It's that time of year again, spring is in the air and school is about to let out for the year. If you're a planner like me, you start thinking about your summer vacation a few months in advance. I like to go over the details a few thousand times in my head in order to avoid any potential pitfalls. Of course I always forget something, but I like to think that my manic organizing at least slightly mitigates Murphy's Law.
Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. This is nearly always true of kids, especially sleep deprived, hungry, bored and tired-of-sitting toddlers! However, with a bit of preparation it's possible to limit the meltdowns, and dare I say it, have an enjoyable family roadtrip!
Our little family has traveled quite a bit since Jon joined the Air Force, so these are my tried and true tactics. If you have any of your own to trade, I'd love to swap stories in the comment section!
1. Come on get app-y!
Electronics have become the first line of defense against preschooler boredom, and if there's ever a time to whip out a phone or tablet, traveling is it! A few of our favorite apps are ABCmouse, Learn with Homer, Reading Rainbow, LumiKids Park and Sight Words.
If you're in the market for a kids tablet, I can't recommend the LeapPad highly enough! Both Aurora and Grayson have one, and because they share an account, they both have access to all of the games. While the apps are not free, they are high quality, and you can often find the download cards on Amazon being sold for less than face value!
2. Pinterest makes Perfect
A little searching through Pinterest and you'll come up with loads of ideas for busy bags and quiet book pages. Not only are busy bags easy to make and highly educational, but you can customize them to your own kids interests by adding fun themes!
3. Snack Attack!
Coming up with travel friendly snacks can be a challenge, no one enjoys chasing Cheerios through the backseat for six months following a vacation! Due to the lengthy nature of road trips, my favorite treats for the kids are the ones that take the longest for them to eat. String cheese, an unpeeled orange or apple, cracker sandwiches, and the occasional lollipop are always within easy reach when we travel.
4. Safety First
If you know you're going to be somewhere with a crowd, for example airports, theme parks, or even a busy rest stop, it never hurts to plan ahead. I usually write my phone number on the kids forearms, but if you're feeling crafty there are really cute necklaces and bracelets you can DIY with all of your contact information.
5. Toy Tactics
There are all sorts of ideas for managing toys on long trips, and we've done several. In the past, we've wrapped new toys up as presents and let them open one every hour. We've combined a snack and a toy in a bag and given them a new baggie at intervals. And, of course, there's the free for all method where the back seat looks like a tornado ripped through it at the end of the journey!
How you handle this one really depends on your own kids and their personalities. Do what works in the moment and try not to stress! Some of the things that entertained our kids the best were when we gave them normal household items to play with. Painters tape, baby wipes, and a camera can hold a child's interest for hours!
And, if all of the above fails, just pray for your own version of heaven as pictured above. A sleeping child on a 12 hour flight is rare, but when it happens, it's perfection. Kick back with your novel of choice and pat yourself on the back for not losing your cool (too many times) prior to them achieving sleep! Happy traveling, be sure to share your own tricks in the comments down below!