You’re planning a road trip and dreading THAT question. You know the one. The questions that’s repeatedly asked, as you spend hours upon hours in the car:
‘When are we going to get there?’
Or you’re planning on flying and you secretly hope that your child doesn’t become that child on the flight. The one that constantly kicks the backs of seats, or heaven forbid, the one that throws a mid-flight tantrum!
Yeah, it’s the stuff of parent’s nightmares.
But I have a secret.
No, you don’t have to be the kind of parent who puts their kid in front of a DVD player. There’s a better way.
Make them travellers too!
By making them a traveller from early on, it’s one sure way you can connect with your child for the rest of their lives.
Want to know what it is?
Here are my 4 secrets to turn any child into a happy traveller
(and the last tip is my special weapon).
Using these tips, your kids will be open to new experiences and eager to explore the world themselves.
I am here to tell you that travelling successfully with kids can be done.
Secret #1: Preventing chaos through involvement.
Whether you are flying or driving, the first secret is to make sure you involve your child in the planning. Speak with them about where you are going and what you will be doing, it makes the trip an adventure. Encourage them to ask questions about your destination, and help them to discover the answers. Get them excited, making sure that there is something on the itinerary for them so they have something to look forward to.
Even if you’re visiting relatives for the thousandth time, seek out different things to do in the area. Is there a museum nearby? A zoo? How about a river or lake where you could go fishing, or a nearby state park that you have yet to discover? Have you discovered Geocaching yet? Now THAT puts a whole new twist on things.
Find something new that you all will enjoy doing together.
Secret #2: Planning is key.
Put together a list of what your child will need, then let them decide on the specifics. For example, if you list four pair of pants, let your child choose what pants make up the four pair. This allows your child to feel responsible and engaged. Obviously, you have final say in the matter given that last years stained, holey jeans may not cut it at Grandma’s house!
Secret #3: Set Expectations.
Let them know travel times to the destination, noting points of interest that they might enjoy along the way. Ask them to pick out a few things they might want to do or see from a guidebook. Share the travel plan as much you can.
Explain how you expect them to behave. You may be on vacation, but manners remain important. These factors are important to kids. It helps reduce their anxiety and keeps them comfortable in their surroundings.
Secret #4: The Secret Backpack.
No matter the destination, pack a special bag for your child. This will be your secret weapon.
Don’t let them know about the contents until they are in the car, or through security at the airport. Tease them with it to build excitement and anticipation.
Consider your child’s hobbies. What holds their interest? Choosing the right mix will keep them entertained throughout the entire vacation. You will be amazed how one backpack can make a difference.
While my own teenage daughter isn’t surprised any longer at the secret backpack idea, she still asks if there will be one, every time we travel.
A backpack is ideal to keep your child’s things organized during your trip.
Here are some suggestions on what to include:
A favorite toy or video game (include extra games and charger if electronic).
Information for both the journey and the destination (i.e.state facts, maps) Not only is this educational, but it will also make them more aware of their surroundings.
Fun activities, such as car bingo, word puzzles, etc. Check out our Fun Games for Your Next RoadTrip (on our Great Resources Page) for some great game ideas. I’ve had a car full of adults passing the time on a road trip with travel bingo. It’s a great time distractor! As they say, time flies when you’re having fun!
Coloring book and pencils. Leave the crayons at home. There is nothing worse than melted crayons in your car. (Just don’t forget a pencil sharpener!)
Travel journal or simple notebook. Encourage your child to write about what they see and do. If your child is younger, include a small sketchbook instead and have them draw their impressions. Ask the questions of who, what, why, where and when. For example: Did they meet any new friends? What was different about the park? What was their favorite activity? And if writing in a book isn’t for them, pick up postcards along the way and have them write on the back of them.
Camera. If you have an old camera that you no longer use, consider giving it to your child to use. This will provide a different perspective to your holiday snapshots.
Healthy snack or two AND a special treat.
Travel pillow and small blanket. This provides your child with a sense of comfort to be bundled up in something familiar.
Picture or chapter book, depending on age. Paperbacks are easier to pack. If your child is a bookworm, make sure to include more than one, or at least scout out a second hand bookstore at your destination.
Spending money. This will save you angst and money. Give your child an amount of money appropriate for their age and enough to cover a couple of trinkets along the way. This way, they are not constantly asking for you to buy something from the gift shop or when out shopping at the mall. Let them know they are responsible for their own money and it’s their decision what they buy (within reason, of course). But be clear, once the money is gone, it’s gone.
A Ziploc bag with quarters totaling $3 – $5, depending on age and length of trip. We’ve all experienced the constant questions when traveling with our children like ‘When are we going to get there?’ Set the ground rules: any time they ask the question, they must give up a quarter. After handing over their first quarter, your child will think twice about asking again. (Of course, the exception to this rule is asking when the next bathroom break would be). By the end of the trip, whatever they have leftover, they get to keep. My daughter has only lost $0.50 with this idea and it was a relaxing week-long road trip.