How to Keep the Peace while Traveling with Kids

You did it! You planned a fun family vacation and you are anxiously counting down the days until you can escape your normal routine. Then, suddenly, you remember last year’s trip. Exactly 10 minutes into the vacation, you heard those dreaded two words: “I’m bored”!

Anyone with kids has experienced it. It doesn’t matter if you are traveling by train, plane, car or bus, it is all the same. How do you keep the kids occupied until you can get to the fun-filled action-packed portion of the vacation?

If you have older kids, the answer is pretty simple. They are most likely already glued to their electronic devices so all you have to do is make sure they are fully charged and loaded with a few fun (parent-approved) apps. For your own sanity, and their enjoyment, just make sure they have good, sound-cancelling head phones. Plus, don’t forget to bring a spare charger and a battery pack.

Babies are pretty easy too. Grab a bag of Cheerios™ and a few baby toys and they will most likely sleep on the way. At least, that is what all parents hope for! Better keep them up a little late the night before just in case!

For the middle ages (toddler to pre-teen) it is a little more challenging. Our kids (ages 6 and 9) like to play travel games to pass the time. Some popular choices in our car are “I-Spy”, “20 Questions”, and “Would you Rather?.” Age appropriate trivia questions and singing silly songs (yes, even Christmas tunes) are also popular.

Another game I played as a child is A-Z. This works best on a long a car or bus ride, and is a good way to keep someone’s attention for a prolonged period. As a child, my family’s trips to Maine took about 4 hours so it worked out perfectly. The fact that my Dad liked to avoid the highway and take scenic routes through small towns helped a bit too.

Anyway, the object of the game is to spot all the letters of the alphabet in order starting with “A”. Letters can be found on street signs, cars, license plates or anything else with letters. The only rule is that it must be found outside the car! As you can imagine, when you get to the end of the alphabet and have to find letters like W, X, Y and Z it gets a little more difficult, but is still possible. Hint: focus on street signs (Exit) and license plates! This game works best with two or more players so there is a challenge to see who can spell out the alphabet first.

When someone gets bored playing those games (I have to admit I’m usually the one who caves first), it’s good to have backups. The first is food. Part of the fun of being on vacation is that it gives us permission to be a little more adventurous with our food choices. After all, calories don’t count on vacation right?

All kidding aside, snacks are great to have for long trips. It doesn’t matter if you fill them up with a good breakfast before you go, I guarantee that twenty minutes into the trip, you will hear those familiar words: “I’m hungry”!

We like to bring a small cooler full of water, juice pouches, grapes, sandwiches and a few other goodies. As a child, I remember snacks being a part of road trips. This is one of the few times our parents would let us go into the store and pick out anything we wanted. I’m not suggesting we all go hog-wild on sugar, but maybe it is possible to relax the rules a little bit and let your child choose a snack or two. Ownership is an important part of the equation. My favorite was always oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, so I always bring them along out of nostalgia. And, don’t forget the chips!

After a good snack, it is time for another activity. If you are lucky, the snacks will make them sleepy and you will get away with listening to some good tunes for a little while. If not, we like to pack busy bags.

You may remember busy bags from your diaper bag days. They can be anything that will keep your child occupied! For road trips they could be a coloring kit, crossword or word search book, silly putty or clay (just be careful with the car’s upholstery) or a bag of special marbles or rocks. You could pack Barbie™ dolls or little army men. Maybe even buy a few new small toys as a surprise. Think about what you child likes to do and be creative. The key is to have a little variety and options!

Hopefully, with a few of these tricks up your sleeve, it will be smooth sailing. As you can see, these activities need not be expensive. A little pre-planning can save on the added expense of numerous stops at stores or restaurants along the way. These unplanned stops can quickly eat into your travel budget. Happy vacationing. If you have some ideas you would like to share, just comment below!

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