A Survival Guide for Traveling with Kids
By David Nelson
"Are we there yet?" "Mom, he's touching me!" "Well, she's looking at me!" "Are we there YET?" "I've gotta go!" "Aren't we THERE YET?"
It's phrases like these that drive fear into a parent's heart, and make you wonder why you ever thought taking a family vacation was going to be "fun!"
So what is a parent to do? Traveling with kids doesn't have to be a bad experience. Instead of deciding to leave the kids home for the next "family" vacation, relax! You can make traveling with the kids an enjoyable and stress-free experience by following these simple tips:
1. When possible, travel at night and let the kids sleep. But be cautious, because it's easy to get tired. If you find yourself getting sleepy, roll down the windows, play music, or better yet, find a safe place to pull over and take a 20 minute nap.
2. Plan your trip during the day with stops about every 90 minutes. By planning ahead, and using travel planning software, online trip planning sites or travel associations, you can find -- and stop at -- kid-friendly places such as parks with playgrounds, historic monuments or view areas where everyone can get out and walk around for a few minutes. Giving the kids even a 15 minute break will give them a chance to "get the wiggles out" and work off some energy.
3. Bring along some sing-along music. Although your kids may groan at first when you start singing, they'll soon join in, especially if the songs are either well-known, absurd or "gross." Think of your own childhood favorites, or camp songs. Singing can really help to pass the time, and creates happy memories later on. To help cut costs, you can even record your own CDs? If the kids don't know the words, create sing-along books for everyone by typing them in your Word processing program and printing them out.
4. Create a goodie-bag. Good ideas are travel toys and games, bubbles, inexpensive art books and pencils, even the latest in collectible cards or action figures. (To save money, look for seasonal sales or buy something every payday.) To cut down on arguments about sharing, you can set a time limit for playing with each game, before everyone has to switch. Individual presents can be wrapped or not, and given out at whatever schedule fits your needs and your kids' boredom levels. You can even choose particular games for particular stops, such as bubbles, Frisbees or small balls, which will encourage running off energy.
5. Bring along individual "quiet time" activities. These could include an art box (keep the supplies inside an inexpensive plastic shoe box), postcards or writing paper, or even a journal given to each child at the beginning of the trip. Encourage them to write letters, or record their thoughts and feelings. You can also bring along hand-held games, or inexpensive CD players and earphones, so that everyone can listen to the music or books of their choice. Depending on the space you've got and the length of time you'll be gone, each child could have their own box or backpack, to keep their things organized and accessible.
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Views expressed in the article are those of the author and are not necessarily the opinions of CaribbeanChoice, its staff or members.