Stress-Free Travel with Your Kids
by Mia Cronan
Picture this....it s time
to head to Grandma's for the weekend, and you can just see it now. You
have screaming kids in the backseat, carsickness, boredom, Goldfish crackers
flying everywhere inside your mini-van, and you and your hubby are praying
that some auto manufacturer will design an optional sound-barrier button
in future models of their cars that will go up and down between the front
and back seats. Or don t you wish it was just like on Star Trek? You need
to travel long distance with your kids, and all you have to do is say,
"Grandma, beam us up!" Then you and your tots disintegrate into nuclear
particles and reassemble yourselves at Grandma's dinner table, which is
covered with home cooking that you didn't have to prepare!
We really should have that
kind of technology. Be that as it may, we don't. So, we grit our teeth
as we buckle our smiling tots into their car seats while they kick their
little feet in joyful anticipation of the trip. And we hope for the best.
We also hope we've gotten their car seats spaced far enough apart so that
they are not within each other's tantalizing reach. That could prove more
nightmarish than running out of gas on a tumbleweed-laden, deserted highway!
If you can take a little
time for preparation and put some ideas together, you can fend off most
of the boredom and restlessness before even getting in the car. It just
takes some pre-planning. And really, we're experts at that by simple virtue
of the fact that we're moms, right? Don't we spend a lot of time pre-planning,
learning from prior events with our children, and swearing we'll be ready
next time? Well, here you'll find some ideas to get your creative thoughts
flowing so that your next car trip can be a happy occasion for everyone
What To Pack
It goes without saying that
you'll want to be technically prepared, first. In other words,
Have extra diapers, wipes,
and first aid items in the glove compartment at all times.
Get yourself a fanny pack
so your hands are always available for your children when you've stepped
out of the car for any period of time.
Pack your monitor so that,
while in a different home or location, you can keep tabs on your kids while
Try to use transparent bags
for packing small items for your kids. This makes them much easier to find
when living out of a suitcase for a few days.
Be sure to bring along comfort
items for each child with which they are familiar - a blanket, a pillow,
a stuffed friend.
Always have at least one
change of clothes available in the car so that spills and accidents don
t have to create a panic situation for you. With that, make sure you always
have plenty of plastic grocery bags packed in which you can store such
messes until you can launder them.
It's always a good idea to
have a travel bag just for them, too, but don t let them see it, otherwise
they'll want everything in it all at once. (Can you tell I've been down
this road before? Pardon the pun.) In the bag, you can have stocked a plethora
of silly things that will keep them occupied.
If they are old enough to
look at a map, and they recognize letters or numbers, try highlighting
some cities through which you'll be traveling, asking them to find them
on the map as you go through them, then have a brown lunch bag with the
city s name on it with some kind of little treat inside. Then they get
the bag when they get to the city! In the bag can be a small toy or a little
snack. This will teach them a little about map-reading, keep them occupied,
and also give them something fun to anticipate.
If your children are not
quite to that age yet, there are plenty of other things to bring. Try a
roll of duct tape. No, not for putting over their mouths! Shame on those
of you who thought that's where I was going with this. I mean for some
fun time. Cut pieces of it for them. I don t know what it is about tape,
but kids love to play with it. And hey, if it lands over their mouths,
so be it. (Just kidding!)
Another good thing to pack
is a small hand mirror with a protective covering or case. Mirrors are
great fun for kids. You might consider a hand-held calculator, too. Kids
seem to love pushing buttons, don't they?
Bring along a few tapes with
kids songs that you know they enjoy. Singing is always a fun way to pass
the time during a long trip.
Place a box between or next
to their seats that contains some little gadgets for play. If your children
are prone to carsickness, books might not be the best idea. But little
toys and fun things can be shared and passed back and forth. You might
try making some kind of compartmentalized bag that you can hook over the
backs of your seats so they can reach in and grab their little possessions,
For potty breaks (which should
be accommodated often when traveling with kids) have a bottle of bubbles
or a Frisbee packed for some outdoor fun. Kids have so much energy, and
it is important that they expend some of it during these breaks.
If possible, change seating
a bit periodically, if there's room. Mom can sit in the back for just a
bit and the kids will love it! Or, if Mom drives for a while, Dad can join
in the fun and help pass the time in the back of the car or van.
Dining Out With The Kids
Once you're there, when
eating out with kids, call ahead and ask if the restaurant has equipment
such as highchairs, booster seats, etc. You will want to ask about a kids
menu as well. When stopping along the travel route, try to stop at restaurants
that have a play area where children can expend some of their energy.
Take along toys or books
to the restaurant for a diversion if there is a long wait. Realize that
you or your spouse may have to take the child out during dinner a few times;
sitting still is difficult for young children.
More ideas concerning
When taking children camping,
be sure to take a first-aid kit. Include bug repellent and anti-itch ointment
for poison ivy or bug bites. Make sure that you have an alternate plan,
a hotel nearby may be necessary if the weather turns ugly or your child
just has enough of the great outdoors.
When staying in a hotel or
motel, you will want to call ahead to see if they have necessary equipment
for rent - cribs, roll-away beds, play pens, etc. Upon arrival, check with
the concierge s desk about children s activities and possibly baby-sitting.
Make sure that your room is safe for your children. Check balcony doors
and make sure that they are locked. Check the windows to be sure they cannot
be easily opened or there are no dangling cords from blinds or draperies.
Check all of the outlets, you may want to bring some outlet covers with
you to use during your stay. Staying at a family-friendly resort is a wonderful
option. Everything there is geared toward families with children. Activities
are planned for the children usually allowing Mom and Dad some quiet time.
When staying with family
or friends in their home, be sure that any baby equipment that they may
have on hand for your child to use is up to current safety standards. The
bars on a crib should be no more that 2 3/8 in. apart. Call ahead and ask
them to please place any breakable items in a high place. Again check outlets
and any windows or doors that may be accessible to your child.
Be realistic about your itinerary.
If you plan too many activities in a short period of time, your child is
likely to make you pay for it. Becoming over tired makes children irritable
and even more likely to have tantrums. Everyone will have a better time
if you take it slow and have plenty of time for relaxation and rest.
Most of all, offer praise
for good behavior, and let them know that you know it s tough to be away
from home, in a car, or in someone else s home for long time. They'll appreciate
your positive reinforcement, and they'll want to show you continued good
behavior if you recognize it.
|Mia Cronan is a married
full-time mother of four, ages 6, 4, 2, and a newborn as of 11-23-01, living
in Pennsylvania. She owns and edits www.MainStreetMom.com,
the magazine for modern mothers with traditional values. Mia can
be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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