You know that feeling when people ask you how your vacation was and you answer them, “I need a vacation from the vacation!” This is why I started saying family trips and vacations are barely related!
Although it is a lot of work for me, I do want to give my kids the feeling that we are doing something special to break out of the regular day-to-day schedule, and that it’s a time that will be celebrated, not dreaded. (Easier said than done. But at least I am trying.) I also hope they can somehow get this mindset before the comments of “but the Joneses!” set in.
Obviously, life happens, but I would love for them to hold a warm, fuzzy memory of wherever it is we end up going.
Which is why I’ve come to the conclusion that a well-prepared trip is the best way to go.
Over the years, I’ve collected some tried and tested ways to create a more pleasant travel experience so that no one is screaming, “Are we there yet?!” as we back out of our front driveway!
1. When it comes to packing snacks, consider their regular daily routine. No need to pack much more than that! No one needs ten snacks to get them through the day. I assume my kids usually have about three snacks throughout a regular day, so that’s what I’ll pack. I do add some special treats like a special chocolate bar as something they don’t get on a regular day just because it’s vacation and I want them to enjoy it. A great idea is something like Heaven & Earth LiL Taffy. Other alternative options would be Heaven & Earth Milk Chocolate, or Elite Bazooka Cubes. Sometimes I also like to pack a sweet protein bar, so they feel like they’re getting a treat but they get some nutrition in along with it and have energy that’s more stable than your usual sugar high. The Grab 1 Caramel Crunch Protein Bar is a great example.
2. When I pack snacks, I like to think in categories. A salty snack, a sweet snack, and a fruit. I also like to make sure one of them is more filling. I’m a great fan of ready prepared fruit snacks. It doesn’t take the place of fresh fruit, but it can check the sweet, or even “candy” box, and makes me feel like I’ve given my kids something a little less unhealthy. A great idea is Heaven and & Earth Fruit Patches because they’re 100% fruit but also lightweight and easy to pack!
With these healthier ideas, hopefully I’m eliminating a sugar high (which we definitely don’t need on a long trip!)
3. I pack individual gallon-size bags with snacks, and possibly even lunch.
4. If we’re flying, it’s a good idea to bring your own empty water bottles or sippy cups. If you’re traveling by car, I like to freeze a water bottle so they drink it slowly. We don’t love bathroom stops!
5. Games: try to have a list of verbal games planned out before you go. I Spy and license plate games are classics, but there are others. Keep reading for our favorite memory game. We also love this Scavenger Hunt card game.
6. I bring a small stash of candy/treats for myself to give out as I feel it’s needed. Candy can pack a punch, no need to get big things! Look for the most compact treats you can find.
7. I pack each child’s clothes for each day in a separate ziptop bag. I’ll write on the outside of the bag whatever is missing from the bag, such as PJs from the night before, or what shoes they should wear with that outfit. I like this better than packing cubes. Make sure to squeeze out all the air! I’ve reused bags from one trip to the next, so tell your kids not to throw them away.
8. If you travel a few times a year (even to go away for one weekend!), it’s a good idea to have a little bag of all the toiletries you always use. A spare toothpaste, mouthwash, flossers, children’s Tylenol/Advil, adult Advil, deodorant, and even a spare set of makeup, etc., is great to have ready to go. This way, you can eliminate all the time it takes to gather those items.
9. Plan ahead with some car/plane listening entertainment. This way you can eliminate the need for screen time. Plan on some things your kids have never heard before. There are so, so many great Jewish kids’ stories (we are huge Rabbi Yoel Ferber fans) and they can be found on all the music apps. Also note that there is other great kids’ listening content out there from places like Audible, and kids really enjoy listening. For the really little guys, you can almost always find all their favorite books in an audio version on YouTube.
You can always change things up with some bling and make glittery lanyard bracelets.
Handing out either a box of crayons with coloring/activity books for the little ones or adult coloring books and other puzzle challenges for the older members of your crew is also a fantastic way to enjoy some quiet time. Try some of these puzzle choices for an opportunity to spend quality time:
Note- our favorite car game goes like this:
I put on a timer for 2 minutes and tell everyone to look out the window really, really carefully and notice EVERYTHING! (I am also looking super carefully.) Then, when the timer goes off, I ask them 5-6 questions based on what we saw during the two minutes that the timer was on.
For example: on the exit sign, the food options included Wendy’s and Starbucks. What was the third option?
A red truck passed us on the left. What kind of truck was it?
An Amazon truck passed us. Was it a double truck or a single?
What animal did the white truck have in its logo?
We saw a sign stating how many miles it will be until we get to several destinations. How many more miles until NY?
Trust me, by the time you reach your destination, either your kids will be wishing the trip could continue, or they’ll be so exhausted from their action-packed journey they’ll be sprawled out in the back seats, dreaming about the great adventure they had.