School’s out for summer, and if you are like most Americans, you’ll be taking a family vacation. Parents, kids and possibly even pets displacing themselves from home to a vacation destination. By plane, train, automobile and even boat.
And the $25,000 question is: how are you going to keep the kids entertained in transit? Here are my tips for making getting there a part of the fun of the holiday, not just something to be endured.
1. Give each child a new game, toy or activity as you depart. Nothing expensive — a travel game or book for older kids, a small toy for younger ones. New is the key here –something novel that will keep their attention for the first stage of the trip, which is often on familiar (boring) ground, especially if you are driving to your destination. Important: don’t give books to kids who get carsick. It’s a tease, not a treat.
2. Now is not the time to impose a moratorium on electronics. Carefully stage and pack all hand held video units, iPods/iTouches and DVD players to make sure you have all the necessary chargers, headphones and games/DVDs. Try to avoid bringing every last game and movie — make the kids pick a few favorites You can always buy new movies in transit, even at rest stop convenience stores. Do the same for your own electronics — mobile phone, laptop, Kindle, iPod etc.
3. If you are traveling by plane, train or boat, each child should have his/her own appropriately sized carry-on for toys and games. If it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t come with, and don’t let your children have two carry-ons. You will end up carrying one of them. Instead, if you are traveling by plane, use one of the extra alloted carry-ons to pack a small suitcase with a change of clothes for everyone, basic toiletries and medicines. If your luggage is lost, or you have an extended layover, you will appreciate it. I learned this from experience. When Douglas was one, we had a lengthy and unexpected layover in Zurich on the way back from Europe. I had packed the diaper bag with everything I thought we’d need to get home, but hadn’t accounted for a 6 hour layover. I don’t know about now, but at the time, they did not sell disposable diapers at the Zurich airport. We made it home with none to spare!
4. If you are traveling by car, let the kids use their electronics when you are on long boring stretches of road. When there’s actually stuff to look at, or when the batteries die, try some of these games to encourage them to look out the window.
License Plate — This was a family favorite when I was a kid (pre-electronics era) You simply try to spot plates from all 50 states. This is especially good when traveling long distances.
Alphabet — Play Alphabet when you are in areas with lots of billboards and highway signs. Two teams, each has one side of the road. Your challenge is to spot the letters of the alphabet in order.
Travel Bingo — You can buy travel bingo sets or print your own from the web. We’ve used a pad and pencil version from eeBoo Travel Bingo and also have the cards with the sliders (Regal Travel Auto Bingo), no pencil required. As long as each player has a different card, you don’t have to pick sides of the car. Just be sure that every player stands a reasonable chance of seeing a number of the things on his or her card.
Want to get your kid’s nose out of the Nintendo while eating at a restaurant? Play I Spy. I Spy with my little eye something that is…. Our basic rules are the players can ask yes or no questions, and get 20 guesses/questions. But we often skip the rules and just have fun playing.
5. Popular games like Battleship and Mastermind have travel versions. Pick up some of your families favorites and a deck of cards for your travel games kit. Keep it small so it can fit in your airline carry-on as well as the backseat!
Next up in Surviving Summer Vacation: Kids and cameras