Are we There Yet? Traveling with Kids Doesn’t Have to be Terrible
It has been said that ‘it’s about the journey not the destination’.
Well if you are an adult traveling with young kids, that journey – whatever the distance – can be grueling. So how do savvy travelers combat cries of “are we there yet?” and “I’m hungry” or “I’m bored” or the biggest catastrophe to a tech-dependent family: “MY BATTERY DIED!”
Sometimes you win, other times…. Not so much.
I’m an avid traveler and mom of two very active yet screen-obsessed boys. Technology has offered us a wonderful array of entertainment that can keep the kids entertained for hours – hours! – but the purist in me finds it necessary to suffer through and find more clever ways to entertain them. Trust me, we have our share of screen time particularly for the longer hauls, but I’m a strong believer in doing other stuff too. And that ranges from reading books or magazines, to most importantly, actually paying attention to the surroundings and people that are part of the journey. (Note: this saves battery time for when you really need it! Plus my boys behave a whole lot better when they have to earn their screen minutes. Some might say bribery, I say barter system.)
At any rate, I enlisted the input from a few fellow moms to add to my own ideas on how to keep kids entertained while traveling. Here is what we came up with:
In the car or on the plane:
- Hit up Target or the Dollar Store for inexpensive activity and color books, decks of cards, UNO, bingo games, and dry erase boards.
- Bonus: laminate bingo cards from the Dollar Store and use dry erase markers so it’s easy to erase and start over
- Play Pictionary with dry erase boards
- Get NEW crayons. Kids seem to be more motivated to use them if they aren’t already broken in
- Stock up on Wikki Stix. They are bendable wax-coated yarn pieces that come in all kinds of colors. Kids can make infinite creations in a small space without making a mess. Genius! Purchase on Amazon or Target, along with other retailers.
- Play Question or Category Games. There are lots of variations but for example:
- Alphabet Games
- Look for signs that start with or include each letter of the alphabet. Start with an A and work to Z.
- Offer a word that begins with each letter of the alphabet. The first player starts with A, the next person thinks of a word that begins with B and so on.
- “Guess the (animal/destination/item) I am Thinking of”. Yes or no questions are asked.
- “I’m going on a trip and am going to bring a…” The guessers either guess the rule (ie everything that can go begins with an S, or it is white, or it flies etc), or everyone playing has to add on to the previous items mentioned plus add one of their own.
- Categories (maybe you played it in college as a drinking game? This is the dry version): someone picks a category and everyone goes around adding something to the category. Whoever can’t think of something is out. More advanced/older players have less time to think of something.
- Story Add On. The first person starts telling a story by saying a few sentences and stops for the next person to pick up on add on. The story winds and never makes any sense but it’s always fun to hear what the littles come up with.
- Get each kid a binder and a bunch of zipper pouches that house snacks and activities: small drawing pads with colored pencils, print offs of step by step drawings (easily found by Googling), small Lego sets etc. This also doubles as a place they can store “treasures” they find on the trip (sea shells, ticket stubs, shiny rocks etc).
At the airport
- People watch. Have healthy conversations about the different people you see. Guess where they might be going, and why. What do you think their favorite food is? What might their house look like? Do they have any pets?
- Ride the tram between terminals. Just make sure you’re staying within the same security area.
- Check out the Arrivals and Departures board:
- Talk about destinations that are unfamiliar, those you’ve been to, and those you haven’t but want to.
- What would you pack if you went to Alberta? Ixtapa? Austin?
Try to have the kids participate as much as possible in the process. As appropriate for their age they should pack their bags, carry their stuff, and understand where and why they’re traveling. The earlier you can get them to tune in to the process, the less it will feel like a forced march fraught with “Are we there yet?”. Just whatever you do, don’t forget the snacks!
The journey is the necessary part of every trip. It can be stressful and not always fun. And frankly, sometimes just plain brings out the worst in someone (and maybe it feels like everyone). Try to remember you will get there eventually, and the more you can (try to) enjoy it, the more your kids will too. You might even get a high five from a perfect stranger, and as long as you aren’t a total germaphobe that validation will feel really great… You got this!
Happy travels always!
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