Summer vacations are meant to be for unwinding and spending some fun time with your family – a time when you get to leave all your work and household responsibilities behind. However, vacations can be stressful if not planned well, especially when young children are along for the ride.
The most stressful part of any vacation is getting there. That is why it’s best to do what you can to make the trip as painless as possible.
Many people are hitting the road for vacation to locales closer to home. April Taylor of Maryneal, mother of five children – two teens, one tween and two toddlers – offers some tips to make driving long distances with kids more pleasant.
- Utilize electronics. Each of Taylor’s children has access to a portable DVD or television. She brings cases of movies appropriate for each child, and the older ones bring along a game system to connect to one of the televisions. Portable gaming systems are also a good way for kids to pass the time. Her older children also have iPods loaded with music.
- Pack a toy bag. Taylor packs a toy bag for her toddlers, which not only includes some of their favorites but also a few new toys to keep their interest. Some good travel toys might include an Etch-A-Sketch or Magna Doodle, or a Leap Frog type “laptop.” Books, as well as drawing and writing activities are also good if your child does not get car sick reading. Favorite stuffed animals to cuddle with and magnetic toys are also good ideas. Try these websites for more travel toy ideas: www.travelmamas.com and www.best-child-toys.com.
- Bring plenty of snacks. Taylor packs a “snack basket” for her kids to keep handy where everyone is riding. She packs a cooler full of fruit and drinks. This not only keeps snacks handy, but also allows her to save money by avoiding expensive stops at convenience stores and gives her more healthy options that she may not find on the road.
- Plan stops. If the Taylor family takes a long road trip, they plan stops at rest areas or parks and allow their young children to get out and play for at least 15-30 minutes. “Then they’re ready to get back in the car,” she said.
Car games are another great way to pass time while on the road with your kids.
Try ThrivingFamily.com for some road game ideas that include printable instructions, score cards and other game cutouts for games like Dunk the Cows, Road Sign Bingo, 20 Questions and The Can Game.
Momsminivan.com also has some ideas for travel games with some helpful printables. Games on this site include a variety of car bingo games and scavenger hunt for road trips. This site also has ideas for creating a travel journal for your kids and instructions for making string figures.
One of the most important things to keep in mind is to remain flexible. When you have young children, keep in mind you are going to have to make more stops than you would without them. Work that into your trip schedule. And remember, inflexible adults are just as irritating to ride with as whiny children.