The idea of traveling with small children can be daunting… very daunting for some. Hours on end with pre-schoolers strapped in a car seat? It’s enough to make you think twice about taking a vacation, especially by car. However, road trips for families at any age and stage can bring about family bonding at its best. Even if – excuse me – when things don’t turn out exactly the way you plan… or when the kids get to the end of their rope… or when Mamma and Daddy are fighting over the GPS directions AGAIN… you are building memories. And memories, even the – no – especially the crazy ones are part of a wonderful lasting family bond for years to come.
Our family just put 4500 miles under our belt on a road trip… things didn’t always turn out like we had planned, the kids got to the end of their rope and Mamma and Daddy definitely fought over the GPS directions, but I wouldn’t trade our experience together for anything in the world. Here are a couple of tips we picked up along the way.
1. Lodging – Traveling with a baby can complicate lodging issues, as baby usually naps and goes to bed earlier than the rest of the family. Ask the hotel clerk for an upgrade. You may be able to get a bigger room, or even a 2 room suite for free or a minimal charge. It never hurts to ask… hotel rates are negotiable!
2. Car time – A bag of ‘tricks’ with games, activities, CDs, and DVDs is a must, but also try some interactive games.
Preschoolers can play games like: ‘Guess what animal I am’ where Mom or Dad describes an animal and the kids guess what it is; ‘I spy’ which helps to work on colors; ‘I’m going to (destination) and I’m bringing …’ walking through the alphabet listing different items you would bring with each letter. Car time is a great time to take advantage of your ‘captive’ audience for learning!
Babies enjoy books, interactive songs, and lullaby cds! Song #8 on our ‘A Capella Lullabies’ CD
worked like a charm every time…
3. Get kids involved – From planning out snacks, to choosing what toys to pack in their special backpack, little ones enjoy helping. They can even help ‘navigate.’ From the time my son was 2, I brought his ‘Map of The United States’ placemat with us on all of our trips. I would show him where we were headed and the states we would drive through. He’d drive his little cars all over the map. Now that he’s 3 1/2 he likes to look at the Atlas and see which road we are driving on. It’s a great way to introduce Geography!
4. Snacks – if all else fails, kids are happy when they are eating, right? I took a 13 hour trip with my son alone at 18 months and kept handing back bite sized snacks the whole way… he was happy as a clam. My new FAVORITE find for traveling with kids is ‘Buddy Fruits Squeezable Pouches.’ These pouches have a nozzle, so kids can suck them down on their own. Even my 12 month old could handle these herself with no mess. These are free of preservatives, coloring, gluten, dairy, artificial flavorings and extra sugar. A fabulous option for getting some fruit servings on the road, where choices can be slim. Find a retailer in your area at www.buddyfruits.com.
5. Keeping it clean – Consider traveling with a small garbage can in the vehicle. Keep extra liners at the bottom, as you’ll be changing them frequently. This will help to keep your car from becoming totally overwhelmed by granola bar wrappers, banana peels, half eaten cheeseburgers, etc. Also, keep a small spray bottle with vinegar and water handy to clean up any sticky messes.
6. A fun attitude – I know it’s a cliche, but it truly is the most important part of any trip. Keep in mind that things won’t go the way you plan. You will have to make more stops than you would like, clean up more messes in public places than you would like, and any semblance of a sleep schedule will go right out the window. However, adjusting your expectations ahead of time can help to decrease moments of frustration. When stressful moments do hit, try to spin them into an adventure somehow; with small children, Mamma has the power to make the ordinary, magical! If all else fails, think of the memories you and your family will share for years to come.. and enjoy your journey!!