Here are my tips for making traveling with your kids fun and stress-free…
1. Plan your pit stops with activities–if driving, plan a picnic for one stop, play a game of frisbe or catch at another, or stop at a park with a playground for a little time for swinging and sliding. Whatever your kid’s favorite activity, if you can plan in enough time for them during the day, you will get out a lot of their excess energy before they get back in the car. Research safe locales for these activities before you leave to keep your mind at ease and eliminate wasted time driving around looking for the perfect spot.
2. Give your kids an allowance before your leave home so they can buy some things on the way, but spending doesn’t get out of hand. Give them $2, $5, or $10…Whatever fits in your budget and you think is appropriate. And help them plan for shopping destinations or stores you will be able to visit along the way.
3.Wrap every present or treat you take no matter how small, from books, to candy, to crayons and coloring sheets. Spread them out over the trip, like one per hour, and you can use them as an incentive for good behavior. Kids will love unwrapping them to see what’s inside.
4.Pack light and have everyone pull their own carry-ons. It keeps you from having to check bags or having long waits at the baggage carousel where kids can get restless. Pottery Barn kids has a great selection of kid-size rolling bags.
5.Ship any bulky items ahead of time like hostess gifts or extra clothes if your stay will be long. Buy staples like extra diapers or pull-ups when you arrive to keep your carry-ons light and organized.
6.Load fun photos of your kids when they were young, photos of family vacations or other special events on your phone. Looking at these will keep kids entertained for hours and you can reminisce together about how much fun these occasions were.
7. Shoot video interviews with your iPhone of the kids while you are traveling. Then take turns letting them ask the questions and interview you. They’ll love seeing and hearing themselves on film.
8.Be sure to download some kid’s tunes on your iPhone or iPod. After they get tired of listening to your music, they will enjoy some of their own tunes. I recommend Ralph’s World for sing-a-long fun.
9.Create Gowalla or 4-square games requiring you to check in at destinations and hot spots along with way. Your kids will enjoy helping you check in. You can even make historic sites part of the game so kids learn some history along the way.
10.Have Santa send your kids a note asking them to be good on the trip which will result in Santa bringing them their favorite item on their Christmas wish list. And be sure to send them a thank-you note from Santa afterwards letting them know they earned their surprise. You can order a letter from Santa online or create one yourself.
11. Play a game of “giving thanks” where you each take turns saying what you are thankful for. Kids can name fun and frivoulous things because after all, you all are thankful for their favorite teddy bear or that DS game that keeps them entertained. But be sure to throw in some important things too, like family, friends and your other many blessings.
12. Purchase an extra charging kit just in case kids forget or lose theirs, this way you can keep the movie players, hand-held games and other electronics charged and ready to go.
13. Print out holiday coloring sheets, word search and other activities from the computer. They will be more exciting than existing coloring books or activities. Grandparents.com has a free selection. Individual small packs of crayons will keep kids from fighting over the box.
14. Pack snacks in individual sized bags to keep the snacks fresh and the spills to a minimum. Lunchskins keep snacks separated, fresh, and have fun designs the kids will love!
15.Always have favorite pillow, blanket and pj’s on hand in case travels overlap with nap or bedtime. Pajamagram has adorable pj’s for the whole family with holiday styles too.
Though these fun tips require some planning on the front end, they will keep your kids (and you) entertained for hours and the kids will hardly have time to ask “Are we there yet?”