Hitting the road with young kids can seem like a daunting task — especially when the destination is hours away. But with some planning and smart preparations, you can make the trip much easier on all involved, and yes, that includes you!
Whether you’re headed home to visit family or are packing up and getting ready for your next PCS, follow these proven tactics to keep the kids happy and occupied throughout the entire journey.
1. Pack smarter, not harder
Whether you’re driving, flying, or a combination of the two, you can make travel sessions easier by packing smart. Keep an extra outfit or two within easy reach (especially for littles). The same goes for toiletries (if you’re planning an overnight on the road), and any items you’ll need in a pinch. If you’re doing an overnight en route, pack a “hotel bag” and keep the giant suitcases in the car.
Baby wipes are a necessity for travelers of any age, and blankets, drinks, and medications always come in handy for comfortable travel sessions.
2. Bring more snacks than you think you need
Bottles, juice, pre-packaged snacks — pile them on in. (Liquids are allowed for babies and toddlers on planes, just be prepared to have it tested.) Trust us, traveling kids can eat. It might be more out of boredom than actual hunger, but whatever works, right? If snacking keeps them occupied, it’s best to have more on hand than you’ll need.
If you prefer healthy options, just plan ahead so you can have all of their favorites within quick reach.
3. Leave on their schedule, not yours
If kids will sleep on the road, it’s best to bite the bullet and leave as early as possible. Sure, it’s not ideal for mom and dad, but think about the possibility of having complete control of the radio and zero complaining from the back seat. (We’re hearing angels sing!)
If they’ll sleep, create an environment in which they’ll actually sleep!
When planning around naps, you might have to wait until later in the day to get on the move. This isn’t always great for making good time, but it can help make for some happier travelers (parents included). While older kids will be a wild card — who knows if they’ll sleep, let alone when, younger kiddos can be encouraged to rest on the move. Consider kids’ schedules and look to leave around their sleep times for easier transitions.
4. Make a list of activities
Depending on your kids’ ages, create a list of activities and compile them into a single bin (ideally that they can get to easily). Sure this can contain a phone or tablet, but battery life only lasts so long. (Plus consider the negative effects it can have on their moods when used long term while traveling.)
Gather tiny board games, toys, homemade activities that help them learn while keeping them busy. Art projects are great, too. (Bonus if it’s water-based markers or something like a magnet board so there’s no mess.) Meanwhile, you can host participation games like I Spy or other road trip classics.
Help plan a smooth trip for all involved with a little planning ahead. And with any luck, full bellies and distracted kids will help make the trip a breeze.
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