Kids in the Car and Peace on Earth

Are we there yet?

Taking a family vacation with kids and ensuring that everybody, including the adults have a good time means managing transportation time.  Whether you travel by plane, train or auto you undoubtedly will have time to fill. 

First consideration, stay home and forget the family vacation. You didn’t see that coming did you?  Or, plan, prepare and go make some memories. 

I am the mother of three adult children and their spouses and nine grandchildren.  I have four adult stepchildren and four step grandchildren.  In total 10 children and 13 grandchildren.  I’ve logged well over 100,000 travel miles with kids, these are my credentials and what makes me a semi-authority on the subject matter.

Every kid needs a travel pack. A travel pack can be just about any container you have around the house, but it needs to have a tight lid or close in some way.  The Dollar Store may be a great place to explore for a travel pack.  Kick it up a notch and go to Michaels or Hobby Lobby, they have decorative boxes with a variety of lids and closures, you’ll pay around $10 each.  Whatever you choose make sure it will fit in the seat beside your child or at least on the floorboard or within reach.

Something to do.  Several thigs to do.  What you put in the travel pack depends on the age of your children.  Items in a travel pack can be passed around from kid to kid.  Set an alarm on your phone, when it goes off, time to pass an item on.  Or, look for items that are the same, this keeps the squabbling to a minimum.  Each child might have a different activity with the same item. For example, playing cards. I am two years old and I can sort the cards by color.  I am 4-5 years old; I can pick out all the 2’s, 3’s, 4’s etc. and sort by suit.  I am 6-7 years old and I can find 2 cards that equal 6 or 7 and so on.  You have a 5th grader, find 3 cards that equal 7 or 8, you get the idea. One final thought, edit the deck of cards for younger kids by taking out all the J’s, Q’s, K’s and A’s.  Stress reliever - when kids get antsy and bored, play 52 pick-up.  They throw the cards and at the next stop, they crawl around and pick them up.  Warning, once you play 52 pick up don’t be surprised if they want to play it again! Maybe you save this when you have reached your destination.

Something to eat.  This is likely the easiest contribution to the travel pack.  The trick is to keep quantity of each item to a minimum and have a lot of variety.  Snack items might include grapes, Goldfish Crackers, pretzels, mini sandwiches cut into fun shapes (peanut butter and jelly or butter and jelly).  Pack snack items in snack size storage bags with fun and colorful stickers. Don’t forget water bottles with spill proof lids.

Are we there yet?  Help kids enjoy the journey by playing road games from counting red cars and state license plates to counting the mile marker signs along the highway.  Depending on the length of the trip give kids a treat along the way.  A 1000-mile road trip, every 100 miles dole out something special and include a token item that they add to a container in their travel pack.  When they have 10 items they will have arrived at their destination.  A fun treat is M&M’s and they save whatever color you say for their mileage countdown container.

Something to snuggle.  Include a special blanket, pillow or stuffed animal.  Believe me, quiet time is part of the trip as well.  Maybe 30 minutes when you get back in the car after taking a break.

Tablets, i-Phones and DVD movies.  These are life savers and will make your trip enjoyable.  Play a trivia game after they watch a movie.  Have kids do internet scavenger hunts from a list of questions they search the internet for answers.

Whatever you plan for your travel pack, remember you have the return trip and it is more likely that kids are tired, you are tired, and everybody wants to get home.  Talking about the trip, drawing pictures, trivia questions, looking at pictures and organizing them on mobile devices can be fun and rewarding. 

In the interest of full disclosure, you can purchase affordable and well put together travel packs on Amazon for all age groups.  The cost is manageable, at the very least check it out, you will be inspired by what to put in your own customized travel pack.  All you need to add is snacks, something to drink and a few personal activities and toys. 

Family time is precious time, spend it wisely.  Likely when you return home, you’ll be glad to be home and to have a bit of separation.  I say this because it is important to manage your expectations.  Kids get cranky, they fight with their siblings, they make messes and they are certain to need a bathroom break five minutes after you get back in the car after taking a bathroom break. Kids thrive on a routine and vacation is anything but routine, think how you might incorporate some familiar routine into your travel plans to help kids be less anxious.  Go make some memories because that is what will be with you a lifetime and I guarantee that kids will remember the time spent as a family with the stories they repeat at a holiday dinner or into the future with their own children.  I can almost guarantee it.
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