June 17, 2013 by mamacravings
Our little family just returned from a trip to one of favorite Texas cities: San Antonio! We adore the culture and the city, but the drive can be quite nerve racking. As our little guy has grown, it is becoming more challenging to do road trips with him. He is more active, more verbal and possesses some very vocal and set opinions about the matter. Now that I’ve sat in a car with a 3 year-old for nearly 14 hours, I have 5 tips to help make the road trip smooth and enjoyable. After all, the road part of the vacation is the beginning and end to the memories that are made.
1. Become a master of scheduling.
When travelling with kids, I have found that it is much easier to leave very late or very early. Taking off on a road trip during the kids’ sleep schedule allows them to rest peacefully during a portion of the trip and to get some miles under your belt which makes for a more peaceful sleep.
If you wait until your child is fully awake and fully excited about the vacation, prepare yourself for a restless, vocal child with countless “Are we there yet?” and “I’m bored.”.
2. Be a magician.
Keep a few toys, coloring books, favorite books with you to magically pull out to curb a grumpy spell. Some parents will wrap a little gift (small pack of crayons and a coloring book) to open every hour. I personally wouldn’t put a time stamp on it simply because my son can entertain himself for a good 90 minutes with his favorite book but is only interested in his Bear or ‘Raffe 15-20 minutes at a time.
The key is to be able to read your child and to head that inevitable bored, fussy moments off at the pass.
In my bag of tricks, I had a few favorite toys and a couple of new trinkets. Our best investment was a Color Wonder coloring book. Little Eli was fascinated with opportunity to use markers, and I was delighted that those markers wouldn’t write on anything but the special paper. It was a win-win!
3. Play a tour guide.
New terrain is a great opportunity to expose your kids to new sights, even if those sights are passing by at 70MPH. Pointing out the surroundings keeps your child engaged and learning.
One such opportunity came to us when we passed a farm with sizable corn crops. I pointed them out to Eli and said, “I wonder what grows there. What do you think it could be?” Suddenly, he was making predictions, using his past experiences, activating that imagination to figure this out. Once I told him it was corn, we spilled into how the corn is grown and how it ends up on our table.
A road trip is a great classroom and a great bonding moment. It can be challenging to keep the kids engaged, and I encourage needed quiet times as well. Stay aware of moments to do more than pass time in a car. Make some great memories on the way to and from the vacation.
4. Break strategically.
Bathroom, food and stretch breaks are necessary and can be difficult to coordinate. With a car full of people, there are a lot of schedules to mind. Go into the road trip with a rough plan of where and when to stop. Once you make the plan, be willing to flex it a bit to meet the needs of the child.
During a break, everyone went to the bathroom and stretched their legs. It was a careful balance to allow Eli to stretch long enough to express some of that energy but not long enough to let him get riled up.
5. Prepare for rough patches.
Even with the best plans, it is imperative to understand that being in a car for umpteen hours is tough. It is even tougher on a child with little to no concept of time. The trip will probably seem like a life time to him, a boring and un-active lifetime. Be sensitive to that. Keep the encouragement and empathy high and the frustration low. I know that when I become frustrated, then it’s all downhill. My son follows my lead whether I am grumpy or grateful.
Prepare, prepare, prepare and then, in the end, follow your child’s lead.
What are your best tips when travelling with children?