Today when my husband gets home from work, we are all heading to Indiana. My hubby is driving us all the way there, staying for his niece’s wedding and then coming home for a week of Bachelorism until next weekend when he will drive back to IN to attend my niece’s first birthday party and bring his family back home. So, this morning, I’ve been preparing to leave, and I was reminded of how difficult traveling with very small children can be. I’ve learned some pretty effective tricks in the four years I’ve been a Mom, so I thought I’d share.
1. Forget about getting there ASAP. Now, I get that there are times when because of an event you have to get somewhere by a certain time. But, if at all possible, relax. I’m a planner, and traveling used to be just a means to an end. Just get where we are going. Are we there yet? Huh? How about now? However, if you take that approach while traveling with children, you will have screaming, crying, whining and all-out meltdowns, not to mention how your kids will react. You WILL have to stop for snacks, potty breaks, and time to stretch. Last time we traveled, we broke up the trip with the Zoo. It was fun, and the kids were tired when we were done, so they slept most of the way after that. Traveling can actually be a great time to get in some good old fashioned family fun.
2. Try to arrange your travel during naptime/bedtime. Is it a pain to start your trip at 7 or 8 PM? Yes. You will be tired. But if you can drive safely at night (like my hubby), then this can be a decent solution to getting a five or six hour trip done in one shot. I, personally, can not do this. However, I find that if I start out around 2/3 PM, my kids will sleep anywhere from 1-3 hours, and that help significantly if I don’t want to be on the road all day.
3. Bring little backpacks for each kid filled with things for them to do. Bring their favorite stuffed animal, their My Little Ponies, coloring pages (don’t forget your handy dandy clipboard) and crayons, their action heroes, books, etc. Now, we limit ourselves to one kid sized backpack for each child, but if you are going on a very long trip, you might want to bring more. Another fun thing to do on a long trip is to have kid-friendly music. We love Seeds Family Worship cds and our kids also love this cd by the London Philharmonic Orchestra called the Greatest Video Game Music. Lol- I know. Bible verse songs followed by the Tetris theme song and possibly some Queen thrown in there somewhere. Whatever. It works and it’s fun.
4. Hide the portable DVD player and bring it out at the end when all Hell breaks loose. The last leg of the trip is always the most difficult for us. The kids are uncomfortable. They’re crying and whining. Kicking the back of your seats. Wailing and begging for the trip to be done. Not even ice cream will console them. But if we whip out the portable DVD player and put on a Kipper DVD, they are laughing and giggling within five minutes. Why do I say hide it until you need it? Because otherwise they will want it when they would be happy doing something else, and it looses it’s effectiveness for last leg consolation. If they don’t even know it’s there, right when they’re about to go into crazy freak out mode, bringing out the DVD player is a delightful surprise. Something they didn’t expect. Tricky tricky, Mommy.
So, these are the main things that get us through traveling without much of a problem. Some of these might not work for your kids. Don’t get frustrated. Your kids are unique and have their own interests and needs. Part of your job as a parent is to figure that stuff out. But, I hope that these four little tidbits will be helpful, and even if one of them works out, that’s a little less crying and a little more happy family time. Good luck on your travels with your little ones! I welcome any more suggestions. What do you do (or what did you do) with your little ones on long trips?