It's officially summer vacation time at our house! Every summer my family takes a vacation together. We usually stay within a half day drive from home because everyone has kids, but I still have to prepare long in advance to ensure we have enough entertainment to keep everyone sane in the car.
I've done a lot of research online so I thought I'd share the best tips that I found for road trips and airplane travel with kids.
SET THE STAGE
I like to try to set the stage for a peaceful trip using BRIBERY! Sometimes my girls need a little incentive to be good when they're facing tough situations. Family Fun Magazine has an idea for Vacation Vouchers. Good behavior is rewarded with special treats and surprises! Another mom wrote an article in Family Fun Magazine about her Cranky Coupons. She made a few coupons for each family member that "entitles the bearer to 10 minutes of whininess, irritability, poutiness, grumpiness, crankiness, sulkiness and/or other general disagreeableness". You can print out your own Cranky Coupons here.
Another common pitfall with kids (mine included) is the sudden need to have everything they see. Toys, souvenirs, t-shirts, etc. As if the vacation isn't enough! One mom created a "Trip Jar" that the family decorated with stickers and pictures from previous travels. They add money each month when the kids do chores or good deeds. When vacation time rolls around, they bring the jar and spend the contents on snacks and souvenirs. Another family travels with rolls of nickels, dimes and quarters that they use to reward good behavior, patience, courtesy to other and accomplishments on the road, such as memorizing a poem or reading a book. Whatever the kids earn becomes their souvenir spending money.
PRINTABLE TRAVEL GAMES & COLORING PAGES
Mom's Minivan: This website has lots of free printable games including: Road Trip Bingo, Tic Tac Toe, Travel Scavenger Hunt, License Plate game and lots more. There are also links to coloring pages and silly song lyrics and printable "Travel Tickets".
Free Puzzles: This website has some free printable games as well including: Hangman, Car Bingo and Mazes.
License Plate Game: This website has a great printable of all the state license plates. Cross off each license plate as you spot it.
I Spy: This blogger created printable "I Spy" travel games for toddlers and older kids that are super cute!
DIY Scavenger Hunt: Family Fun Magazine has a great DIY game for spotting familiar objects on a road trip.
PBS Kids: The PBS Kids website has links to all the PBS shows, like Barney and Sesame Street. When you click on a particular show, it will take you to printable coloring pages and other printable activities.
Nick Jr.: The Nick Jr. website has lots of printable games and activities for all of your little one's favorite shows.
Disney: When you click on the link to "Characters and Stars" there is a drop down box that allows you to choose your favorite Disney character. You can then download lots of activity packs and games related to that character. Perfect for Disney vacations!
TIP: Use a 3-ring binder and clear plastic sleeves for games like Tic-Tac-Toe and Hangman that can be used over and over with a dry-erase pen. You can also use a 3-ring pencil bag to hold the dry-erase pens so they don't get lost.
1. String Cheerios on dental floss, then you'll have a necklace you can eat!
2. Go to the library before your trip to pick out some new books and rent some new videos if you have a portable DVD player.
3. Play A-Z: While in the car you pass many signs. The idea is for the family to look on signs for each letter of the alphabet (in order). Start with 'A', once someone sees an 'A' on a sign, license plate, or anything else, you move on to 'B'. You cannot get 2 letters from the same sign/license plate/etc.
4. Play 20 Questions: One person thinks of something and others try to guess what they are thinking by asking questions. The goal is to guess what it is before 20 questions are asked. Start with wide questions: "Is it a Person, Place or Thing", and then narrow down the questions as you go.
5. Put together a Busy Box for your little ones. Include things like a note pad, Postape, glue sticks, noodles and string, crayons, Popsicle sticks, stickers, bubble wrap, pom pom balls, small puzzle, toy cars/trains, flash cards, Popsicle stick puzzle, pipe cleaners, etc.
6. Similar to the Busy Box, make a Dress Up Purse. Include some jewelry, a scarf, sunglasses, etc.
7. Load a new app on your iPhone.
8. Mark the miles: Hang little numbered tickets above each child's car seat, one for every hour of the trip. Let the kids redeem the tickets each hour for little treats or toys.
9. Make a Dry Erase Workbook. See my post here on how to make.
10. This mom blogger has TONS of great ideas and tips. Check out her two travel posts here and here.
TRAVEL PRODUCTS I LOVE
1. gogo Kidz Travelmate
When Tim had to work out of state for a summer, Ava and I flew up to see him most weekends. Getting both of us through the airport was tough. Ava was young and would think nothing of wandering off. To keep her contained, I used a gogo Kidz Travelmate. It attaches directly to most car seats and allows you to wheel your child through the airport.
2. Travel Pillow
If I was lucky enough to have a child that could sleep in a car or on a plane, I would for sure get this travel pillow. If I did not have to care for my kids while traveling, I would love to use a travel pillow to snooze too!
3. Safety Harness
Some parents may frown upon these, but if you were at the airport alone with your child and a variety of bags, a car seat, stroller, etc., what would you do if your kid bolted on you? Abandon your belongings and run, I guess. I was unwilling to risk this. So I used a Safety Harness on Ava when I traveled alone with her. Don't judge.
4. Portable DVD Player
My kids know that the DVD player is only used on special occasions so it's still a novelty. When we turn it on, the kids are silent. Beautiful.
5. Book Holder
It seems like the car can become so disorganized very quickly on road trips. I like this book holder for books, coloring books and DVD's.
TRAVEL TOYS I LOVE
1. Water Wow Doodle Books
I love these books. They can be used over and over again and water is not messy to clean up in a car or on an airplane. I've found them at craft stores, like Hobby Lobby.
2. Learn to Dress Monkey
This is a great toy for little ones who are working on developing their fine motor skills.
3. My Quiet Book
Another great toy to keep little hands busy!
4. Card Games
Card games always seem to make time fly by and they're great for air travel!
5. Invisible Ink Activity Books
You don't have to worry about marker all over your car!
My kids love to decorate their drawings with stamps (and stickers).
7. Tag Reader
We have the Tag (for Ava) and Tag Jr. (for Sidney) and they love it!
8. Color Wonder Activity Tote
Again, no worry about the mess of markers in your car / on the plane. I also love that it provides a hard surface for kids to color in the car.
TIP: If you don't have a lap desk for your kids, you can use a cookie sheet. They're great for coloring, playing with magnets, reading, and eating snacks. When it's not in use, it fits in the back pocket of the seat!
GREAT WEBSITES FOR MORE RESOURCES
Traveling with Kids: This blog is entirely devoted to traveling with kids. There are some great suggestions. Here's a few that I liked: Basic Guide to Flying with Kids, 10 Useful Products, and Top 7 Activities and Toys to Bring.
Parenting: This website has a good article on 50 Ways to Entertain a Kid on an Airplane.
My good friend Jenna (Mommy in Manhattan) was asked to be a guest blogger on mommybites.com. She wrote and article about helpful products when traveling with kids. You can see her post here.