All kidding aside, traveling with children is a fun and rewarding experience. We typically travel by car, as buying tickets for 5 people to fly is a little too pricey for our budgets. Traveling by car is an intimidating endeavor, especially when kids are involved. How to entertain them, make them comfortable, and set it up to be enjoyable for them is a daunting task. I have some tips that have worked for us (through trial and error) that can help you and your family, too.
Planning ahead for every trip may not be possible, as family emergencies unfortunately come into play that may call us to travel on short notice. But, most trips are planned in advance, so use this time to find some fun stops between your “start” and “stop” points. If you have wiggle-room in your schedule, you could find fun destinations, like museums, parks, etc. But, if you are trying to travel at a faster pace, just find a local Target store or a fun Kid-themed restaurant. Break-up the trip as best as you can, to get the kids moving around & to let your mind leave the road for a few minutes.
Pack for Them Individually
In addition, each child needs their own comfort items in the car. All of my kids have had favorites stuffed animals, so those always make the trip. But, so do blankets and pillows for each child. I also let them each pack their own little backpack full of fun things for the trip. My oldest packs some Legos and other small toys, and I use the bottom of the bag to pack a change of clothes for him. My girls are younger, and I help them choose a few blocks and toys to include in their bags, and I pack a couple extra diapers and their clothes at the bottom,too. This helps to eliminate fighting over toys, since each child has their own. I also try to pick up a few little toys (inexpensive ones) leading up to the trip to add to their bag. My kids love those little drawing and coloring pads that have markers or crayons included. I recently found some at Target that have a little paint brush, which you fill with a little bit of water in the handle, that will uncover the colors on the sheets of the pages. Then, the pages dry & they can be reused over and over again. I got one of every design they had (each pad has maybe 5 pages, spiral bound) to keep for upcoming travel.
Pack Some Snacks
When we were first starting out traveling with our kids, we would get a big bag of popcorn, some bottles of water, and some apples/oranges for the trip. That only left me to somehow get popcorn to 1-3 hungry/bored kids, somehow divide the water into 1-3 sippy cups, and somehow peel an orange or apple on the road. Now, I have learned that each kiddo needs their own stash of snacks. I have found that small craft supply storage boxes, with little divided boxes inside, work really well to hold snacks. I use things like cheerios, fresh blueberries, string cheese (cut into small Os), Goldfish crackers, and other small bite size snacks fit perfectly into these little spaces, and it will not hold too much of anything, so waste is kept minimal. If the trip is more than a day of travel, bring the big bags of those snacks with you. Nothing drains the travel budget faster than a snack-stop to replenish supplies at a truck stop or gas station. If all else fails, make that Target trip I mentioned in the first step a supply run, too.
Traveling is not the time to instill values to your kids, like “no electronics,” in my opinion. My kids are all young still, so enjoying the scenery and the wonders of nature are really not hours-long sustaining activities. That being said, our portable dvd player has been one of the smartest investments we have made. We recently purchased a dual-screen set that can be linked together to play the same video, or separated to play 2 different ones. Before we take a trip, I will make a surprise dvd purchase (my kids love the Leap Frog series of dvds, and I feel good letting them learn while we travel) and keep it under wraps until we hit “that point” on the trip. It is a great chance to get the kids excited, almost like a mini-break on the trip, to get them started watching the movie, having some snacks, and getting settled in.
With these tips, a lot of coffee and a good map, you can have as smooth of a trip as possible when traveling with kids. Sitting in a car for 8-18 hours is no one’s idea of fun, unless maybe you are a semi-truck driver. We are an army family, so we really have tried these tips out! And they have helped us all relax a little more on the road.