Picture this: sibling fights, spilled water bottles, crayons galore, hunger, exhaustion… No this is not a nightmare. You are traveling with kids.
While that is the stereotype of travel when kids are involved, you can not only survive but thrive through this experience! It will not be easy. But armed with the proper tips and a desire to maintain your sanity, you can do it!
1. Gather all the activities
While you don’t want to overpack, bringing along plenty of entertainment for your children is essential to survival while traveling. Depending on the number of children you have, allow each child a certain number of toys. Bring along coloring books, radio dramas and small games to surprise them with along the way.
2. Throw it back to film
Remember those disposable film cameras that were the absolute coolest?! If you children are not old enough to handle a real, digital camera or phone camera, teach them about the gadgets that were all the rage back in your childhood. Even this inexpensive variety of camera will encourage your kids to enjoy not only the destination, but the journey.
3. Avoid sweet treats
While sweets may provide momentary satisfaction, those happy feelings will quickly come crashing to an end. Children are difficult enough to control, even when they aren’t on a sugar rush. Keep more savory snacks on hang, which will keep your children fuller longer. Think cheese cubes, crackers, fruit, bagels and more.
4. Keep a travel journal
Encourage your kids to keep a travel journal throughout your trip. They can draw, write and make lists of what they are seeing, doing and feeling. If they are resistant to this idea, keep a family travel journal in which each member of the family (including you!) contributes. Maybe you could even title the final product “Traveling With Kids.”
5. Play family games
The family fun doesn’t have to stop with journals! Have some fun family games ready to go if you sense the mood is starting turn down an unsavory road. Think I Spy, The License Plate Game, Hangman, 20 Questions, 3 Truths and A Lie…
6. Pack two bags
Even if you are not traveling by plane, still have each child pack a ‘carry on’ and a regular bag. The carry on should contain entertainment, snacks, water and any other traveling necessities. The regular bag will contain everything else, including overnight supplies and extra clothes.
7. Stay cheerful
Children often mimic the actions and attitudes of their parents. Present your children with a positive model throughout your journey. Maintain your authenticity as much as possible, but hold yourself back from sighing, grumbling or general complaining. Counter any negativity with cheerful and optimistic comments.
8. Disc jockey time
A little background music may seem to have little effect on the irritability of your children. But if you allow each child to search and play their favorite tunes, listening to music becomes an enjoyable activity. Take fair turns, learn a little more about your children’s musical tastes and dance along!
9. Plan ahead
Traveling with kids does not have to be nightmare… but you don’t want to push your luck! Plan ahead to reach your destination as efficiently as possible. Map out rest stops, meals and maybe even mini destinations along the way.
10. Take your time
Wherever you are headed, your trip is more than the destination. Make traveling part of the journey! Relish this time together as a family. Don’t rush those moments of laughter while grabbing hamburgers and fries for dinner. Make a pit stop at that dog park your child spots from the road. Those will be the moments you remember and cherish for years to come.
No matter how long your journey, the all-encompassing key to traveling with children is not letting them become aware of the distance or time required in between you and your destination. Distraction is essential, achieved through surprises and activities. But in the end, the success and pleasurability of your travels largely depend on you — on your mood, on your preparedness, on how you approach this challenging situation. Make the most of this opportunity and you just might survive traveling with children!