Tips for Traveling with Kids

How to keep kids entertained while traveling.

Cherylyn Feierabend,
May 15, 2010
Episode #156

Everyone I know is going on vacation, planning a vacation, or talking about how much they wish they had time for a vacation. It’s that time of year. The school year is winding down and everyone is excited about their time off. I, for one, am looking forward to sleeping in a couple of days a week since I won’t have to get up and take the kids to school. That equals vacation to me! For those of you, however, that are planning trips, I’ve decided to cover a few tips for vacations with your children.

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Packing Tips for Trips with Kids

Once you’ve chosen your exciting vacation destination and secured all of your lodging and transportation, the next step is to start packing. Depending on the number and ages of your children, packing can be quite the adventure! Start by making a list. Have a column for each person and day. Then have a separate section for additional items, such as a camera, batteries, sunscreen, and snacks. Having a list will make packing faster and will lessen the chances of something being forgotten. If your kids are old enough, I encourage you to let them pack their own bags. Have them lay out everything they wish to take on their bed--preferably in an orderly manner. That gives you an opportunity to inspect their choices so you can add missing items or remove unnecessary ones. As you think of items, add them to the list; then once you start packing, mark them off as you go. Pack early too. Don’t wait until the last minute because there is a greater chance of missing something that way.

Items  that you may not think to add to your list, but that could come in handy include hand and face wipes, coloring books, crayons, books, a new first aid kit, and water bottles for everyone. I’m sure there are many more things you can think of, but those are a few items that I always have on hand. I also always bring extra socks and underwear. I may be a bit obsessive about the socks and underwear thing, but I’m almost always thankful that I brought them.

Kids, Routines, and Vacation

Vacations are sometimes often focused on sightseeing and activities, but don’t forget to plan downtime too.

So, now you are packed and ready to hit the road or the skies. What will you do when you get to your destination? I recommend creating an itinerary in advance. Keep in mind this doesn’t mean you have to follow it minute-by-minute; you are on vacation after all. This is probably one of the few times you actually CAN be flexible. Be sure to enjoy yourself and don’t lock everyone into a “plan,” but do have one ready so that you aren’t just sitting around asking “What do we do now?” When that happens kids are very likely to become bored and irritable.  This is the part where you always hear me say, “Keep to your kids’ normal schedule and routine as much as possible.” In the case of vacations, the most you can do is try to stick to regular sleeping schedules and mealtimes. I’ll be honest; in most cases this won’t be possible. Let’s face it, if you are at Disneyland, are you really going to go home at 7 just so your kids are in their pajamas and bed on time? I doubt it. Besides, you’d miss the fireworks!  Don’t forget to plan downtime while on vacation. Kids need to rest even if it’s just a quiet movie back at the hotel or an actual nap for everyone. Don’t forget that you’ll need rest too. Vacations are sometimes often focused on sightseeing and activities, but don’t forget the first R in R&R stands for “rest”.

How to Keep Kids Entertained While Traveling

When you start out on your trip, everyone will most likely be excited and revved up. Depending on how long it takes to get there, however, some travelers may become restless or impatient. Long travel times can definitely put an early damper on a vacation trip. This is one of those times where your art supplies may come in handy. Kids may enjoy coloring, or if you have Etch-a-Sketches or magnetic doodling pads, now’s a good time to break them out. Kids may also enjoy reading some of their favorite books, or some new ones that you brought to surprise them. I’ve recently discovered that my six-year-old has the patience and dexterity to handle listening to an MP3 player with headphones sized for her. We load up the player with kid-friendly audio books and music. She loves listening. My four-year-old isn’t as patient, but he’s content to listen over the car stereo if we play it loud enough for everyone to hear. Be watchful of children reading books on long car-trips though. Some people have a tendency toward car-sickness if they read and ride at the same time. Of course, you can always toss out the idea of those secretly educational games where your kids have to find the letters of the alphabet in order on passing billboards or license plates. Anything to make the time pass will certainly be appreciated by everyone.

Final Traveling Reminders

Finally, don’t forget to make sure you have ample supplies of snacks and water on hand wherever you are. Hungry kids are irritable kids. Snacks can keep those crabbies at bay while you are waiting for your next meal stop. Dehydration is no fun, so make sure everyone is drinking plenty of water. Dehydration causes headaches, fatigue, and can make even the healthiest of kids feel too sick to enjoy themselves. Also, please be sure to leave contact information and arrival times with a trusted source back home. Check in throughout your vacation and let your source know that everything is OK. All of your loved ones will appreciate this and it will definitely help in case there is any type of unexpected emergency. Oh, and take lots and lots of pictures, please! Isn’t that the entire point of vacations after all?

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That’s it for now. Thanks for reading.

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This is your friend the Mighty Mommy wishing you happy and fun parenting!

Family Car Trip image courtesy of Shutterstock