by John Riddle
It does not matter where you are headed this holiday season: the beach, the mountains, grandma's house or even to the mall. Everyone who has done it before knows the good, the bad and the ugly. We are talking about traveling with children, an adventure that is sure to test the patience of every parent on the planet.
However, traveling with children can be a pleasant experience. All it takes is some careful planning, a little luck, and a bag full of tricks. Before you know it, questions like "are we there yet?" or "what can I do, I am bored?" will be a thing of the past.
If you are preparing for a trip by car, plane, train, or bus this holiday season, you need to mentally walk through each section of the adventure BEFORE it begins. For example, even problems associated with packing the car for a trip to grandma.s should begin with a few simple and logical questions: What do we need to pack? Who is responsible for making sure those items actually get packed? Once those decisions are made, you can move on to the really important things, like how do we keep the children happy and in a good mood during a long car ride.
Keep these tips in mind when traveling with children:
Pack plenty of snacks. Many parenting books and magazine articles say you should bring fresh fruit. However, if your children don't enjoy eating fresh fruit at the kitchen table, what makes you think they'll scarf up that baggie full of grapes in the backseat of the car? Ask your children what snacks they would like to bring. Of course, parental judgment must be used here, especially if a child asks for nothing but junk food. Depending on the length of the trip, a few M&M.s mixed in with some trail mix might not be such a bad idea. Juice boxes, apples, crackers and bread are popular food choices for many families who are veterans of road trips with their children.
Create a customized art kit. You know your children better than anyone else. So why depend on those parenting books that tell you what to bring to keep junior occupied? They'll say things like, "crayons, coloring books and paper will keep them happy for hours." Baloney. If junior isn't a fan of coloring, he won't be interested in that brand new box of crayons. Instead, create a customized art kit. Take a shoe box, and fill it with items that your child likes to do. If it's crayons, that's great. But if they prefer colored pencils, or those scented magic markers, use those instead. Throw in some safety scissors, a glue stick, some old magazines and a small notebook, and your child now has everything they need to make a scrapbook.
Books on tape or CD can be a real lifesaver, especially for long trips. Take your children with you to the bookstore and let them help you to make a selection. Or visit your local library, where you can borrow items for free. Sometimes listening to a tape for only 15 or 20 minutes at a time is better than trying to force everyone to listen for an hour or more. Stop the tape after 15 minutes, and then ask the children to write or draw what they heard. It will also give them something to look forward to as they await the next installment of the story.
Play games. A favorite game to play while traveling with children is the Alphabet Game. You begin by saying, "what would you bring on a picnic?" and everyone takes turns looking for the letters of the alphabet on road signs.
Have something different to do. A new sticker album, game book or coloring book just for the trip can keep children busy for a long time. Some children may enjoy crossroad puzzles, or even word search puzzles as well.
No matter how much time you spend preparing for your trip in advance, recognize that even the best plans can easily go sour. Keep a positive attitude, and do not forget to laugh. Take some time to plan your adventure, and you will soon discover that traveling with your children can be a rewarding experience!