The keys to a smooth trip when traveling with kids are to pay attention to their needs and keep plenty of activities for kids to do along the way. Bored and overtired children become cranky kids in a hurry. By remembering the kinds of things that keep children entertained and planning a kid-friendly trip, you can be prepared before the journey begins.
Before embarking on any trip, there are several safety issues to consider. It is a good idea to have your vehicle completely checked out by your mechanic or someone knowledgeable to ensure it is ready for such a trip. Oil changes, brake checks, light checks and so forth are important to the vehicle’s safe operation while on the road. When you are away from home, you definitely want to ensure the vehicle is in tip top working order.
When it comes to the children riding in the vehicle as passengers, other safety checks should include checking the installation of all car seats and booster seats to ensure they are properly set up for maximum protection. All children under the age of 7 should be secured in a child safety seat or booster seat. All children under the age of 12 should ride in the back seat of the vehicle for optimal safety.
When traveling with kids, the pace of the trip should be set to kid pace. This means lots of time built into your agenda for stops along the way for bathroom breaks, time to run amok and burn off energy and other activities for kids. By taking the time to stop and get out of the vehicle frequently, you can avoid cranky children who simply need to move around and be free from the seat for a bit. Stopping at rest areas and racing the kids to the door or playing tag on the grass for a few minutes can keep everyone in good spirits and content to ride just a bit longer. While snacks along the way are a good idea, stopping for a meal from time to time will allow for a little longer out of the car and a break for everyone.
Entertainment is a big deal when traveling with kids. Trapped in those seats for what seems like eons to them, kids need distractions and fun things to do. Bring some of their toys and gadgets from home and also invest in a few new novelty items that will grab interest. These new items need not be expensive and can even be of short term use, just for the trip. Things such as new crayons, coloring books, books, games, stickers, trinkets of all kinds can bring distraction and something fresh to the play scene. If your children have electronic games, by all means pack those along as well. If the trip is a long one, maybe buy a new game for the gadget. Such games are great activities for kids and often provide hours of distraction, fun and learning.
Here are a few age specific tips of activities for kids when traveling—with the understanding that frequent breaks and stops to get out of the car are important for ALL ages:
Babies - babies will often sleep for long stretches when the car is in motion. Even for those who will sleep well in the car, it is important to give babies time out of the car seat periodically during the trip. Time to lie on a blanket and stretch their little bodies will keep them from getting too sore and tired of riding.
Toddlers to age 5 or so - this age is the move all the time age. Colorful books, blocks that fit together, toys that talk and make noise and ability appropriate electronic games are just a few things you can stock the car with to entertain the traveling toddler. Passengers can interact with the youngsters along the way, playing games, singing songs and reading books to pass the time.
Age 6 to 9 or so - kids in this age group can benefit from a backpack they helped to pack full of fun things to do and a few surprises added by loved ones along the way. Books, electronic games, card games, pens and paper, silly putty, mad libs and so forth are fun things to do in the car. As with all kids, interaction in the form of I Spy games and the like are fun time passers.
Older kids – older kids will often pack their own stuff to do along the way. Interacting with them about what they see during the trip is a good way to spend family time connecting and break up the monotony of a long car trip.
Well timed stops along the way and a well stocked treasure trove of activities for kids will make traveling with kids a fun experience for everyone involved.