Posting on Memorial Day, sorry. Maybe no time to fix the weekend you just had, but maybe it will be helpful next time.
As one of those couples who LOVES to travel, but no money for a vehicle with a DVD player, Mr. Curly and I are often frustrated by "easy ways to travel with kids" that list movies.
Movies? Really? Am I the only one who realizes a wide range of people read those articles and movies aren't possible for them all?
Now, to those who CAN watch movies in your car - that's good! Honestly, sometimes I wish we could. I'm not saying movies while travelling are evil, but I have set out to make a list as summer ensues of ways to travel with kids WITHOUT movies and WITHOUT going crazy.
FYI: Most of our vacations are 8-10 hours away (one way), and these tips are only for the car ride. Once you get to your destination, you're on your own.
To the tips!
1. Let them pack their own activities. Each of my kids is given a small bag (sometimes it's a mini bookbag, sometimes a lunch box, depending on where we're going and how long we'll be in the car) that they are allowed to fill with whatever they want. Toys, books, games - all their choice.
I've tried packing these bags for them, choosing things that I think would be fun, or maybe need more playtime, and it is usually a disaster. Kids like what they like.
2. Pack an extra bag of activities. While I let my children take their own things, I always pack a backup bag. After all, you can only tell your kids "I told you to pack enough things to do" so many times before you want to scream. So I have an extra bag with books that all 3 enjoy, finger puppets, magnets (we always have 3 small cookie sheets in our car to use as a travel tray for drawing, snacks, etc, so magnets work great on these!), stickers, and maybe a few mcdonalds toys I had held back from them.
3. Make a map. Curly Boy LOVES to look at our atlas (yes we have GPS, we can't update it. yes, we have iphones, we do use that GPS, but sometimes it is just nice to have all the states on paper in front of you). One thing we will be doing this summer is printing out our routes from google maps, and marking our stops on it. That way he can track our progress as we drive throughout the day.
4. Audiobooks. This is our version of movies. Last trip we took, we listened to James and the Giant Peach. We have listened to kids books, mysteries (when the kids were younger and not catching on so much to what we were listening too), and old radio programs. We usually get these from the library. This summer brings something new and exciting! We just purchased all 7 of the Narnia books on CD, done by Focus on the Family's Radio Drama Theater. Over 22 hours of stories for the whole family - I honestly can't wait to listen to them!
5. Plan a picnic. This isn't always possible for us when travelling for holidays, but during the summer, we always plan a picnic lunch. We have found a great park on the way to my parents' house, and we always stop for at least an hour to eat and play before getting back in the car. Even if you can't find a park, just a rest stop with a decent bathroom can allow the kids to run out a little energy before getting back in the car. We usually have a Frisbee or something to throw for our dog as well (when we let him travel with us).
6. Don't plan on naps (at least while in the car, once you get to your destination is a completely different story). While our children are fantastic nappers at home, there is something about a car ride that completely throws them off. I have given up saying "Ok, now we're all going to be quiet and rest" while we drive. They'll fall asleep when they fall asleep, and I always just pray it isn't five minutes before we stop for lunch! Mr. Curly and I have been known to delay lunch for up to two hours however if a particularly cranky kid has just fallen asleep. Which leads me to point 7
7. Pack fun snacks. You know those snacks your kids always beg you for and you always say no? Now is the time to break them out. We buy fruit snacks (a rare occurrence at our house, so always a welcome treat), granola bars, special cookies, or sometimes even the gogurt tubes. I love to make trail mix (our is honey nut cheerios, pretzels, marshmallows and chocolate chips) to snack on which is particularly helpful if we're pushing back a meal time. Each of our kids has a small insulated tumbler with lid and straw that we fill with juice in the morning. After that, they can share a bottle of water. We don't limit drinks, per se, but we are careful to not overload their little tummies. We take bathroom breaks when we need them, but don't want accidents if we can't find a stop!
And as a bonus:
Don't be all concerned with getting somewhere at a specific time. This was something Mr. Curly and I REALLY struggled with. We LOVE to travel, but we don't always want to take all day about it. Sometimes we just want to get where we're going. We've learned after 5 years and countless thousands of miles, sometimes you just will NOT get there in the appointed time. Give your travel schedule lots of wiggle room and grace. Stop to stare at wild turkeys if it will keep a certain Curly Boy excited and happy for the next hour. Go through 2 different drive-thrus for supper if it means everyone gets the meal they want. Above all, enjoy yourself. Isn't that why we go on vacations in the first place? To enjoy our families and make memories?!