Like these families, I [Krista Dulaney, Director of School Relations] will be traveling with my family next week, headed south for our family's first vacation to Walt Disney World! We will be driving to Orlando, which got me thinking -- What are we going to do to pass the hours in the car? I would rather my boys not veg out in front of a screen for 12 hours (although I have to admit...the sounds of silence from the backseat are quite nice), so what's a mom to do?
Fortunately for me -- and you! -- the Internet is full of blog posts and tutorials on how to keep your kids happy, busy, and engaged on a long car or plane trip! In Part 1 of this 2-part blog series, I'll share five of my favorite ideas from around the Web for the 5-and-under crowd. (Mrs. Tigges will take the older kids in Part 2)
1. Trip Clips
My favorite tricks for behavior management on the road is this simple trick I picked up on Pinterest via Tip Junkie. Each child gets their own clip -- a clothespin will work, and your kids can help decorate theirs -- that goes onto a front sunvisor at the beginning of the trip. Explain to your kids that their clip will stay up on the visor as long as they are behaving and obeying, but if there are tantrums or arguments, their clip will come down. Anyone who has their clip on the visor at each pit stop will get a prize! I like to take a package of fruit gummies for their prize, but you could also buy a package of inexpensive little cars or stickers, whatever it is that gets your kids motivated.
2. Goody Bags
This will not come as a shock to anyone who has been around kids, but children love surprises! One way to make traveling with kids more fun is to present your children with a goody bag of new items for the trip -- new sunglasses, a package of crayons and a coloring book. These things are inexpensive and will have value even past your trip. You can pick these up at a dollar store or dollar spot. If you really want to prolong the experience and make it even more fun, you could wrap each gift and dole them out at your bathroom/meal breaks along the way (you could combine the #1 tip with #2!).
3. Activity Trays
Dollar Tree has small metal cookie sheets for $1.00 that can be used in so many ways on a car/plane ride! This blog post has many ideas for using these cookie sheets, including magnetic paper dolls, a writing or coloring surface, magnetic puzzles, and more! With just a little bit of time and preparation, this $1.00 purchase can bring your kids hours of travel entertainment! What an inexpensive investment!
4. Audio Entertainment
Books on CD or music CDs can be a great resource to pull out on a trip, especially in the post-lunch, early afternoon time of the day. These can be rented from the library (always check the due dates, sometimes CD resources are due back earlier than books) or purchased in a store, or you can download them on iTunes if you want them on a portable device. One of our family's favorite albums for on-the-road listening is Jewel's The Merry Goes 'Round. We also have some fun alphabet songs, VeggieTales music, and other tracks on an iTunes playlist that gets used a lot.
There is no shortage of travel games that you can play with your kids. Of course there's the classic license plate game, the alphabet game, and I Spy, but how about travel bingo and scavenger hunts? There are so many free printable versions of these games available online! You can print them out and give them to your kids with crayons or markers for one-time use OR you can laminate them or place in clear plastic sheet protectors and use over and over again by using stickers or dry erase markers to mark their game play. Circle magnets can be used to keep them on your $1.00 cookie sheets (see #3) or an inexpensive clipboard could come in handy.
Stay tuned for Part 2, which will have more ideas for older kids! Check out our Traveling with Kids Pinterest board for even more ideas!