Traveling with kids can either be wonderful or extremely painful. Really, it could go either way, and unfortunately it is not always in your hands to decide the outcome. However there a few tricks you can have up your sleeve to help steer the trip in the right direction.
These are 4 guidelines we try to follow when we travel.
1.) Make car trips the one time that all food rules get left at home. See our post on snack bags last week for more details. If I plan ahead, I also try to pack a meal to eat on the road. This allows us to not take the time to stop and eat especially if we are leaving close to a meal time. Even if you pack all the sides and just have to stop for the main dish (sandwich) you will save yourself time and money!
2.) Make car trips the one time that all movie watching rules go out the window. (not types of movie rules but quantity) Make some of the movies spiritual or educational to mix in with the fun movies. Don’t forget the library has a lot of free DVD’s to rent or I am sure you have a friend you can borrow a “new” one from. Books on tape are also a great option instead of DVD’s. We have a rule that for the first hour of our trip you have to play and read. If that is done without complaining then we will watch a movie. If there is a lot of arguing and complaining during a movie then it is shut off and they are to play with their other toys. Each kid gets to pick 2-3 movies to take with us depending on the length of the trip and we rotate who gets to pick the next movie. We never get through all the movies, but on our 900 mile Thanksgiving and Christmas trips we get close.
3.) When you stop, make it count.Do everything: get gas, get food, go to the bathroom and stretch those legs. Some of the time Nate will drop us off at a restaurant and I will take the kids in to go to the bathroom and order food while he goes to the gas station to fill up with gas. By the time he gets back we are almost ready to get back into the car. Even if the car has a half a tank left when we stop, we always fill up because there might be a child asleep when that half tank is gone and it is almost a sin to stop when you have a sleeping baby. Make everyone try to go to the bathroom, even when they “don’t have to.” If you don’t, they will have to go 5 miles down the room almost guaranteed! Nate is happy when we can be back on the road in less than 20 minutes.
4.) Pack strategic toys. Below I will list some of our favorite ideas that have worked well for us.
**Nate’s mom made us these book holders. They have been a life saver!! We use them for every trip. It allows the kids to actually reach their books, coloring books and toys since their arms aren’t long enough to reach a bag on the floor.
**Take a clip board for each kid. This helps them do worksheets or coloring pages with ease. (You can buy them for a dollar at Walmart.)
**Put crayons or markers in ziplock baggies instead of the boxes. It makes it a lot easier for the kids to see the crayons and not spill the whole box when they get the desired crayon out.
**For preschool/lower elementary kids: take lots of books and Tag Leap frog items (We will post about these products tomorrow)
**For toddlers: put 20 Duplo Legos into a gallon Ziploc bag and let them build and rebuild towers on their lap.
**For the baby: Take 20 toys: some that light up, some books, some cars or little person, some balls etc. They will play with them and then throw them. Have lots so you don’t have to stop every 20 minutes to get a toy for them. Take multiple sippy cups and snack containers for this reason too.
**Dress the kids lightly in the spring, summer and fall. You always get hot in a car and hot kids equal car sickness! Our kids also have a small blanket and pillow they take with them to aid in resting. Nate’s mom also made the pillows! 🙂
**Take clothespins and a light blanket to use as a sun shade when the sun is beaming into the baby’s eyes.
**Have your kids’ favorite songs or CDs to play in the car. There is nothing like a good old-fashioned sing-along to pass the time!
Remember, traveling is a training exercise for being able to sit still, entertain yourself and be self-disciplined. These are important life skills! It takes practice in and out of the car. Make sure you are giving them opportunities to practice these skills before you set foot into the car. Car trips are also a great opportunity to give and receive grace. Pray before you pull out of the driveway that you have safe travels, protection on the road and a pleasant and happy trip. You and your children will need it!
Make car trips a special bonding time. They can be a lot of fun if you take the time to prepare and think though the process.
What tricks have you learned to make car trips a pleasant, happy experience??