Play: Best Practices of Traveling Long Distances with Kids
In just 6 short weeks, we are traveling half-way across the country to move to a new city. Google maps tells me it will take 14 hours. Translated to traveling with 4 kids under the age of 6, that means 18 hours. The good news is that we won’t try and make it all in one day, but bad news is that we’ll be traveling for 2 full days. In preparation for the move, I’ve been searching blogs high and low for the “best practices” of traveling with young kids….and here’s what I’ve found:
1. Media Usage
One idea, of course, is to buy a portable DVD player, a stack full of DVDs and just press play as you pull out of the driveway. We do enjoy a good movie like the next person, but movies do not keep the attention of all of the kids. So, perhaps an idea would be to keep this for a “I think we might all go insane; I just need a little peace and quiet” moment.
We also like to keep a lot of books on cd (or ipad/ipod)– Magic Tree House, A to Z Mysteries, and Junie B. Jones are some of our current favorites.
2. Map It!
Give the kids a map so that they can follow along. This certainly will not stop the “Are we there yet?!” question, but it will help them to gauge how far they’ve come, and how far is yet to go. You can either use Google Maps to print the map or go visit iheartfamilytravels.com for a cute printable map.
3. Small Surprises Along the Way
For a one day trip, it can be fun to buy some small items to put into paper bags that the kids can open every 30-60 minutes. We did this once when we were traveling with 3 kids and it worked out really well. I bought items from the Dollar Store, and the $1 spots at Target, Michaels, Joanns, etc. so it ended up being pretty inexpensive. Unfortunately, once you do this once, it’s hard to do it again because there are only so many items that you can buy for $1 that are actually going to be fun. Once you buy them all the first time, there’s very few fun new things to get the second time around. In the paper bags, you can also put fun snacks (a box of juice, a pack of fruit snacks, etc.). Yes, you would be giving them those things anyway, but if they come in a paper bag, it’s just that much more fun to eat them!
- Sticker Books
- Melissa and Doug Magnetic Number Puzzle
- Amaze Puzzle
- Melissa and Doug Magnetic Picture Maker
- Books that they haven’t seen for a couple months
- A new set of markers and a small notepad
- Sticker sets from the A.C. Moore
- Travel-size games
- Brain Quest
- We like this one not because it makes the kids “smarter” (because it doesn’t), but because it’s a fun way to get all ages interacting. We were playing with one at the library the other day, and everyone wanted to join in answering. The questions also served as good conversation starters.
- I Spy tube
- Magnetic playsets
- Color Wonder Travel Tote (with coloring pads geared toward each child)
- Yummy snacks that we normally don’t eat
- Thinkfun Rush Hour Set
- Color Forms
- Window Crayons
- Story Dice
- Magic Eight Ball (a travel size version– you have no idea how many giggles this gets with our 4 and 5 year old….)
Some other ideas that probably won’t be making our travel packs, but are good ideas too:
- Magnetic animals (include a cookie sheet!)
- Foam magnetic objects (great for storytelling!)
- Laurie Toys Primer Pack
- Wikki Stix
- Melissa and Doug Travel Memory (we really like the hangman too)
- finger puppets
As for the purchasing, it certainly helps to start shopping early– many of the items I got for a dollar or two (on sale, dollar spots, off craigslist, kid consignment sales). I shop year-round…meaning if I find something that looks like it will be travel-worthy, I pick it up. Also, if it’s just a vacation trip, it might be smart to borrow from a friend!
I have a friend who lets her kids eat what they want in the car. There’s no “wait until snacktime” — anytime is snack time. She says that while normally she’s vigilant about eating healthy and moderately, one day isn’t going to hurt them. Of course she provides many healthy options, but throws in a few “sometimes” foods as well.
6. Rest Stops
Get out, run around. Pack a ball and glove for a quick game of catch while others are using the restroom. Have some quarters handy to grab something fun from the vending machine. And don’t forget a portable toilet seat for those kids who can’t go on a big potty (that would be one of mine). Tempted to even keep our training potty (along with some clorox bleach wipes) in the trunk so that we can whip it out quickly (think: side of the road when no bathrooms for miles but 2 year olds can’t really hold it). Putting a disposable diaper in the bottom of the potty can soak up the pee until you get to a place to clean it up.