As we head into summer, millions of families will be hitting the road for a good, old-fashioned family vacation. Whether heading across town or across the country, traveling with kids can turn even the calmest parent into a bundle of nerves. With a little planning though, the entire family can have a (relatively) stress-free and absolutely fun experience that will create memories to last a lifetime.
The kids and I recently went on a road trip and, by following these nine pieces of advice, had a blast. Try them out and let me know what you think!
On the Road
1. Bring Snacks
Every parent knows that a hungry kid is a grumpy kid. Try to have a healthy meal before leaving home, but be prepared with snacks that can be easily distributed and eaten in the car. These were a real lifesaver as we neared the last hour or so of our trip and the kids were getting antsy.
2. Plan Some Simple Games
I remember having a lot of fun playing games in the car as a kid. Most didn’t require many or any supplies and they took up a hunk of time that would have otherwise been spent complaining or fighting with my sisters. Some ideas are:
- The Alphabet Game: Find each letter of the alphabet, in order, on signs that you pass.
- Road Trip Bingo: This one is great for pre-readers since picture clues are used and no reading is involved. If you think your kids would like this game, download and print this free printable by clicking on the picture below.
- The License Plate Game: Try to find as many different state license plates as possible.
- Create a Picture: Person 1 grabs a pencil and paper, makes a scribble, and hands it to the next person. Person 2 adds something to the scribble and hands it to the next person. As it’s passed around, everyone works together to turn the initial scribble into an actual picture.
3. Go Ahead and Use Those Electronics
Everyone needs a break sometimes. Don’t feel guilty for letting the kids play their games or watch a movie to take up some time.
At Your Destination
4. Choose a Kid-Friendly Hotel
Chances are, you won’t spend a ton of time at the place you stay. Even so, it’s wise to choose a place that has at least a few kid-friendly amenities. Many accommodations have a pool, offer complimentary breakfast (kids love that!), provide a free DVD library, or have board games available in the lobby.
5. Have a Plan for Your Days
I’m not saying you should plan out every minute of your vacation. I am saying that if you don’t have at least a loose plan for the day, you’re asking for trouble. All the time you spend trying to figure out what to do is time that your kids will be bored and, quite possibly, getting into mischief. Trust me. I speak from experience.
6. Bring Quiet Activities
Even if you have a plan for your days, you’re bound to have some down time, even if it’s just those chaotic moments when you’re trying to get ready in the morning. Packing a few small, quiet activities for the kids was a lifesaver for me.
I packed two new LEGO® JUNIORS sets, which have easy to build models that are designed with 4-7 year olds in mind. I bet you’re thinking, “You brought tiny Legos on vacation?!” Yes I did, and it was awesome. LEGO® JUNIORS come in little suitcases that not only snap closed to keep all the pieces together, but also serve as a great building tray.
While I took a shower, the boys were able to use the quick start pieces and numbered pre-packed bags to build the sets without any help from me. The models provided the perfect amount of challenge and creativity to keep the boys interested, they were really proud to show off the finished products, and they had a blast playing with the sets once they were put together.
7. Keep Your Expectations in Check
If you take a trip with kids, you can pretty much guarantee that not everything will go according to plan. Knowing this ahead of time and being prepared to be flexible (as much as that sounds like an oxymoron) will do wonders for your stress levels and the attitudes of everyone in the family.
8. Set Clear Expectations for the Kids
I know I just said to keep your expectations in check, but it’s important to set clear guidelines for your kids, even if your vacation rules are more lax than they are at home. Changes in routine can sometimes lead to less than stellar behavior, so not only letting the kids know what to expect, but also letting them know what you expect of them is really important.
9. Relax and Have Fun!
This is why you’re on vacation! Roll with the punches, soak in the great moments, and savor the memories for years to come!
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.