Preparation can ease hassles when traveling with kids
Add an ill-prepared parent into the scenario, and the vacation may not be as relaxing as planned.
Nicole Hockin, author of travelsmartblog.com, says timing can be everything on a road trip.
“Just like anything else, a little preparation goes a long way toward staying calm and having a good time,” she says.
As you plan your travel schedule, Hockin recommends taking into consideration how long you’ll be in the car and the ages and sleep needs of your children. If your kids sleep well in the car, consider driving at night to make it to your destination faster.
If the scenery is part of the experience, then make sure you schedule stops at parks and rest areas to stretch, have a snack and re-energize.
“The first thing to do is determine how far you’re going,” says Dr. Sarah Hill, a pediatrician with IU Health. “Appreciate that the trip will take longer with children aboard.”
Make it fun
“Be sure to bring something to keep everyone entertained, but leave the noisy toys and beeping video games at home,” Hockin says. If you do pack loud electronics, make sure to bring headphones.
There’s a reason why I Spy and the Travel Alphabet Game have survived for decades, she adds.
Keep activities fresh with an unexpected surprise, like magnetic bingo or a new coloring or reading book.
As a parent, consider interspersing activities with individual quiet time.
No matter what fun you decide upon, Hill advises that you make sure your child stays safely fastened in his or her booster seat or seat belt.
Keep the peace
With children along for the ride, you can probably expect some sibling bickering. Hill says it’s crucial to establish rules beforehand.
“Set up rules before the trip rather than dealing with problems while they occur,” Hill explains.
Having a family meeting to discuss how everyone can make the car trip fun is worth it. Sit down and explain how long the trip will take and decide together what kids can do to get along during the trip. Hockin says it’s important to give children some measure of choice.
Allow kids to give their feedback on trip expectations.
When traveling, snacks are the carrot at the end of the stick that keep you going. Messy foods can slow you down and create a lot of trash. Instead, opt for easily disposable and healthy snacks that require minimal packaging.
Hill suggests bringing a cooler to have access to cold drinks and food without having to stop at fast food restaurants or convenience stores.
Small sandwiches, string cheese and pre-cut fruit are healthy, filling options.
“Homemade trail mix made with grains, crunchy cereal, dried fruit and your favorite nuts is a great choice,” Hockin says. “You’ll have something on hand to give you energy and key nutrients to help get through the day.”