Are We There Yet?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if those words had never been invented! Traveling with children a long distance can be a real trial, but it doesn’t have to be. I have raised four children and have six grandchildren and I love taking them with me. I have learned what works well, what works for a while and what not to bother trying. (Don’t bother telling them to be quiet or still! They really can’t do either very long.) Here are my top 5 suggestions of how to keep them happy and yourself sane on a family trip.
Preparations for Traveling with Children
Children are always hungry and thirsty. It will cut down the whining if they don’t have to go hungry and thirsty the whole trip. When packing for the family trip plan mess-free snacks, stay away from chocolate or any other melty sticky gooey foodstuff that you don’t want to clean off the seats, floors and windows. Bring bottled water, and a felt tip pen to mark names on bottles. Don’t bring anything in the car that when spilled will make a sticky stain. Doesn’t Natural Law state, “The messier the mess the more likely the spill?”
Allow Extra Time
Depending on just how far your family trip is and how much time you have. Plan time for scheduled restroom breaks. Don’t let restroom stops be optional! If you plan restroom stops at even intervals and make everyone get out of the car and “try” to go, you will have a lot less, “But, I didn’t have to go then.” Even with scheduled stops, there will be times when traveling with children that they need to “go.” And, there isn’t anything to do then but stop the car. But if you make them at least try to go potty at the scheduled stops, you will find the necessity for unplanned stops greatly reduced.
Take Extra Clothes
It is inevitable that if you don’t take extra clothes on your family trip, you will end up at the store buying them or have a child that is cold and miserable for hours. Children spill, fall down, find puddles and wet their pants. That is just the way they are, they really can’t help it! Bring a plastic bag to put the wet clothes into so they aren’t soaking into the carpet or worst case scenario, stinking up the car. It only takes an extra few minutes of preparation to save a lot of bother later.
On the Family Trip
Family trips are about everyone in the family having a good time. Children love to feel empowered and free. They love to think that you put everything on hold for them. One of the best memories I hear my children talk about was a time when we were on a 6-hour drive home and we passed a sign on the freeway that said, “Zoo next exit” They were tickled pink when I said, “Do you want to go to the zoo?” The choice was theirs, they were empowered, and by doing something totally off the plan they felt free. (So did I) We got home a little later than I had planned and I was tired the next day. But, I would do that again in a heartbeat.
Keeping The Children Entertained
This is the easy part. There are several ways to entertain the children on the road. What you choose depends on the children, you and how long they will be stuck in seat-belts. My younger children always loved making up stories. (Where we took turns adding on to what the last person said.) My older children always preferred singing fun songs as a family. They all liked looking for the alphabet on license plates. But those activities get old for me and sometimes start arguments amongst them. Because let’s face it, a 6 or 8-hour car ride is a long time to play silly games or sing.
Portable DVD players have gotten popular as a form of entertainment on family trips. But, I like quality family time, isn’t that what the vacation is for? When we have a trip that will be over two hours locked in seat-belts, I like to go to the local public library and check out a book on CD. Most libraries have a very good selection and the price is perfect. If you don’t know what book to get, check out more than one or ask the children’s librarian to recommend one that is age appropriate. If you are planning ahead and know what book you want they can usually order it from another library for you if they don’t have it on their shelf. There have been times when the trip ended before the book and they didn’t want to get out of the car! The best part about borrowing a book is; I get entertained too! And we almost always end up talking about the book later, as a family.
Traveling with children can be lots of fun. You just have to remember that kids will be kids! And that is why we have adults!