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Mom's Time Out

Traveling with kids

Mary Angel

(1/2018) Can you believe it is a new year already and 2018 at that? Before we know it spring will be here and then summer. The older I get the faster time flies. I have a lot of friends who are already planning their spring get-aways and family vacations. Several of them have asked how we manage to drive to Florida without the kids going crazy or driving us nuts that long in the car. I am here to tell you that a 15 hour drive with 4 kids isnít for the faint of heart. I am also a big proponent for driving to vacation IF you can save a substantial amount of money.

That being said, if you arenít going to save a lot of money by driving then most definitely I would encourage you to fly. If driving will put a good amount of money in your wallet toward upping the vacation fun then I am here to give you some pointers on making the drive a little more bearable and maybe even fun. Letís start with the elephant in the roomÖelectronic babysitters. I am certainly not a fan of using electronics all of the time to occupy your children (my definitely use them more than I would like). When you are talking about a 15 hour car ride I see no harm in some tablet time and maybe a movie or two. My kids have Kindles so they can play games, watch movies and read books. Those activities can take up good chunk of the drive, but remember to space them out. I almost forgot to tell you that I buy or rent a new, never before seen by my family movie for each trip. It doesnít have to be new, just never seen.

Along the same line as the tablets or portable televisions are the old, discarded handheld systems and their nostalgia value. Although my kids seem to have outgrown the old systems, when we are on a long drive and we bring them back out it is like they are brand new again. Maybe that is because they havenít played them in forever and a day or it is their nostalgic quality. I am not sure why but I really donít care as long as they are occupied for a period of the drive and I am not hearing a chorus of ďare we there yet?Ē

The next thing to consider is nap time. No matter what age your kids are they either nap or given the right circumstances they will sleep in the car. We always chose to leave in the early am. Sometimes it is beneficial to go to bed a little early so you can get up around 3 or 4 in the morning and start the drive. The kids may be too excited to sleep when you start the drive but eventually the early rise time will catch up with them and you will hear the gentle sawing of logs coming from the back seat. On a side note I must stress that you make sure the driver is well rested. This little trick has worked out very well for our family.

The last category of entertainment I am going to offer is a more thought provoking, hands on approach to travel. For our last trip I went on line and found tons of printable activity sheets and made a couple of my own. There are a multitude of on-line game makers where you can put in your own (maybe themed) information and create word searches and other puzzles for the kids to work on. Themed games and puzzles are especially fun if the kids donít know the final destination. You can also find pre-made versions of these same games and also crossword puzzles. If you canít find the game creators but have excel then just make your own word search.

I also laminated several games that they could use dry erase markers on and replay as many times as they would like. These games includes a sheet of tic tac toe, hangman, battleship and the dot game. You can also go to the store and buy many different books for them to work in, including coloring, word search, crosswords, create a face, stickers, etc. While you are considering all of these books and activities donít overlook travel sized games. Most of them are small and magnetic, so you donít lose the pieces. I made my girls a Disney guess who games with magnets and a cookie sheet base. This game could also double as a memory game. I also made up themed questions to play Would You Rather. This was one of their favorites and caused a lot of giggles.

I have always made 2 travel bags for each child (one for going on vacation and one for coming home). In addition to the games and electronics are always some of their favorite small toys, a stuffed animal to sleep with on the trip and snacks. Speaking of snack I found the coolest idea for our last trip. I bought some of those divided plastic trays with lids and washed and dried them well. I adjusted the size of the sections to accommodate different snack. There was a huge variety of snacks including nuts, M&Ms, gummies, granola bars, cheese puffs, chips, raisins, and many more. You can also have refrigerator snacks in a cooler that include cheese cubes, veggies and dip, and anything else your kids would like. The key I have found is to keep them small. That was the simplicity of the snack tray, my rule was one square per snack and they were already pre-portioned.

Some other items to make the trip a little smoother would be napkins, a cooler of drinks, tissues, paper towels and a trash can lined with a lot of bags. When you stop for gas grab the top bag and throw it out to reveal a fresh bag underneath. My best advice would be to have fun and make the best of it. Above all else remember you are making memories that will last a life time.

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