Monday, August 20, 2012

Tips on Traveling with Kids

Traveling with kids.  Do you feel tired just hearing that sentence?  :)  If you've read my blog for a while you know that Kenny and I travel often with our kids.  Especially to our home town in southern Utah to visit family.  The drive is exactly 6 1/2 hours from our doorstep to our favorite retreat (my moms house) if there is no traffic.  We have made that trip with our kids so many times in the last ten years (and many other trips) that I feel like I've learned a lot about how to make traveling with little ones as pleasant as possible.  I've had several people ask if I have any tips on traveling with kids and I do!  Here are just a few things that we do to make our road trips go as smooth as possible.

{TIPS ON TRAVELING WITH KIDS}

Tip 1)  Don't travel with kids if you can at all avoid it.  

Kidding.  

Kind of.   

Tip 1 for real)  If you're driving to your destination, do a bit of homework ahead of time to make sure that you aren't going to be on the road during heavy traffic times.  If possible, avoid traveling on Fridays and Sundays if you are driving in areas with heavy traffic.  It's hard to do, but by leaving really early on a Saturday morning vs. a Friday afternoon can save hours of time on the road.  There is nothing worse than being stuck in traffic with small children!  You don't want to make an already long trip even longer.  We usually leave early on a Saturday morning and if Kenny has to be back to work Monday, we wake up super early Monday morning to drive home and Kenny goes straight into work.  Often he will take Monday off as a travel day so we don't have to drive on Sunday in all of the traffic.  

Tip 2) Pack the car the night before and leave early in the morning when kids are in their calmest state.  I mentioned we leave early in the morning to avoid traffic.  We also do this because kids (at least our kids!) travel best in the morning.  We pack the car the night before and as soon as everyone rolls out of bed we hit the road.  The morning hours are always calmer times when everyone is rested and the kids are more content to relax in the car.  Parents often think "let's leave in the evening so the kids will sleep on the drive..."  This usually backfires.  I know because I've done it.  And it usually backfires.  Because kids are so excited about the trip and are out of their normal routine they don't sleep and instead are overly tired and hyper and much harder to travel with.  

Tip 3)  Allow plenty of time for stops along the way.  You really have to learn to "enjoy the journey" when traveling with little ones.  Knowing you will make more stops and planning that extra time into your trip will make for a more stress free travel day.

Tip 4)  Pack each child his/her own little bag of snacks and fun things to do on the drive.  

I always pack my girls their own bag full of snacks and things to do on the trip.  This way I'm not handing stuff back to the them and they are always excited to see what I've put in their bag.  (They also get to pick out a few favorite toys to play with that go in their bags.)   

Because Kole is still little, I keep a small bag next to me of things to occupy him on the drive.  A few of his favorite books, his favorite train, snacks, water, etc.  


This is a fun little book that we took along with us whenever we traveled this summer.  Kole uses it in therapy and he LOVES it.  It's a simple matching book/game for Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See?  It would be so easy to make your own if you have a toddler who enjoys this book.  Just download matching pictures of the animals in the book and attach velcro so your child can match the pictures.   


Kole finds the small animal that matches and places it on the big animal.  He "reads" the book while he does it and it's the cutest thing.  He'll say "bear..  what you see!?"  :) 




A homemade matching book like this is perfect for traveling because it keeps little ones busy for a while.  It would be so easy to make a matching book with all sorts of pictures that little ones recognize.  I'd love to make similar books like this for Kole.  If only I didn't need to sleep!  :)

Here are a few things I load the girls' bags with:  coloring books, word searches, crayons, clip boards with blank paper so they can write letters or draw pictures....

Sometimes I toss in some homemade flashcards of whatever I've been working on with them.  For this trip Addison was working on adding doubles and Ellie was working on her three times tables.  Practicing their math facts isn't their favorite travel activity, but sometimes I can get them to quiz each other and make it into a fun game.

I also toss in their Boogie Board pads.  Same concept as an etch-a-sketch.  A fun writing tablet that you use a certain pen for and erase with the touch of a button.

Music is always fun for a long trip so we make sure to bring the kids' favorite songs along.  This Wicked CD has been a staple in our car for a while now.  :)

I always pack the girls a few snacks of their own and just tell them when they can eat them along the way.  Wet wipes are a staple for dirty hands or spills and the black case holds our DVD's - the ultimate survival tool for a successful long trip!  We are so grateful for our DVD player in the van.  We usually try to go as long as we can without a movie and then toss one on when the kids start getting restless and are tired of doing other things.  They aren't a necessity but boy do they make traveling with kids (especially our two year old!) much easier.

Tip 5)  Don't swear at the other cars on the road because your kids will hear and they won't forget and they will remind you over and over that you said a bad word.  (This tip was brought to you by Kenny.  Thanks to my girls he is working on his road rage.)  


:)

Happy Traveling!

23 comments:

Cathy's World said...

Great advice Erin. We do the same thing. I have to agree that the DVD's are a life saver. I like watching them too. I am not the best at traveling. So, it is an added bonus. I think in was the best thing ever invented! Have you ever seen some parents that bring every toy their children own to a hotel? We did. My husband was laughing. I think a back pack and snacks are perfect.
:-)

Ella Pretty Blog said...

Love all your tips - #5 had me laughing out loud - nothing like kids watching us to ensure we're on our best behavior LOL!

Sarah said...

You have such good ideas! Totally love #1! :)

Lucy said...

Great post, Erin! I just returned from my first plane trip with Frances and George (sans Will, if you can believe it; yes, I am crazy) and I learned a lot about what to bring, how to prepare, and what you can and can't control about the whole thing. My mother's tip #1 was to look as pathetic as possible and people will help you out along the way ... and she was exactly right! And PS - that Strawberry Shortcake coloring book in one of your pictures also accompanied us on our travels. It kept both F&G happy and quiet, so it must be good luck : )

Natalie said...

Great ideas! We went on a little road trip with our 5 month old this past weekend. He napped for most of it, but we did have a little bit of awake baby + too much car seat time = noise! Thanks for sharing!

LivingSolutionsid said...

Great ideas! Especially the Boogie Board! That is bookmarked for Christmas :) We make the long drive {about 8 hours with stops} up to the bay area quite often-both of our extended families live there-and we've got our travel up there figured out pretty well!! I guess if you make a drive enough times, you know what works and what doesn't, right?! Love to hear your ideas! ~gina

Katy said...

We're fairly lucky when it comes to road trips - both boys used to sleep in the car for much of the trip, which was awesome. And just before our cross country move we got a brand new Odyssey with DVD player and my kids are PROS at watching movies (should I admit that?). That DVD player made the trip a breeze!

Erin said...

Thanks everyone!

Cathy and Katy - I'm totally with you. Our Odyssey with that big TV and head phones is a LIFESAVER. I always wonder how our parents traveled without DVD players in the car! We're all so spoiled. :)

Rachel Doyle said...

Erin - I loved your matching book. Did you make that yourself? That would be fun to make not only for my kids, but a couple of nephews for Christmas.

Jennifer said...

Great ideas, Erin! Thank you so much!

Nita K. said...

Funny post. You have some really good ideas. I love the Brown Bear book. If I ever get some time, I might try to make one of those.

Kristina said...

Great post I will have to come back to this if we have take a road trip! We usually fly with our little one and boy is that ever fun!! (said sarcastically of course :) )

Erin said...

Thanks Rachel! I didn't make it - Kole's therapist did. But what a great idea to make some for gifts!

I know Kristina! Flying with kids is a whole different animal! :)

kami @ nobiggie.net said...

Tip #5...HA! so funny!

Katrina said...

Love all your tips! so funny, because they are so true.

We drive to Austin, Texas from southern CA once a year to visit family. Without stopping (yes, we've done it without stopping a few times) it is almost exactly 22 hours. TWENTY-TWO hours in a VAN with nine kids and two adults. Oh yeah, fun times for sure. Can you just imagine? Normally it goes very well. But back in 2007... back when we only had eight kids....on our way home from our annual visit, the kids got a bug from my mother (who we were visiting) and about two hours into our drive home one of our children started vomiting. So we passed that child a plastic trash bag. Then about another hour or so, another child got sick. And then about two hours later, another child. And so on and so on until ALL EIGHT were throwing up right about into the 12th hour of our drive. I kid you not. They all had plastic trash bags draped around them, because of course we could not take the time to stop due to my husand needing to be back on duty at the fire station the next day. We HAD to get home, sick kids or not; throw-up or not. We had to get home! It was Thanksgiving time (November), and very cold outside, so the windows were not down. Can you just imagine the smell? It's a wonder that my husband and myself didn't get sick. We managed to hold it together and made a safe trip home, dispite all the vomiting going on in the back of the van. Lots or paper towels and wipes used on that trip!! When we finally got home from that trip, about an hour later I started feeling really queasy myself. But I did not get sick. A day later, I still felt queasy. And a day after that, I still felt extremely queasy. I then checked the calendar and I noticed that my period was late. I took a pregnancy test and learned that MY queasiness was not from this "bug" that everyone caught, but from a new pregnancy!! Nine months later our #9 was born. That was a nice way to end that nightmare of a trip :)

True story.

Tim, Steph, Emma, Sophie & Lily said...

Hi Erin,
My name is Stephanie and I have been meaning to send you a note for the longest time! I've been following your blog for about a year now and it's funny how similar we are, except that we live here in the Midwest surrounded by cornfields. No ocean in sight! (pretty jealous of your nearby beach :) The hubs and I also have 3 kids...all girls though...ages 7, 5 and 22 months. And...I just picked up in a recent post about your husband that he does the same type of law my husband does. As soon as you said "IPO" I felt like we were blog soul mates:) Even as I write this, my husband is working on a closing so our evening schedules for the week are all on me because who knows when he'll make it home each night. I'm not complaining, that's just how it is. I signed up for it, too :)
I just wanted to tell you how much I love your blog and all of your organizing tips. Between your blog and Clover Lane's, I have gotten quite a lot of purging and organizing done this year and I love it. So, a big thanks to you for that! And lastly, I so appreciate your posts about your sweet kids. When I'm at my wits end with my girls some days, they help me regain my perspective on how much I love them and how quickly they are growing up.
Best regards,
Steph :)

Katrina said...

Just read my comment over again and I'm laughing to myself: when I say we did not "stop" I meant "stop" as in to stay somewhere overnight! Of course we STOPPED plenty of times: to eat, to use the bathroom, to stretch our legs and let the kids run around, and in the case where all the kids got sick, we stopped to clean someone up if we had to. There's been times when the drive has taken almost two full days becasue we stopped along the way and stayed at hotels. When we drive straight through, it takes 22 hours ("without stopping" at hotels!) Just wanted to explain myself, LOL - didn't want anyone reading to think we are some kind of crazy parents who do not ever stop the car when driving for 22 hours ;)

Shari said...

Katrina, I was reading your comment and thought, " how in the world did no one in that car have to pee for 22 hours!"

Such a great post, Erin. I love that matching book!

Erin said...

Katrina - you crack me up! I can't believe that story! What a nightmare. And I loved that you clarified that you DO stop. HA HA! :)

Steph - Thank you so much for your sweet comment! Your kind words seriously made my day. I love that you have kids the same ages as mine and your husband and Kenny have the same job. We would be fast friends for sure! Thanks again. I'm so happy to "meet" you!

Theme parks in france said...

I love your tips. It can be hard keeping them entertained. Thats why I like going on the kid friendly holidays that have everything they love.

Keshet said...

AMEN to the evening travel point. I have learned that the hard way!

Anonymous said...

All of these tips are awesome! One thing I always make sure to do is stop at rest areas or parks to have a picnic. That way the kids can get some energy out. I let the kids pack a backpack full of activities for the ride and I bring along my iPad as well. With the iPad, the kids can play games, read, and watch movies on our Blockbuster@Home service. A co-worker at Dish told me about this service, so I downloaded the Dish Remote Access app and the kids can access our Blockbuster streaming. They have several family movies on there, so the kids never get bored with the movies and they can always find something to watch. It is such a lifesaver when you are traveling for hours.

Saba said...

Great ideas! We went on a little road trip with our 5 month old this past weekend. He napped for most of it, but we did have a little bit of awake baby + too much car seat time = noise! Thanks for sharing!Order Protonix