My two-year-old is a poor traveler. She gets bored and wants to get out of her car seat, she demands that we repeatedly listen to her favorite song until we’re going nuts, and the toys we have carefully packed for her keep her occupied for approximately 2.7 seconds before she decides she’s done and wants a different one. It’s going to be a long summer of traveling—unless I come up with some better travel strategies, and fast.
Toys and Activities
- Magnets or Velcro. Toys with magnets or Velcro are great for the car because they stay connected to the toy yet can be moved around during playtime. There are lots of compact magnetic toys out there—ours include themes of Sesame Street, dress-up dolls, and Disney. We save them specifically for road trips.
- Small plush toys. We have a mini plush doll house that the kids love. It fits on their lap and is only used during long trips in the car. Puppets are another fun idea—your kids can make up a story with their puppets while en route.
- Activity Books. There’s a plethora of activity and sticker books geared toward kids of all ages. Markers may be better to use than crayons, which can melt if they’re left in the car on a hot day. Color Wonders sets are fun without the mess.
- Books on CD. Before your road trip, stop by your book store or library and check out their selection of children’s books on CD and cassette. It’s better than listening to Barney.
- Journals. Older kids can keep a travel journal on longer vacations. You can print off maps of your route and have them follow along. You can make a book for younger kids with a page for each day with fill-in sentences such as, “Today we did ____ and saw ____ and I liked ____.” You could also hand out digital kid-friendly cameras and have them photographically document your vacation.
- Electronics and DVDs. These are my last resort—the “I’m going to pull my hair out” tools. But you know what? A DVD here and there is not going to irreparably damage your child, especially since they’re on their way to someplace fantastically fun, like the grandparents’. Handheld electronics can keep kids occupied, and when you’re confined in a small space, it may be worth every little blip and beep.
Go back in time to when you were a kid and DVDs in the car were not an option. What did you like to do best? Remember “20 questions?” Put your iPod on shuffle and play “Name that tune.” You could play “I spy” and also the alphabet game where you watch billboards to find the letters of the alphabet (in order).
Your kids will inevitably get hungry, and you’ll be better off if you’ve packed some nutritious, easy-to-eat snacks rather than stopping at the gas station for candy or chips. Some ideas include nuts, dried fruit, cereal, crackers, string cheese, granola bars, apple or pear slices, grapes, and cut-up veggies with a small container of dip or hummus. Be sure to pack plenty of water—juice or soda will give them a sugar high, and you don’t want to deal with that while in a small, enclosed space!
Hopefully these ideas will help your next road trip (and mine as well) go more smoothly and be more enjoyable for all. Have safe, happy travels!