Travelling with kids can be the test of a saint’s patience. Long car rides, cramped airplanes, and a lot of exhaustion can make children irritable and challenging. There are a few things that you can do to make the trip easier, no matter where you are going or how you are getting there.
Most of these suggestions are for people traveling by car to a destination, but much of it can be applied to flying and trains, as well.
Plan your stops
If you are traveling by car, plan to stop every 1.5 to 2 hours. Many parents know that they will need to stop, but it will be much less stressful if you plan the stops. Look for short tourist stops, short hiking trails, and playgrounds to stop at. If you can get the energy out of the children, they will likely sleep or at least relax.
Grab healthy snacks
Many families are in the habit of stopping along the way to their destination for snacks at a roadside shop. This may mean eating sugary or salty snacks and caffeinated, sugar-filled beverages.
This can be your undoing. Try making sandwiches and taking fruit for snacks. For easy handheld snacks, popcorn and multi-grain chips can be great.
Pack a variety of activities
Video games and movies in the car are fine, but that might not be enough. Pack crayons and coloring books, books to read, and hand-held puzzles. Magazines are always a great option because they are easy to read, can be discarded (or shared with someone else), and can give everyone something to talk about.
Be prepared to talk to your children. Not about how they are doing in school, but about the kinds of things that they like. If they are into football, know what is going on in the league. If they like celebrities and pop music, take an hour and brush up on the latest songs and gossip.
Bring 'their' music
Most children over the age of the ten have their own style of music that they prefer. It might sound like a house falling onto you, but they like it. Surprise them by having a mix of their music at hand.
When they start get tired and a bit grumpy, play music that they love. It will cheer them up and you will look like a hero. Also consider Audiobooks!
Everyone gets a phone call
Let each child call a friend to let them know where they are. Very young children, obviously, won’t need or want to, but it might be fun for a 5 or 10-year old to call a friend or the grandparents on the way.
Find a game that involves the road
There are activities that can be done all over the world. Geocaching (www.geocaching.com), hidden caches that have been placed all over the planet, can be a fun game for the whole family. Plan to stop and geocache everywhere and give every family member a free profile.
Ingress (www.ingress.com) is another game that is in many places. It involves finding virtual portals on a map and ‘hacking’ them. It can be fun and spark competition. Both are free and a new dimension to the landscape.
Give everyone a job
Older children are often placed in charge of watching the younger ones, but give them a different chore. Charge them with posting photos on social media of your trip as it goes along. Tell them that it is their job to chronicle the funny, pretty, and exciting parts of the trip. Younger children can be the scouts, on the lookout for ‘cool’ stuff to take pictures of.
Find the brain
If you have a child that loves to recite facts and information, let them be the official tour guide. They can plan ahead to find historical information, statistics, and other details to share on the trip.
After a while, it might become a bit taxing to listen another story about how a city was involved in a battle or how the native people lived there, but it is better than breaking up fights and listening to “I’m bored” a thousand times a day.
There are lots of great ways to keep children excited and involved in a trip. The most important key is to plan ahead for the things that they need and look for ways to get everyone involved.