How to Have Happy Kids When Traveling

Happy Kids When Traveling

(Editor’s Note: This is a re-post of one of my most viewed and popular posts that was first written back in 2010. ๐Ÿ™‚ )

Warm weather usually means road-trip time! People often head out to visit family and/or vacation which can mean long periods in the car. When you have little ones, traveling in the car (or train or plane…) for long periods can be quite the challenge. Since I just came back from a long trip, here are five things we did with Andrew to keep the “are we there yet” cries at bay:

1. Make it educational. Before leaving for the trip, I did a little geography lesson with Andrew. He is fascinated with maps so I showed him the route we were going to take. We let him keep the map on his lap as we were driving and he had a blast “giving us directions!” We also talked about the differences between towns, cities, states and countries (a concept he is confused about).

Although we obviously didn’t do our regular homeschooling, I read him some books and we practiced numbers and various math concepts.

2. Make it fun. Whenever we go on a trip, I make up a child’s travel bag. We put in a few of Andrew’s favorite toys and a few special toys that are set aside just for trips. The bag is kept right next to his seat so he can have access to his things at all times.

We also played games like “I Spy” and finding certain colored cars, and other word games. We also let Andrew make up his own “games” that we played.

3. Make it quiet. It’s good to keep children occupied, but don’t feel like you have to keep them entertained the whole time, either. Designate a certain period of time for quiet time. Andrew is past the napping stage, but he almost always falls asleep when we are traveling.

If you have a regular nap or quiet time instituted at home, enforcing a quiet time shouldn’t be too difficult. If you don’t do regular quiet times (and I highly recommend that you do!), you can still encourage your children to read quietly or close their eyes for a spell.

4. Make it conversational. Don’t forget to take some time to just talk with your little ones. Andrew is only five, but we have such fun talking together! You’ll beร‚ย  astonished at what you will discover about your children, even young ones!

What should you talk about? Talk about what you are going to do during your visit/vacation. Ask questions. Listen to your little ones. Get to know who they are and what they like. Talk about books you’ve read and movies you’ve watched together. Let your little one control the direction of the conversation!

5. Make regular stops. Sure we all want to get to our destination as quickly and safely as possible. However, if you integrate rest stops as part of your journey, it will give the kids time to expend some energy and stretch. And, it’s good for you, too!

Why not plan a picnic at a rest stop or at a park or at a tourist destination along the journey? If you bring your own mealsร‚ย ร‚ย  you save money by not paying ridiculously high prices at the rest stops (and it’s a lot healthier, too!). Of course, don’t forget to add a special treat or snack!

6. (Added!) Audio books. My son loves listens to audio books. It is his favorite activity during his daily quiet time and he loves listening to them after his bedtime routine before going to sleep. What we do is go to the library and check out enough books (“regular” and audio) to get us through our trip. If we are away longer than when the books are due I can easily renew them online. Then he either listens to them on his own or we listen to them together and talk about them.

Now it’s your turn! What tips work for you that keep the little ones happy and content during long trips? Share them in the comments so we can all benefit from your ideas!

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  1. I love your idea of toys that are specifically for use on trips. Can you share what kind of toys they are?

    We took a 6-hour drive (wheels on pavement) recently, and it took us 8 with two stops. I wholeheartedly second the “find a place to stop” advice.

  2. Thanks! Getting ready to take a road trip in just a few days, and this is helpful!

  3. SimpleCatholic says

    Thank you Kathleen and Suzanne for your comments!

    Kathleen: To answer your question, in tomorrow’s blog post I’ll be sharing a picture and list of the toys we brought on our trip and some suggestions for putting together a traveling bag for children. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. My son is 5 too, and he likes to draw on a magnetic board (MagnaDoodle type) while riding in the car. We can use it to play tic-tac-toe and such, as well as for drawing and writing. It’s MUCH easier to manage than paper and crayons or markers!

  5. SimpleCatholic says

    Thanks for your comment ‘Becca. ๐Ÿ™‚ For some reason my son never took to the magnetic boards. We have a tray attachment that sits across his car seat which works rather well.

  6. Something to keep in mind is that children have a different idea than adults about how long is “long.” 2 1/2 hours might seem like nothing to me and my husband but the kids can’t stand it. And they aren’t involved directly in the driving, having no interest or experience in driving per se, so they haven’t that diversion.

    When the kids were younger (and fewer!), I packed travel kids (#2 above) with a never-before-seen cool Matchbox vehicle, coloring book, crayons, snack, juice box or water. It was neat to them a couple of times but they stopped being impressed after a few trips. I also try to get them interested in our route, using maps especially at rest areas to show our progress.

    But, basically, they pop a DVD in the in-car player and watch a movie they’ve seen a zillion times rather than look out the window. Whaddya gonna do?

    Happy travels

    • SimpleCatholic says

      That’s a very good point! Kids, especially younger ones, don’t have the same sense of time as we do and what would seem like a “short trip” to us could seem like an eternity to them!

      I also agree, sometimes a DVD is the only thing that will keep them happy on a long trip. ๐Ÿ™‚


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  2. […] 10. Extra kids stuff. Again, if you are traveling with kids you have what you need already; but, it would be good to keep an extra bag of things you need for little ones in the car at all times. And don’t forget to keep a personalized child’s traveling bag within reach, too! (We certainly want to keep our little ones happy while traveling!) […]

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