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Did you catch the travel bug? Do you have your reservations yet? Are your tickets booked?
Whether you’re hitting the road for a cross-country trip or planning a summer family trip to a far-away land, chances are that your summer plans include traveling with kids.
Traveling with kids can be an enlightening and eye-opening experience for children of all ages. There are new foods, experiences and sights, with many opportunities to embrace your sense of adventure. But traveling with children can also be an overwhelming proposition – unpredictable schedules, long packing lists and cranky kids are just a few of the challenges you may encounter along the way.
If you aren’t terrified of the idea of being in the car for long stretches with small children, and if the thought of opting out and staying home hasn’t entered your mind several times, then reading this might be a waste of time.
If your kids are anything like mine, then you know how happy they are to be sitting trapped in a box with four wheels with nothing to keep them entertained. If the dread of it all makes your eyes twitch and your brain short-circuit, then we are on the same page, and let’s read on together.
The key to keeping kids engaged on a family trip is to get them involved in the planning stages, from the itinerary down to the packing, even in a small way.
Did you know? Studies have shown that planning your vacation can give you a boost of happiness, even before you take off. Yes, planning is half the fun. Involving your kids in vacation planning is a great way to spark the excitement of a getaway early on – and helps give children a sense of ownership over the memories they’ll be creating. Just remember, the key to successful packing is leaving yourself enough time to do it.
Enjoy this travel organization and activity guide, and here’s to hoping it paves the way for smooth riding!
Taking a little time to organize your car so that everything you need is at hand as you traverse the highways and backroads will significantly improve your road trip experience. Better yet, you’ll also be able to anticipate potential situations that could throw a wrench into your travel plans.
Take advantage of the space behind your seat to keep car chaos at bay with an organizer that can keep your kid’s toys and games at arm’s reach.
Since boredom tends to make kids grumpy, plan ahead and corral many good distractions in this back-seat organizer and watch your kids be entertained for hours.
Add binoculars, flashlights and some emergency items such as band aids and wipes. And of course, never leave home without security items such as no-spill drink cups, kids’ blankets, and soft stuffed animals.
Sour Candy Spray
The highlight of every kid’s vacation is the reason to shop for a sour candy spray. However, these candy sprays, laden with sugar and known/unknown chemical additives, cause the kids to be restless and edgy.
Enter this homemade compact spray that serves as the most liked version of candy as well as the world’s best entertainer for traveling. It is simple to assemble and lasts for a while.
You will need:
- 1/2 cup water plus 1 additional teaspoon
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon Gefen Sour Salt or citric acid
- food coloring
- flavor extracts
- travel-size spray bottles, found in the dollar store
- clear labels, optional
Bring the sugar and half cup of water to a boil. Remove from flame and add the sour salt and the additional teaspoon of water. Add your choice of food coloring and flavorings.
Optional: Substitute the sugar with your choice of sugar such as organic sugar, or sugar alternatives.
“Do Not Open Until” Goodie Bags
Some suspense can never hurt. Add thrill to the air by creating indefinite anticipation a la “Mystery in a Bag.”
Hide a stash of assorted snacks, like individual packages of Gefen crackers and chips, Elite chocolate bars, healthy Wonder Melon juices, and travel-friendly activities in brown paper bags. (Check out these travel-themed favor boxes for cute packaging.) Remember to mark them off as “Do Not Open Until…” Add some labels with predetermined location sites where these goodie bags can be opened and enjoyed. When choosing sites, try to incorporate a mix of familiar and new.
DIY Magnetic Trays
I love these trays because they are fun and multi-functional. Children have many more options for entertainment when they have a surface in front of them. Pick up a few cookie sheets at the dollar store (one for each child), and I’ll show you some different kids’ travel tray options:
One of the best parts about these trays is that when you are done using them, you can just stack them up and slide them right under the seats.
You will need:
- Cookie sheets made of tin-plated steel so that they are magnetic (aluminum cookie sheets are not magnetic)
- Take advantage of grilling sheets, also found in the dollar store. These grilling sheets have holes in them which can be used to pull elastic through. Connect the elastic to the child’s seat belt or car seat for better endurance.
- Magnetic buttons and or magnetic strips
- Krazy glue
Add magnets to the underside of almost anything by applying a dab of krazy glue.
Allow to dry for several hours before using.
Bring along magnetic numbers, shapes, alphabets, paper doll magnets, animal-themed magnets, you name it! Kids enjoy playing with magnets on the fridge, this tip just makes the fun portable! Magnetic toys are not only enjoyable but also educational and can be used for summer homework practice.
These travel trays also allow for free play for many other activities that aren’t magnetic.
Colorful popsicles provide for great entertainment for all ages.
In addition, travel trays can be used to introduce a new brain-teasing game. These games usually call for deep thinking over longer stretches of time, perfect for that long car trip.
You and your children should enjoy every moment of seeing the world and creating a lifetime of memories along the way. After all, the world is one of the best classrooms.
Isn’t that the point of travel in the first place?
Have a safe trip!
Photography by Rachel Leiner