7 Tips for a Successful Travel Day ... With Kids
Traveling with kids, amiright?
I mean, who doesn't love the crying, the screaming, the tired feelings? Yeah, me neither. We have been there, raised the blood-pressure, cried into our coffee, and trial-and-errored our way through. If you love traveling with your kids, (read: the exploring, adventuring, seeing the world through their eyes part) here is a list of tips and tricks we have compiled that are working for us!
1. Prepare Your Kids
We have our checklists for the RV, our route for our trip, and our procedures for leaving a campground and heading out to a new one. But the biggest part of a travel day is our kids. Nic and I make sure to prepare them mentally ahead of time and tell them a travel day is coming. Or if it is a long trip, we will tell them we have a couple of long travel days, just so they know what they are headed for. Our boys do much better if they know a travel day is upon us, and it helps when we tell them where we are heading and a few fun things about the place or things we plan on doing while we are there!
2. Let Them Eat Cake
Just kidding, but you better have food ready to grab. When you are traveling with children, especially younger ones, snacks are high on the priority list. Driving turns children into ravenous beasts -- check my math, it's scientific. They will eat everything in the first 15 minutes if you don't ration, so make sure you show them who's in charge of the snacky-snacks early on! Try to keep snacks on the healthier, non-full-of-sugar side -- it will help cut out the extra wiggles. Also, make sure the snacks are not all kept in the fortress that is the spin-locked refrigerator. Have some on hand, in a basket, in a bag, in a box ... I feel like I'm in a Dr. Seuss book. But honestly, you better have them here or there because your kids WILL eat them everywhere ... too much? I agree.
3. Take a Break
Our boys need to move! We try to stop and explore every hour and a half or so, when we see neat roadside attractions or locations, clean/safe rest stops (especially if they have a playground), parks, or just large areas of land to let the boys run some.
One time, we pulled over to rest a minute near a forest (after watching Pete's Dragon with our boys for the first time). It turned into a search for pine cones and baby dragons. It's now a lifetime memory, allowed for a great travel break, and offered the most gorgeous golden sunset. You can plan the location of the stops beforehand, happen upon neat places (we found a dinosaur "museum" on the side of the road that was a blast), or just pull over and take a walk.
4. Know Your People
Plan your travel times. How long do you travel each day? We try to make small moves from place-to-place and travel slowly. But there are also times when we have had three days of driving straight through. Those times come up and it's good to think about these things ahead of time when planning your trip. We know our boys and they need to stop and move every two to three hours. Our boys CAN travel six hours a day, but anything longer is a disaster. And honestly, anything that happens after that point is completely on Nic and I, since we know what their limit is. Womp womp. Nothing hits you like parent guilt. HA! But I digress, we like to keep it around four hours max if we can, pushing it to six if we really need it.
5. Plan Activities Galore
When I watched movies growing up, I thought the "are we there yet?" scenes were a bit dramatic, but it turns out, every kid is born with an internal handbook of travel sayings, and this one is at the top of the list. If you want to quail the "how much longer" blues, make sure you have plenty of activities on hand. You can always do the sing-a-longs, I spies, and other car games, but with younger kids, we've found a few great things to have on hand!
Our travel day regulars are:
- a lap desk
- coloring book and crayons
- felt book/magnetic book activities
- limited tablet time
- educational things like flashcards (hole punch them and put them on a ring for easy flipping)
- lacing boards (great for fine-motor skills)
- fuzzy friends and blankets
I keep a basket next to the boys' seats with the activities in closable file boxes. We call these "Fun Packs." They grab them, play with the things inside, return it to the basket when they finish, and pick a new one! Make four or five of these and you are set for travel days for a whole season (or longer if you don't travel often).
Cuddling with some friends while stopped for a rest.
6. Release the Secret Weapon
We keep a "Treasure Box" (plastic bin -- super easy) on hand as well. It's where we keep a few new things for the boys. These items are perfect for when our boys are doing a great job and we want to surprise them with something extra fun, when the activities they have been doing are a bit outdated or overplayed, when the boys are getting restless and we are aaaaaaalmost there, or when we get stuck traveling on a rainy or very cold day and we are kept inside the cabin most of the day.
These don't have to be shiny, expensive, noise making toys. In fact, we don't do noise making toys on travel days, because that's just asking for it. These are stickers, magnetic activities, glow bracelets, etc. that I grab from time-to-time in the dollar section of Target or Dollar Tree, because fancy. I like to do themed ones when we are headed to the beach (sandcastle toys, sunglasses) or somewhere I can incorporate a lesson into it. #IAmATeacher.
7. Get Out & Go!
At the end of the day, you know your kids and what they can handle. Maybe you need to mix a movie into the rotation. We found our youngest gets motion-sick, so we found some things to help him travel better. Remember, stay flexible because the tired feelings, tears and screaming are probably going to sneak up at some point. A sour travel day every-now-and-then is just bound to happen, but now you will be prepared. And know you aren't alone ... because other traveling parents' kids are doing it too. That's better, right?
So, get your RV checklist checked, grab your kids, your snack basket, and your fun packs. Then get going! Oh, and don't forget the coffee ... because kids. And coffee.
If you have some other helpful travel tips with kids, please pass them our way in the comments section!