By Vicki Little
It was an honest mistake. Or two… maybe three honest mistakes. I booked a camping site without realizing how far away it was. And then my husband said he wanted to go anyway because we really needed to get away. The further the better. And when my phone seemed to know the right directions, I didn’t have any reason to doubt it. Until the gas station clerk laughed at us and said we weren’t even close. So we called the number on the website and the lady told me: “Oh dear. Well, at least you have the very scenic route!” I wasn’t sure how my children were going to survive the extra four (yes four!) hours. But we did it. And the majority of the grumbling came from my husband, who was stuck in the driver’s seat. There are now things I will always take with me when traveling by car, plane or train. I call them my traveling sanity-savers.
1) Start with nothing. Don’t immediately hand over something to do — or your kids will expect you to entertain them every single minute of the trip. Let them look out the window, chat with one another, or simply listen to the radio.
2) Snacks, snacks and more snacks. This one I knew from before. I get a basket, fill it with healthy food, and let the kids snack when they want to. They actually eat less then they normally would have at home once the novelty of having free reign of snacking wears off. I recommend keeping the snacks light, and limit the liquid intake if you want fewer bathroom trips.
3) New activity kits and crayons. Fresh crayons are just more fun to color with — everyone knows that. Plus, if you teach your kids to color really really hard so they can make decorations with a pen cap, it will take them forever to color a picture.
4) Bring your imagination. Play I-Spy, make a comic book together, or tell a string-a-long story (where each person takes a turn adding on to the story). Try to find 20 different states in license plates or colors of shoes on a plane. Play 20 questions/dots/hangman/tic-tac-toe. Play “would you rather” — or make up your own game!
5) Paper people. I didn’t realize my kids would love these so much until they were in a kids’ meal somewhere. Find some of those 3D paper people that kids fold together, and your kids will be occupied for at least an hour putting them together and playing with them. I recently found a Minecraft paper world at Target for about $10.
6) Old pictures. It doesn’t matter if you are a little kid or a grown one, there is something fun about looking back at old family memories.
7) A brand new book, and an old one. The brand new book is for them, so they can have something fun to read. The old book is so that they can read something that is familiar without having to ask you what a word means or what r-a-n-d-o-m w-o-r-d spells.
8) Wrapped dollar store toys. I don’t know why it is so much more fun to get a wrapped toy than an unwrapped one, but it is. Maybe because lately birthday party gifts are more likely to be in gift bags than wrapping paper. Space these gifts far apart, and only give them for good behavior.
9) Electronics — Save the best for last. For many families, electronics are the inevitable. Don’t allow this one too soon, though. Save it until you are desperate, and let your children know from the start that electronics near the end of the trip will be their reward for getting along or behaving. And then, when you are at your wits’ end, enjoy some quite time before the craziness of arriving at your destination begins.
Vicki Little is a work-at-home mom with two young kids. A Colorado native, she is the Publisher and Editor of Macaroni Kid Aurora and Downtown Denver. In her free time, she enjoys volunteering, reading, camping, or enjoying a bottle of wine with friends.
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