Taking a road trip or airline flight somewhere this summer? Chances are that if you have kids of a certain age, you’re looking for ways to keep them occupied while on the road or in the air. With that in mind, we’ve compiled some of our best tips on how to make your vacation as smooth and stress-free as possible:

Build anticipation by designating “vacation-only” entertainments and snacks. You would think that hurtling through the air from miles above the earth, peering down at a patchwork quilt of land and water, would be enough to thrill my children. Yet I’ve found that mine are more excited about what’s going on inside the plane than they are outside of it. With that in mind, I try to make the flight special by bringing vacation-only activities and treats that can only be used while we are en route. My older girls are 6 and 8, so I usually pack an Usborne sticker book, a new coloring book, and metallic or glitter pens or crayons (something we don’t use all the time). My toddler gets a magnetic dress-up doll kit and new, party-favor size Play Doh. I also load up on snacks and drinks we don’t normally have at home; for instance, we rarely drink juice, so it’s a big “treat” for them to get their own bottle of juice to consume while we are en route. Plus, swallowing helps prevent little ears from feeling the pain of changing air pressure.–Kristin Demery

Unplug from work. If you have emails come to your phone, you can turn those off.  It is important to set “out of office” messages, turn off remote access, and let everyone on your text threads know that you are leaving for vacation.  Sometimes I even turn my cell phone off (gasp) during my vacations. My husband and I determine not to talk about church (we are both pastors) or anything work related while we are gone. Instead of talking about responsibilities back home, try some conversation games. Many can be easily found on the internet. Changing your normal conversational patterns can be very relaxing and also invigorating. It amazes me that I can still learn new things about my husband after 30 years of marriage when we try one of these talk exercises. –Jayne Poli

Shopping Money/AKA Bribery When our kids were young we embarked on a cross country road trip. We flew to California, bought a car from my parents, and drove back to our home in Minnesota. One of the things we did to keep squabbles to a minimum was give them a ziploc bag with a dollar’s worth of nickels every morning. (This was the in the 1990’s—before tablets, smartphones, and DVD players—so you’d probably want to up the ante to account for inflation.) If they were quarreling or being mean to each other, we took away a nickel. When they were being particularly kind or behaved nicely for a longer stretch, we gave them a nickel so they had potential to end the day with more money than they started. When we stopped for the evening, we tried to end up someplace where they would have an opportunity to spend the money they’d “earned” that day, with the reminder that they could save it all for a bigger fund to work with the next day or at the end of the trip. Nancy Holte

Potty Happens. If you’re anything like me, you’re hoping that exasperated bathroom stops don’t need to happen as frequently on this road trip as they have on previous trips. You’re not even for a second going to think about what happens if the children “don’t quite make it” to the toilet this time. I have two potty-trained boys who love to have a drink in one hand and a toy in the other. This means that on trips we’re either going to have to pull over a lot or end up with soggy carseats. One trick I’ve tried is to limit liquid consumption prior to and during road trips. And that works just fine most of the time. But then we pull away from the rest stop and another child inevitably says, “Mommy, I have to pee.” Good gravy. So my new plan, aside from the liquid limiting protocol, is to try to treat every potty stop as if it is a fun excursion. We’ve kicked or tossed around balls, weaved in and out of sculptures, and taken family photos at rest stops. As it turns out, some of my favorite memories have been spontaneous trips to the loo. – Lizzie Lindberg

 

BTG Team

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