Planes, trains and children? Expert tips for traveling with children

As summer approaches and families begin to prepare for travel, whether it’s to summer camp, national monuments, or Grandma’s house, the key is to be prepared. Family trips are often our fondest memories of our children’s youth. Laughter, discovering new and exciting places, and for some, simply being away from home and experiencing life in a hotel room. While traveling with kids can be enjoyable, any parent can tell you that a long plane ride or car ride can be challenging with little ones in tow.

Speaking with Penny Cohen, a child development specialist and speech-language pathologist, she offered the following tips for traveling with children. Keep this list of tips handy when you start packing – it will be a great resource and help everyone have a safe and memorable trip.

For a happy trip with children:

If you can, plan to leave late so they’re only awake for a couple of hours of the trip, or schedule the nap so they sleep part of the way.

· Allow plenty of time for stops (restrooms, food, time to run): Consider planning a side trip midway that will force you to stop and give kids time to stretch and be active. A picnic in a park will give you a few minutes to run around and give you some time to take a breather.

· Bring games/handheld toys – Many toys are now available in handheld models and can keep preschoolers busy for a good length of time.

Meals in the car can also help catch up on time (or can provide a much-needed break). Pack lots of delicious but not messy foods and drinks in spill-proof cups with straws. Aim for healthy snacks like trail mix, sliced ​​apples, cheese cubes, foods that provide nutritional value. Bring a small cooler with refreshing cold fruit, juice and water.

Sing songs and play games to pass the time.

Listen to children’s tapes/CDs with music or stories. Many story tapes have accompanying books. Consider buying mini recorders with headphones so they can monitor what and how many times they listen to the music or story.

Buy small and relatively inexpensive toys and wrap them up to surprise the children. You can drop them off at certain mile markers during the trip.

· Consider renting a portable DVD or TV/VCR combo that plugs into a cigarette lighter.

Bring a portable ‘desk’ (a bean bag with a hard writing surface or a breakfast tray in the kitchen) to do crafts.

· It’s worth bringing a potty training potty if your child has an emergency needing to go NOW. Also pack some wipes and a plastic bag. This is easier than trying to find a bush.

· Bring plastic cups; Band-Aids, a kitchen cloth; Frisbee and ball for rest stops, and baby wipes no matter how old your kids are.

· Explain your travel rules/car rules before the trip (ie no kicking seats. Keep your arms and legs to yourself. Always ask for things with “please” and “thank you”).

· Don’t try to do too much in one day. Plan a main activity and if all goes well, you can add another activity. Do not mention the other activity as this may cause disappointment if it is not carried out.

Involve your child in choosing their favorite activities, but explain and teach cooperation and compromise by voting on what to do if there is a disagreement. Everyone should have the opportunity to choose an activity during the trip. Help your child deal with changes in plans by explaining why there’s a change and “WHATEVER YOU END UP DOING WILL BE FUN BECAUSE YOU’RE ON VACATION!

Car game

· “I see, I see”: choose an object that everyone can see. Then give them a hint by saying: “I see something…” (Say its shape, color or size) The first player to get it right becomes the new spy

· “A to Z” Find words that start with “A”, on signs around you or items that start with the letter. Have players take turns, after “A” go to “B”, and so on. Can you get to “Z” and finish the alphabet? Alternate starting person at the start of a new game, so everyone has a chance with the challenging letters. (For younger players, you may want to skip the difficult letters.)

· “I’m going on a trip?” – Start this game by saying: “I’m going on a trip and I’m bringing…” . The first player must name an item. The next player will say the same thing and add another item and so on.

· “Guess the Number” – Let your child think of a number from a set range of numbers. You try to guess the number by asking questions. Here’s an example of what it might look like: Your child: I’m thinking of a number between 1 and 100. You ask: Is it greater than 50?

“Find the Numbers”: Have children look for numbers on streets and buildings, phone numbers on the sides of trucks and other vehicles, dates on buildings or business signs with numbers on them

· “Circular Story”: One person starts to make up a story and each person adds something to the story. Let the story be silly, creative and fun.

· “20 Questions”: Have your child think of an object (ie an animal, food, toy…) and everyone can ask yes/no questions until they have done 20.

“Car Color Game” – Pick a color and find as many cars as you can with that color

Remember, even the toughest travel times with your little ones will end up as wonderful memories once they’re teenagers.

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