IntroductionTraveling with children can be challenging. Even once you’re organized, packed, and out of the house, it may not be long until you hear those four familiar, annoying words: "are we there yet?" Whether it's a much-needed vacation or a family holiday outing, just getting there can be exhausting for both parents and children alike.
How can you make Traveling enjoyable for the whole family?
Below are some tips parents can use to make any trip a little easier:
- Consider the child's age: You can reduce travel stress if you account for your child’s developmental level and plan accordingly. A child's attention span increases with age. A toddler, with an attention span of about fifteen minutes, will need a greater variety of toys to get through a long car trip than an older child, who may be occupied by a single game or activity for more than an hour.
- Involve your children in planning: If your child is old enough, let him/her pick out toys to bring. Once the selections are made, plan ahead so that they will be within easy and safe reach while in motion. For younger children, provide one toy at a time and be sure to keep messy toys, medicines, or snack foods out of reach.
- Make frequent stops: Despite planning ahead for rest stops and bathroom breaks, young children may announce sudden needs for a stop. If you are driving, plan to stop frequently and announce upcoming rest stations. On plane trips, allow children to move around as much as possible during stopover time in airports.
- Have an eating plan: Healthy or favorite foods can be hard to find on the road, so plan to pack some easily portable options, such as fruits. Be careful not to use food as a way to alleviate boredom, for either adults or children. Do your best to stick to regular meal and snack times.
- Consider the trip as family time: Beyond including your child in packing his/her toys, involve him/her in selecting the music and travel routes. Also, use family time in the car to sing silly songs or play games. Excellent car games include seeing who can spot the most cows, find license plates from every state, or win at twenty questions.
- Travel and learn: The Internet is an easy tool for searching maps, plotting routes, researching destinations, and checking the weather. You can also capitalize on travel to teach your child about new places, tastes, cultures, and customs. One fun way to do this is to organize a scavenger hunt for people, places, and things en route and once you arrive.
- Discipline on the road: Stress the importance of sharing and turn-taking, especially when on the road or in confined spaces. Warn your children in advance that there may be times when driving becomes more stressful and they will need to quiet down. Importantly, parents should have some ideas about immediate discipline strategies while traveling; "wait till we get home" should never be the refrain of first or last resort.
- Never unbuckle: This rule always bears reminding. No matter how whiny a child may become, it is important to always enforce the seat belt rule.
Traveling with children can test even the most patient parent and cooperative child. But a little imagination and planning can go a long way to help both kids and parents enjoy the journey as well as the destination.