It’s vacation season. Parents everywhere are thinking about the complexities of getting everyone to their fun-filled destination safely and sanely. Whether taking a two-hour plane trip or a 14-hour car ride, traveling with kids can be stressful. While a family vacation is a great way to spend time together, relax and make memories, you must make the journey there first. Here are some tips for making traveling with kids a little more enjoyable.

Fight hunger

Hunger can affect kids’ behavior and attitude. During travel, pack easy snacks for the car like fruit slices, smoothies and crackers. This is a great time to purchase those individually wrapped snacks you usually don’t. They are easy for the adults in the car and seem like a treat for the kids. Stephanie Pratt, mother of two girls, suggests planning lunch stops that allow kids to burn off energy, like a restaurant with a play area. “Much like you need to stretch your legs, kids need to more,” she says. Packing a picnic for a rest area or park along the way lets them have some fresh air and lots of open space to play. 

Timing

Timing is everything when you are traveling with little ones. Try to plan travel around normal naptimes or bedtimes so that kids will rest during the majority of the drive. Also, plan breaks often enough that kids can get out and stretch and burn off energy. Mother of five Rachael Kennedy says, “When we are driving on the interstate, we stop at rest stops, and the boys do races to get energy out.” Recognize that a trip with kids is going to take longer. Leave extra time in your travel schedule for impromptu stops, as well as planned ones. Websites like www.roadtripradar.com can help you find attractions and hidden gems along the way. The key to traveling with kids is to plan ahead but also to be flexible.

Get the kids involved

Cut road trip boredom by getting the kids involved. Use games like license plate bingo or car color bingo. Encourage kids to keep a trip journal. Have them write down or draw favorite memories from each stop and add stickers and ticket stubs. Another great way to get kids involved is to give each a disposable camera for them to document their trip. When the pictures are, printed they can add them to their trip journal. “Make a checklist of cities you will drive through with a fun fact about each or what you will do there. It helps cut down on the ‘Are we there yet?’ questions.” says Kara Thomas, Colorado Springs mom. 

Surprises

It is always nice to have a few surprises up your sleeve to break up the trip. Try packing up the kids’ backpacks and have them waiting in the car. When they get bored, pull out a few surprise items – new magazines or books, crayons and a new coloring book, special snacks, small activities, and maybe some new movies to watch. Websites like Pinterest are full of ideas for traveling with kids. Darcy King, Kansas mom of two, says, “Paint a cookie sheet with chalkboard paint and give the kids magnets to play with.” She also suggests gluing magnets to the back of puzzle pieces to use with the magnetic cookie sheet. Jenny Klindworth, mom to preschool-age twins, recommends Melissa and Doug brand reusable stickers and Water Wows. “They are hands down my favorite activities for planes and cars.” 

Electronics

For most families, the go-to solution for road trip boredom is electronics. DVDs and video games are a great way to kill time in the car. “Loosen electronics time while traveling, but when you get there, restrict time more than usual. Without a gadget in their hands, they will get more out of your vacation time,” says Kara Thomas.

Summer vacations teach kids to explore what is outside their hometown, the importance of family time and to make downtime a priority. Best of all, you will create memories that last a lifetime.

More Travel Tips from Real Moms

“The last flight, we used window clings. They were a huge hit.” –Sarah Huebner

“I keep my front seat organized so I can constantly pass things back and forth to them.” –Jennifer Klindworth

“Keep activities rotating! On long trips, we switch every 15-30 minutes with snacks, games, activities and screen time.” –Rachael Kennedy

“With young kids, plan seating so an adult can sit in back and help pass toys and retrieve dropped items.” –Stephanie Pratt

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