Are We There Yet? Traveling With Kids

Tips for traveling with kids- from preschoolers to teenagers- in a car, including packing suggestions, games, importance of space, and ways to fill time.

Going to the grocery store with kids in the car can be stressful. So, why in the world would we decide to take a vacation with our children and choose to travel across several states with them in the same vehicle? For the savings, the freedom to stop when needed or want to, for the adventure. Is it possible to travel in this manner and still be sane at the end of the trip? It can be if a few strategies are followed and some planning is done before heading off down that long highway.

Space, Luggage and Seat Belts

Whether you will be traveling for two days or two weeks, items that will not be needed until you reach your destination should be packed and stowed away. The bulk of your luggage should be placed in a trunk or on luggage racks, not inside the vehicle. Associate room in the vehicle itself with sanity. If kids are crammed together amongst luggage and each other, I can guarantee it will be a "˜long' stressful trip, and an unsafe one. Everyone should have his or her own seatbelt. You would be surprised how many times I have pulled into a gas station and seen two kids climb out of the backseat of a car of a family clearly traveling, and the kids were unhooking from one seat belt because luggage was crammed into the backseat with them. Keep in mind this is also illegal. Everyone needs his or her own seatbelt! Foot space is nearly as important. A few items will need to be packed where they are easily and quickly reached though. Each child should be given a small bag beforehand for a few items they feel are necessary. This could include color books, Mr. Teddy, tape player with headphones, cards, etc. If kids are of reading age, encourage them to pack a few books. Explain though, that they need to leave room for souvenirs purchased during travel in these same bags, as space will remain a priority throughout the trip. It helps if the bags have a zip closing and a few pockets. A recycled school backpack works great for this purpose. Veto any items that have sharp corners though.

Set Spending Limit

Each child should be given (or earned beforehand) a set amount to spend on souvenirs. This will save an enormous amount of time spent arguing and begging for this trinket or that. Clearly, explain ahead of time, that when spending money runs out, there will be no refill. Kids are always better shoppers when they are aware of how much of "˜their' money they are spending.

Family Bag

Besides their individual bags, a family bag is necessary. This should include wet wipes, not just for baby but for everyone, a few snacks, water, Kleenex, change for vending machines and toll booths, maps, or an atlas. Identification for everyone in the vehicle should also be kept, with contact telephone numbers at home, destination, and any pertinent medical information that may be needed. A few diversions should also be included. A new toy, even the dollar store variety, will offer a few peaceful minutes.

Ideas to Pass the Time and Classic Games

Have each child guess before leaving home, how many miles to the destination and length of time to get there. Have them keep track of the details as you travel. Offer a small reward for the winner, such as picking out a stopping point on the return trip.

Singing not only passes time; it can also be relaxing. Turn off the radio, allow each child, and parent to pick one song for everyone to sing. This can be fun in a vehicle where you have a wide range of ages. Preschoolers will surely pick "˜Row, row, row your boat', while a teenager may request a popular song from the radio, and Mom or Dad will bring everyone to laughter with a song that everyone except them will think very outdated! Keep in mind you will not only pass time singing, but this gives a chance for discussion, which is an added benefit with teenagers. Do not assume older kids will not go along with ideas like this either. If you just go ahead and start, even the most sulky and stubborn kids will usually join along in the end for this great tension reliever. Another good way to pass the time in a car with varying age groups is to have the older kids "˜teach' the younger ones something new. Pig Latin is an all time favorite. Remove the first letter of each word and end each word with "˜ay'. Boat becomes oatay, car is aray, and vacation is acationay.

Car Games

Car games have been around since the first family decided to take a trip in a their new sedan, but they work as well today as they did years ago. Here are a few favorites:

Letter Animals (Variations include Places, Cars, Music Groups, etc.)

Starting with A, name an animal, such as aardvark, or a place, such as Atlanta, and go one by one through the alphabet.

Tape Record a Story "˜Tail'

With tape player recording, each person says one sentence in a round robin story. The first person may say, "˜Once upon a time in a land filled with water lived an old woman'. The next person adds a sentence, such as, "˜ who was allergic to dogs and sneezed the whole day long'. Playing back the finished story can be more fun than the actual making of it.

State Game

Depending upon which state you are traveling in, see how many words you can come up with just from the letters in the state name.

Remember that traveling with kids is what you make of it. Have a good trip!

© High Speed Ventures 2011