Tried and True Tips for Traveling with Kids
By: Jodie Lynn
Get the kids involved. Who says they can't help to pick out a place and magically become a part of the "adventure?" Show them a few choices written out on piece of paper and let them look at the areas with you on the Internet. Print out information sheets on the ones they are excited about. Don't show or print out any place that you are not really considering. One year, we only considered beaches. Each beach was written on the inside of a handmade card. The kids drew, colored and cut out balls, umbrellas, birds, fish, among other things, and placed them inside a plastic bucket. There were four of us so we made four of each object to be placed in the bucket. Each one of us pulled out a suggestion while turning our head. Whichever one was pulled out the most was the winner of our vacation spot.
If you are flying, pack as few toys as possible. Instead, use the travel size Etch-A-Sketch and other toys that make little noise but provide plenty of fun entertainment for hours. Let them sketch an object on the plane or outside the window. One year, my kids drew the people and animals from our neighborhood from memory and it kept them busy for so long that they were not even aware how long we had been traveling.
Pack surprises in their luggage and carryon bags, little things that will delight them when they are found. Don't pack too many overall or too many in the same place. These kinds of things will make the vacation more exciting and will give the kids something more to do. The more they have to do, remember, is the less they have to complain about.
Don't pull out anything until they ask for it. Let them attempt to have fun on their own by just looking around or by playing "I Spy" with shapes of clouds. For example, whoever finds an object amongst the clouds first, wins a point to continue the game or change it. Let the adult say a shape like "bear." Whoever sees a cloud that looks like a bear first, can win a point towards the five-point minimum of staying with the game and becoming the leader or changing it.
Make sure to take along old favorites. Despite any new toys or games they may have gotten recently, they will always want their some of their special, older ones, whether they agree with this or not while packing.
Buy inexpensive cameras for the trip. Let each child have their own and let them take pictures whenever they feel like it. Cameras are great assets in building and producing family memory books. Tell the kids that after they take a picture, they can write down information or a story about the object that they just took a picture of. This will not only keep them busy, but also will make a great and creative memory book when the picture is placed on each page. In fact, they can trace or draw a rectangle anywhere on the page for the picture to be placed. By letting them choose the area, it could end up anywhere on the page, making each child's memory book unique and interesting from page to page.
Travel in the early mornings or late evenings. If you travel at an off-time when the kids are sleepy, they will not be bothered by extended traveling times as they will probably sleep for most of the initial time.
Don't forget to pack plenty of snacks. Whether you are traveling with a baby or an elementary school-age child, pack water and light, edible, no-mess snacks, excluding chocolate and anything else with caffeine. Don't forget the kid wipes. These can be used by everyone for cleanup of any mess. In addition, they can be taken out of their original packaging and placed inside a plastic freezer bag for easier, less bulky packing.
Make sure your emergency contact information is current. The information for phone numbers, names of doctors and friends/relatives to contact change from time to time. In addition, carry a current photo of your family in your wallet, purse or whatever travel sack you are using to carry valuables.
Dress your family all in one color. You will need to allow kids to run around more times than not. Frequent stops or time to allow them to stretch, use the bathroom and move around a little is a lot safer if everyone is wearing the same color.
One point to remember is to call ahead of time to see if the hotel or area might offer activities for your kids. They love you and you love them, but between the ages of 4 to 7, they would probably enjoy a little "away" space as much as you would. It's perfectly fine for them to have their own activities for a couple of hours while you have personal time with hubby or go shopping. For ages 8 and older, they get a kick out of their own special - but supervised - freedom for up to three hours or more. Let them have it. Leave your cell number in case anything comes up (or if previously agreed - your spouse's number) and take it one day at a time.
© 2004 Jodie Lynn
Jodie Lynn is an internationally syndicated parenting/family columnist. Her latest book is Mommy-CEO: 5 Golden Rules, 2001 revised edition. Please see http://www.ParentToParent.com/ for more details and check out the brand new LOGO (located in the left hand lower corner of the main page) on Mommy, CEO merchandise: hoodies, caps, calendars, cups, etc. - items for the real CEOs!