so you have something to put wet clothes, dirty diapers or open packages of snacks. Or in the case of incidents where a change of clothes is needed… those.
Entertainment: This is a big one. Be sure to pack age-appropriate toys including rattles, teddy bears and board books. Find small items that don’t take up a lot of space but offer a lot of entertainment. Consider investing in a few new small items that will buy you extra “newness” time. Here’s a piece of advice though: Do NOT pack repetitive, noisy things that will ultimately drive YOU crazy.
Food: For preschoolers, nipping hunger pains in the bud can make the experience run much smoother. Pack an assortment of travel-friendly snacks and drink boxes. As I mentioned previously, having plastic bowls for snacks is fantastic. I’ve also been told that silicone muffin cups fit nicely in cup holders making cleanup of snacks a breeze. If you’re traveling on the plane, pack a reusable water bottle or sippy cup to fill with the complimentary juice. Keep in mind that you should pack the kind that won’t build up pressure. We made that mistake once and had pent-up juice squirt all over the place. Yeah, it was a mess.
Change of clothes: As with babies and toddlers, it doesn’t hurt to have a chance of clothes on hand for when that inevitable spill happens.
Entertainment: Pack a few books as well as a children’s tablet. When you’re traveling, encourage kids to balance their “free” time between educational activities, games, digital entertainment and sleeping.
Elementary (and above) Travelers
Food: Snacks! See a common theme here? Fruit is the ultimate portable food. They come with their own biodegradable packaging (bananas) or require no packaging at all (grapes). My favorite thing to pack is grapes. It’s easy to pop a few to take the edge off between meal breaks. Of course, we also use trips as an excuse to get seldom-purchased treats like cola gummies. Crackers and chips travel well also and don’t require a cooler.
Entertainment: Crafts. Use dedicated travel time to teach them to crochet, knit or create something. There are a lot of craft kits available that travel well. Books! It’s an opportunity to let them live their own adventure by encouraging them to read. To offset that, allow electronic time with some type of electronic game, laptop or tablet.
As I mentioned previously, be sure to pack a few inexpensive plastic bowls to make drive-thru food a little less messy. A sample sized bottle of dish soap is perfect for washing them out, too or purchase a roll of the paper towels that have the dish soap built in like we used for our mason jar milkshakes.
No matter the age of your child, use the travel time as an opportunity to bond. Whether by playing games or just talking, make the most of it. You won’t regret it.
Where are you headed on your next family trip?