If you haven’t taken your family on vacation this year, you may be filled with both anticipation and dread. Anticipation for simply getting away from home and dread as you think of ways to keep small children entertained for the long trip ahead. Whether traveling by car, plane or by train, there are some things you can do to keep the little ones occupied for hours on end.
1. Pack a fun bag. You know what keeps your children amused. Likely, they have a few items with them as they sit in the aircraft, ride in the back seat of your crossover or occupy a train berth. Anticipating that they will quickly get bored, you will want to bring a number of items that they will find fun and enticing, but you have hidden away to reveal at the right moment. The key here is not to reveal the contents of your bag and, if possible, keep the bag hidden as well. Surprise and delight will greet your children and keep them occupied. At least for a few minutes!
2. Bring plenty of snacks. Children get hungry while on a trip. If you fly, you cannot bring snacks, but when driving or taking the train you have no such restrictions. Therefore, a snack bag can come in handy with dried goods and drinks ready to be dispensed at the right time. Bring with you all the healthful foods and you will avoid sugar highs and lows that can affect their mood.
3. Don’t forget the toiletries. A child in diapers means bringing with you a diaper bag, wipes and ointment. If the children are older, accidents can still happen, so bring a similar bag and pack it with hand wipes, personal wipes, ointment and medicines. Illnesses can happen at any time, so include the necessary supplies including first-aid kit items to thwart problems.
4. Make regular stops. If you are traveling by car, long trips can take its toll on parents and children alike. It is good to stop every two hours or so to allow everyone to get out, stretch their legs, use the bathroom and regroup. You might also consider planning your route to include at least one “fun” stop where you can have lunch and the children can play.
5. Bring comfort items. Children, especially small ones, will feel more road ready if they have a few of their favorite items from home with them. This can include a few stuffed animals, a blanket and a pillow, or anything else that makes them feel comfortable. Each child should be given a cool drink in a spill-proof container that can sit in their cup holders. Replenish regularly and provide snacks in a timely manner.
6. Bring games with you. Board games are out when traveling, but there are many game ideas that you might consider. Coloring books, sticker books, playing cards, a handheld video game and other small games can come in handy. Small children can benefit from an audio book, while older children can bring their own books and electronic devices.
7. Take plenty of pictures. As you travel, ask your children to point out places of interest. When you stop bring out the camera, the smart phone or both and fire away. Allow the little ones to take pictures too — they don’t have to look good, at least to you, but should help stoke your children’s interest in their surroundings. Besides, it will keep them amused just a little bit longer!
Little children do not understand the passage of time, but your older ones do. Manage their expectations by helping the older ones understand time and distance. Enlist the older children to entertain the younger ones, then reward them with a special event when you are at your vacation destination.
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