Monday, March 25, 2013

Ten Tips for Traveling with Children

In last Monday's list of ten vacation spots for families, I alluded to our first trip with a nine-month old baby. Terrified might be a bit strong, but we were certainly anxious.

Our little hatchback never exceeded the posted speed limit, and it was packed to the hilt with every bit of baby gear we owned, except perhaps the winter coat. After all, it was only September. We drove only three hours to a small lake-side town to walk the beach, see the lighthouse, and sit in our hotel room. Yeah, we didn’t know much about parenting, and we took really boring vacations.

Now we travel across the country with six children in tow. {Although we don’t let them drive! J} It's been a steep learning curve, but our love of travel has motivated us. So, without further yakking about us, here are ten tips I hope you find helpful as you travel with your children.

Plan. Moments of parents standing around trying to figure out what to do next are breeding grounds for poor behavior by bored children.

Share the plan with the children. When they know where they're going and what they'll be doing, they'll come along more willingly.

Better yet, let them be a part of the decision-making process. During our days at SeaWorld, our 13yo planned our show times, and our 9yo read the map to lead us through the park. {We don’t really need the map anymore since we’ve been there so much, but he enjoyed being the trailblazer. J

Slow down. Enjoy the time together, not just the sites. We spent a week at SeaWorld when most people spend just a day or two. Some of the staff began to recognize us, but we were able to take our time and savor the breeze across the lake, the beauty of the landscaping, the antics of the beluga whales at feeding time. {And we got our money's worth of the annual passes!}

Take extra of everything. Diapers, wipes, sippy cups, changing pads, snacks, onesies, etc.

Eat fruits and vegetables, both you and your children. Yeah, you know why. Few things make a child more cranky than vacation constipation.

Listen to stories on CD in the car or van. Adventures in Odyssey, Lamplighter Theater, Focus on the Family's Radio Theatre Dramas like Anne of Green Gables or The Chronicles of Narnia.

Bring munchies and snack cups. Dry cereal, raisins in those cute little boxes, cut-up vegetables, grapes. No one’s happy when they’re hungry.

Play car games. Remember those from when we were children? The alphabet game. Finding different states on license plates. Even if you think they’re corny, they might be new to your children.

Bring a first-aid kit. We keep ours in the drawer under the front passenger seat. It’s just an old cosmetic case, and I don’t pack it until we’re nearly ready to go. But I carry bandaids and ointment, tweezers, acetaminophen, antacids, infant Tylenol.

Happy trails to you!








Does your family like to travel? What suggestions can you add for making travel smooth with children?




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25 comments:

  1. These are great, Meghan! We used to let our oldest son navigate us through the Disney park and he loved it.

    As time went on we realized it actually made it easier on us!

    I agree with snacks and games. Both kept ours busy and happy!

    Thanks for linking up to "Making Your Home Sing Monday" today! :)

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    1. I'm not sure I made that clear in the post, Nan, but you are exactly right. When they want to navigate and plan, it does make the trip easier for the parents! Thanks for visiting!

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  2. Great tips! We have three children (and one more on the way!) and the longest we travel is 6 hours to visit my mother. We do many of the things you suggest and we start the trip prepared to make frequent stops, so that when things get "off schedule," we don't stress about it.

    We LOVE Adventures in Odyssey and Lamplighter (Teddy's Button is one of our favorites!). We also really enjoy Patch the Pirate.

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    1. You are so right, Dusty, on having a lot of stops -- especially if a little one is newly potty-trained or you travel with a nursing baby. :) So glad to have you visit! I'm your newest email subscriber!

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  3. This is so helpful! We have only a two year old, but we have been wanting to take him camping this summer. (Thus far we have never done an overnight trip with him) I am looking for advice on what to do about the diaper situation when you are in a camping situation. We won't be at an established campground with nice facilities and dumpsters, so I worry about the dirty diapers attracting critters.

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    1. My guess, Kourtney, is that the critters won't be interested in the dirty diapers. They're looking for food. But I wonder about a garbage can in the bathroom? Surely there is some kind of facility where there would be a trash can? I know it doesn't sound pleasant, but perhaps you can stash them in a plastic bag (double bag even if you want) and then dump them when you do find a garbage can. When we've camped with a baby in diapers, we just dumped them in the garbage in the bathroom.

      Life is an adventure! Hope you have a great time!

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  4. We don't go far, usually, just once a year to grandma's house which is 1200 miles away. My kids are, and have always been (by the grace of God) excellent little travelers! We have made this trip at least a dozen times and the past several times it was just me and them, nobody to share in the driving! I will usually pack them up a basket of stuff that they don't get to see till the trip, and that they don't get to dig into all at once. Last year I printed off fun coloring sheets for each state we were driving through, we played the license plate game, they braided each other's hair, sang songs, prayed through crazy storms, and we daydreamed about living on a farm and just soaked up every experience. My daughters could do crafts day in and day out, so pads of paper and coloring utensils are a given, but I'll "assign" them things to draw and color based on our surroundings. Last summer we stopped at a welcome center in the mountains and they received complimentary maps and you would have thought it was Christmas! I think when we make big deals out of small things, the kids will too.

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    1. Sounds like some great memories were made! And you are so wise -- when we get excited about a complimentary map, they will too. Thanks so much for commenting!

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  5. Great tips :) Our kids have always traveled quite a bit. With grandparents about 6 hours away, and visits at least 3-4 times a year, plus the other set of grandparents a couple hours away...add in the rare "vacation" traveling, and they've had to do a lot of it.

    One thing I do is pack an activity bag that stays up front with me. So they get toys/activities/snacks, one thing at a time. I found if I give it to them all at once, they get it all out at once and get bored with it all in about a minute. But if I give them one item/activity at a time, then we can get the full entertainment power of each ;)

    I also like to make them fun trail mix for a snack. We don't do a lot of candy, so I'll put in marshmallows, grapes, teddy grahams, M&M's, fruit snacks, goldfish etc. It's like a treasure hunt and they get excited to pick out each thing and see what's in there.

    Of course, I've also spent about 75 miles singing "Jesus loves me" and/or "Twinkle, Twinkle Little star" during a not-so-great moment when they were younger.

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    1. PS--didn't mean to write a whole blog post in your comments! lol

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    2. You've reminded me, Crystal, of all those miles I've spent singing songs...until I nearly went hoarse. :) Thanks for sharing all your ideas. Rationing is key!

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    3. lol...there was this one time that really was about 75 miles of the trip. Hubby and I got the bright idea to travel at night, thinking they'd sleep the whole time. it was an absolute disaster! So I was singing and singing and singing...along with being all contorted trying to pat and hold their hands from the front seat. As long as I was singing, they were fine (they were probably like 6 months old and 2.5 at the time), but if I stopped singing, within about a second they'd start crying again. Fun memories though :)

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  6. Munchies are a must! For me too. Thanks for sharing these traveling tips at Mom's Library!

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    1. Definitely munchies all around, Janine! Thanks for hosting a great link-up!

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    1. Thank you, and thanks for hosting the link-up!

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  8. Great tips! We've done a lot of road trips with our girls (especially since we moved 18 hours away from our families). They love music in the car, but I'm hoping this summer that they might be old enough to try some audio books. :)

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    1. In our family, the parents enjoy the audio books as much as the children! Enjoy your travels, Bonnie, and thanks for visiting!

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  9. This took me back in my memory to wonderful vacations with our children. Thanks for linking up with WholeHearted Home this week.

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  10. Meghan, I was excited to see this post, as we do a Lot of traveling, and it's always great to get tips on how to make it just a little bit easier!

    Four and a half years ago, we moved from Ontario, Canada, to Hermosillo, Mexico (4000 km/2500 miles). Since then, we've made 4 trips there and back (40 hours each way), and traveling is getting (a little) better for us. We also make occasional (monthly) trips up across the border into the US.

    One thing that helped me tremendously in the packing part is having master trip lists! I have them for while we go up to Canada (usually 5 weeks), and also for 2-3 day weekend trips if we're at a Bible conference, or week-long trips. If we just go overnight, I'm usually okay without one! =)
    I print out on one sheet everyone's names, their clothing/shoes they will take, and how many of each item. Plus Everything else I don't want to forget, like sleeping bags, blankets, diapers, wipes, first aid kit, feminine products, etc.

    When we moved in 2008, we had 3 children, 5 and under, traveling in an 8-seater mini-van. We now have 6 children, 10 and under, and for long trips, we travel in a 15 passenger van (for most trips we take out one bench seat for luggage space).

    When we first started making our trips, we foolishly ate out a lot, which added so much to the expense of traveling. Now, if we have to get a hotel, we always try to get one with a complimentary breakfast, bring along supplies in our cooler for a picnic lunch (we try to find a park), and stop at a restaurant for supper. For snacks, we often put dry cereal/trail mix/pretzels into zip lock bags with the childrens' names on them. They also each have a non-leak cup of some sort with water. We also always travel with at least an extra gallon of water.

    For every four-five hours we drive during the daylight, we pretty much have to stop for at least an hour (we figure this in to our traveling time), so we try to make the most at each stop: gas, food, bathroom break, and let the kiddos run around as much as they can to wear off some energy.

    For entertainment while we drive, we sing =) listen to stories on CD, say our memory verses, look at books, I read out-loud, occasionally watch a DVD, and I try to get some special colouring books and crayons/pencil crayons for them to use just for the trip. Each child has their own backpack that they put their blanket, a doll or stuffed animal, and a couple special books or toys they want to play with.

    Something I've done just recently is put all hair-care stuff into one duffel bag. We have 5 daughters, so with all our shampoo, conditioner, brushes, water bottle, hair ponies, etc, it works really well to just go to one bag to find what we need. If we are traveling for several days, I try to put the clothing we will be using during that time in a separate bag than our suitcases. Then we just take in that bag, plus the hair stuff into a hotel.

    Besides our coolers, I use re-usable cloth grocery bags to put snacks in between the two front seats. I also use plastic laundry baskets to put misc. things like wires for recharging phones, etc, that we don't want squished or floating around the van, also books we want to read on our trip, etc.
    Toilet paper, hand sanitizer and plastic grocery bags are always very handy to have close by!

    Sometimes, we drive through the night. If we do, we usually start the trip that way, and stop early evening the next night - to not get over-tired. If we drive during the night, we switch drivers every 3 hours. It's often a good time to listen to Bible teaching on the mp3 player!

    Even with all these suggestions, we are usually up 'til the wee hours of the morning packing, with me stuffing things in bags, etc, just so they'll fit in Somewhere, and not be loose in the van! =) I still have lots to learn, and am thankful for everyone's advice they've put on here. Hope someone can use some of the things we've learned over the last few years!!

    In Him,
    Steph

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    1. That's a LOT of traveling, Steph, and I love your auxiliary blog post! :) Believe it or not, we do every single one of those things except putting the hair-care stuff in its' own bag. I LOVE that idea, though, so I'm definitely doing that next time.

      We drive through the night as well, only just the first night and that's when at least one of us has had a nap the afternoon before we leave that night. On the way back from our most recent trip, we thought of driving the 16 hours back straight through and just taking turns napping in the van. But we were so tired by supper-time that first day we decided it was worth the hotel money to make sure we were safe. We found out the next morning that a family with four children had been in a fatal accident on the same interstate just ahead of us. We were soooo glad we stopped! That old saying is so true - better safe than sorry.

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment!

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  11. Hi, there! Just wanted to thank you for linking up at A Mama's Story and to let you know that your post is among the top three most visited posts from last week, so will be in the featured list tomorrow. Be on the lookout as I'll share your post on FB, Twitter, and add it to my Pinterest Featured board. Thanks again for sharing and help yourself to a featured button. :)

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I so much appreciate your time and effort in leaving a comment, and I try to respond to as many as time permits. :-)