Tips for Road with Young Children
Parents with young children need not shy away from traveling on the road. Road trips have long been a source of great pleasure for families as they pile in the car and set off for their destination. The traveling is half of the fun! The following tips will make travel during your next vacation a success:
* Select an age-appropriate trip. Even young children can give some input into vacation time. Know your child’s interests and take advantage of them. Our son likes to be outside, so most of our trips take place outdoors.
* Create a flexible agenda; children get tired easily. When they are pushed to continue “having fun,” the fun factor can quickly diminish. During extended trips make sure to plan some down time when nothing is scheduled. Children and adults may appreciate a day at the hotel pool much more than an exhausting day seeing the sights.
* Confirm all reservations before you leave your house.
* Let them know where you are going. For young children, get online and show them pictures. For older children, show the destination on a map and have them help you find the best route. While traveling, let them highlight the journey as you go along.
* When calculating arrival time, remember to factor in stops along the way. Bathroom breaks usually take a while, but serve a good purpose. They help children stretch muscles, and make the next leg of the journey a little easier. Plan meals around rest areas or parks and carry a picnic. This will save money and give the little ones a chance to run around.
* Don’t leave home without the following: a First Aid kit, including a thermometer, band aids, emergency phone numbers, sunscreen, nausea medication, and pain reliever; your child’s cherished baby or blanket that he/she cannot sleep without; extra clothes; and a good sense of humor!
* Include nutritious snacks on the trip. Pretzels, raisins, grapes, and apples work well in the car. Limit the amount of drinks to make stops less frequent.
* Comfort should be the primary factor you consider when packing clothes. It is not the time to break in those adorable shoes your child got for her birthday. Instead, pack the ones that you know will not become an issue. Clothing should be appropriate for the weather (always pack a light jacket, just in case).
* When packing the car, keep your children’s suitcases on top. Clothes, baby dolls, and other necessities will be needed on the road, especially if they are at the bottom of the trunk!
* Bring a stroller, even if you think your child is a little big. This will keep you from having to carry him/her or hear constant complaining.
* Have a travel survival package for the car. This should include at least three books, paper and crayons, a clipboard to hold paper, a small photo album full of family pictures, and a few inexpensive wrapped presents. These can be used as treats as you reach certain places in your journey. Bribery works every time!
* And these days, include a real survival kit. In addition to the First Aid Kit mentioned above, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) suggests that you travel with the following: battery powered radio and extra batteries, flashlight with extra batteries, blanket, booster cables, fire extinguisher (5 lb., A-B-C type), first aid kit and manual, bottled water and non-perishable high energy foods, such as granola bars, raisins and peanut butter, maps, shovel, tire repair kit and pump, and flares.
* Help limit sibling conflict by spacing them apart and providing each child with his/her own travel survival kit.
* For long trips, begin the journey early in the morning. Put children in the car in their pajamas and change them when you stop for breakfast. Sleeping the first few hours will make the day more manageable.
* Play road games. When traveling in rural areas, have each team count the cows on their side of the car. Cows “die” when you pass a cemetery. On the interstate, begin with the letter “A” and search billboards and signs for words that begin with each letter of the alphabet. This makes a great family learning game.
* Even small children love cameras. Give each child a disposable camera to take pictures during vacation. Include all of the photos in a scrapbook of your family excursion.
* Be safe. Whether you are at a rest stop or theme park, keep a constant eye on your children. Teach safety tips before leaving home, but remember the best safety measure is supervision.
* Take advantage of being in the same space with your child. Trips offer great opportunities to talk and have fun being with one another.
* Relax and have fun. The trips you take today with your children will remain in their memories forever. —By Leslie Poythress
Leslie Poythress is a freelance writer and educator living in Macon with her husband and son.