In just a few short weeks, the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays will be upon us and with them, for many of us, comes travel to visit friends and family. According to AAA (American Automobile Association), in 2010, “42.2 million Americans traveled 50 miles or more from home over the Thanksgiving weekend” (History.com).
If you’ll be hitting the road or the skies this holiday season with small children in tow, my deepest sympathies. Just kidding. Actually, with our own children, ages 9, 5 and 3, we’ve found a variety of strategies to make long travel with small children less painful, and often even enjoyable.
1. Use the DVD player.
If you have one, use it strategically. For instance, in the middle of a meltdown or fight between kids, popping in a DVD can do wonders to soothe them and restore calm. However, if you play DVDs a lot in the car, this might not work as well. That’s why strategic use is essential.
2. Take breaks.
If you’re driving, take breaks. One of the rest stops on the way to my mom’s house has a large playground, so we always make sure to stop there for about 15 minutes so the kids can run around, stretch and play. If you’re on a plane, let the kids walk the aisles with you for a few minutes just to get out of the seat and move around.
3. Bring sticker books.
Kids love stickers. We invested $8 in a thick sticker books for each of our two younger children. This kept them occupied for hours on a recent long trip.
4. Play car games.
In the age of Pinterest, you can find many, many car games. One car game is a bingo sheet that, instead of letters, has pictures of different things you’ll see when driving such as a stop sign, a traffic light, etc. As your kids find these items, they can mark off the box. The typical bingo rules apply.
Of course, you can also go low tech and play I Spy or create a family story. One family member says the first sentence of a story, the next family member creates the second sentence until everyone in the car has created a sentence. You’ll likely be amused at how the story turns out.
5. Listen to audio books.
Now that days are so much shorter, if you’re taking a long drive, kids will have less time to do activities in the car that require light such as many of the suggestions above. When darkness falls, pull out the audio books. Kids will listen to the story, and if you’re lucky, perhaps even fall asleep.
6. Bring food and water.
Young children get hungry every few hours. If you don’t want to stop constantly, make sure to pack healthy snacks for the kids. Dried fruit or freeze dried fruit is a healthy, mess free option. Water is also mess free. Give each child their own small bag of treats for easy dispensing while driving.
Traveling with young children requires preparation, but if you have a number of different activities to do with the kids, you’ll find that the trip goes faster for everyone.
What are your favorite techniques for enjoyable travel with young children?