By Marcella Simmons
Every year we take several grandchildren on a two week vacation. We usually end up with five or six kids (we travel in separate cars and try to keep the kids mixed up according to age, etc.) Since traveling long distances can be rough on the little ones, let me show you how we make the trip less stressful and as enjoyable as it can be.
Just follow along and use these tips the next time you go somewhere with the kids.
Step 1: Weeks before the trip, get a headcount of all the kids coming along on your trip. Organize the list of kids by age groups (Newborn-1), (2-4), (5-7), (8-10), (11-13), etc. Go to the nearest Dollar Tree and buy a bag of goodies for each child including puzzles, and card games and little cars and trucks for the boys and tiny doll figures for the girls, etc. Coloring and doodle pads and crayons are fun stuff too. Spend about $12-15 on each child. Save these until you’re well into the trip and they are whining and wanting to get there in a hurry. These little gifts can be handed out for winners of car games like ‘I spy’, etc. Be creative and use your imagination when handing out the gifts.
Step 2: Google fun car games for the age groups and print them out. Practice the games before you leave so you have an idea of the rules so that you can explain it in the car. After each game, let the kids choose a gift.
Step 3: Playing can get old for the kids, the parents and the grandparents. Start a story contest – start a story and have each kid (depending on the ages of the kids) tell a part of the story for 10 minutes, and on and on. If the story needs an ending, and all the kids have told their part then suggest one of them end it for a prize. A good 30 minute story told by the kids is worth keeping so bring along a hand-held recorder and secretly record it. Play it back after the story is finished.
Miles roll by and the kids are lost in the story telling. Keep the stories going until they are tired and possibly ready for a road trip nap!
Step 4: Start a travel photo Brag Book. Buy disposable cameras for each of the kids – tell them to take interesting pictures of the trip and your plans for the photo brag book. Label each camera with the child’s name on it for a later day. This will come in handy after the trip and will make for a lot of storytelling for the next trip. You can bring it along and have each one to tell what the picture was about and what they found interesting about that place. This will become the best brag book you and your family ever created. Tell them that each year new pictures taken by them will be added to the book. This will put them in the mood and help them to understand what traveling is really all about.
Step 5: Eating out all the time can be a big headache because kids like fast food. This trip you choose a different restaurant for dinner and bring along snippets you collected on the culture behind the food. Mexican food for instance – bring along pictures from places like Mexico, Spain, El Salvador etc. Ask a question about the food and have easy answers the kids can think about. The winner gets a prize and that evening eat Mexican food. The next night, try Chinese. Or Italian. Talk about what you are eating and why the people of that country eat it. A little research before hand can make eating out a memorable experience.
Step 6: Do a little research beforehand. If you pass a farm or cotton field, stop and ask permission for the kids to pick a peach, or tomato or something from the garden, or some cotton balls from the stalks. This is a good way to get a conversation going that the kids will enjoy. You never know how the conversation will end. If you see someone selling fruits and vegetables on the side of the road, stop and pick some up. These are some valuable learning experiences for kids of all ages, including yourself. And the trip just gets better and better.
There’s no perfect trip. Everybody gets tired after riding but at the end of the day it is all worth the time and effort you put forth. But keeping the kids occupied will certainly relieve the stress for everyone!
Have a safe and fun-filled adventurous trip!