Kid-friendly Holiday Traveling
“Are we there yet?”
“Mom, tell Sally to quit looking at me!”
“If you kids don’t stop crying I’m going to pull over and give you something to cry about!”
“Dad, he hit me!”
Ah. Isn’t holiday travel with kids just so much fun?
There are a few things we as parents can do to make the ordeal less painful.
First of all, begin by preparing your kids for the upcoming trip. Talk about how you are going to get in the car (or on a plane) and go visit so-and-so. If your children are old enough, get out a map, and show them where you live and where you are going. Explain to the kids that the trip might take a long time and it might seem like you’ll never get there but you’re going to try to make it as fun as possible.
Enlist their suggestions for how the trip might be able to be made fun. Chances are they will come up with things that are doable and things that aren’t. Work with the things that you can. For example, the kids might suggest bringing their favorite board game with them in the car. This isn’t feasible, obviously, but there are quite a few travel games that are made these day by companies. Involve the kids in picking these games out.
Come up with some snacks that you keep only for traveling. It might be a special kind of cookie that you make only for trips, or it might be a treat that you don’t normally let your children eat. (Remember the effects of sugar though!) It’s probably in your best interest to pull out this special treat when more than half the trip is over, and your other options have run out. In the mean time, include into your travel snacks healthy options as well, such as favorite fruits and nuts.
Have the kids pick out sticker books or new reading books to take on their trip. Dole them out as the trip proceeds. If you give them everything right away, it will become boring very quickly. If however, you have a stash that you dip into every few hours, the duration of the trip can be kept fresh.
Sites like Crayola and FamilyFun.com (from Disney) have some great traveling pages that provide entertaining activities and can be printed out for free from their respective websites. In addition to these activity sheets, there are travel games you can do as a family in the car to help pass the miles; it might be trying to come up with a song for every letter of the alphabet, or the license plate game, or I Spy.
Get the whole family involved in creating a story. Start it out, then leave it hanging. The next person has to pick it up and add to it. These stories can get pretty fun and crazy and kids usually love to make them silly. Even very young children can get involved in making up stories.
Chart the process of your journey on a map in the car if your trip is an exceptionally long one. Show the kids how far you’ve gone and how much farther you have to go. Children don’t always grasp the concept of time but they can grasp the size of lines.
I understand that many of us would rather get in the car and go until we arrive at our destination, but keep in mind, little legs get restless and frequent stops can help get some of the wiggles out. If possible, let the kids race around on an area of grass at a rest stop, as fast as they possibly can. If there is no running space, have them jump up and down and shake their heads and their arms, encouraging them to help get the wiggles out.
At your rest stops, let the kids change places in the car. This will help cut down on a lot of the, “But I want to sit next to the window!” If your kids are old enough, let them take turns sitting in the front seat. This not only switches things up, but it gives you, the parent, an opportunity to crawl into the back and maybe get some cuddling time in with your kiddos.
Even if you are a family that normally does not watch a lot of television and videos, don’t rule out the possibility of getting a DVD player for long trips. Goodness, I’m not a big TV or movie person, but even I would enjoy the break from boredom that a fun movie could provide while in the car!
Unless you struggle with car sickness, use the travel time to read stories with your kids. This might be several short stories for younger kids or it may be a book like one from The Chronicles of Narnia with older kids.
Go to your local library and borrow different kinds of music to listen to. Include classical music from different time periods, jazz, blues, and opera. Listen to the different CDs and get a discussion going with the kids about how the music is all different and what they like and don’t like about it.
When our kids do get ornery and upset while traveling, we need to step back as adults and remember that we are kind of grumpy ourselves after several hours in a car. Just imagine what it’s like in a back seat that’s crowded and being a little person who doesn’t quite know how to express frustration and boredom appropriately. We need to attempt to see the situation through our children’s eyes instead of growing angry with them for their complaining.
Finally, look at your trip as a time to spend time with your kids. If they hear you telling other people how much you are dreading the trip because the kids will be miserable and it’s just going to be awful, the kids will go into it with the same mindset and it will be an awful time. But if you build it up as a time for the family to be together and do things (and eat things) you normally wouldn’t, the trip can be fun.
Any type of traveling, especially the longer it is, is going to take its toll on all of you. By the time you all arrive at your destination, chances are you’ll be glad you’re there. Hopefully, however, you don’t have to drive each other nuts on the way there!