Saturday, February 1, 2014

Discussion Post: Planning for Long Trips - What do you do?

I am sitting in my living room looking out the window at the sunshine, dreaming of going away on vacation. It's such a pleasant dream, until the reality of taking trips with three children sets in. Last summer, we packed up all the kids in the mini-van and drove 15 hours through the night to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Thank goodness the resulting vacation was incredible, because the trip down left much to be desired. Vacations should be a pleasurable activity, full of memories and happy activities. We planned a lot to make our trip as easy as possible, but even the best laid plans sometimes encounter traffic jams that wake up sleeping toddlers causing non-stop screaming! However, I do think that having a bag of tricks and lots of easy "go-to activities" for traveling is a great idea. Turns out, our fans had a lot to share on our Facebook page as well.

Andrea asked: "How do families plan for long trips with their children? What sorts of things do you bring and what do you do to occupy your children? We are headed to Canada to visit family in a couple of weeks and was wondering what everyone's thoughts were on keeping their children busy during travel?.

Turns out our friends at Smart Apps for Kids, have a free app list for that.

Susie says: I usually make sure they all have their electrics. I also like to pack a few things that are completely new as a super. i bring them out when the kids are all done and over their games and are asking "are we there yet?".

Stephanie says: Just went last weekend! iPad, portable DVD player, snacks, drinks, dollar toys they haven't seen before are fun to break up the trip. They have a dollar section at Walmart in the toy department. Favorite toys. i ask questions about our surroundings. Point things out, have them find something out the window.

Jeanette says: Lots of music and discussions as well as reading and game playing while driving makes them all feel sick. my youngest sleeps the whole time usually because of his travel sickness medications. 

Stephanie says:  We also find school playgrounds to stop and play at. The GPS is nice for finding elementary schools where playgrounds are guaranteed and not many kids will be there usually. Good to stretch their legs and if we're lucky, wear them out enough to nap a while!

Amy says: This has really changed so much over time. When our son was very little, we followed the standard advice, which was a big bag full of brand-new toys he'd never seen. Now (he's 11), it's best if we bring all old, familiar, favorite toys and movies. Also for a time (ages 5-8) it was best if we spelled out everything in advance, everything he should expect. Now it works much better (my husband's brainstorm) if we only tell him what's immediately happening, so of on a need-to-know basis, until we get settled at our destination. Then we use a visual schedule for just the current day. We do bring familiar snacks if at all possible or purchase them at our destination.

Brandi says: Portable DVD player, iPad, lots and lots and lots of SNACKS! If they are able and/or into drawing or art, then definitely coloring and activity books with plenty of crayons and pencils etc.

Paul says: I have a DVD player in the roof of my vehicle and we stop every couple of hours to stretch a bit and walk around.

Zoe says: Music is first on our list and iPad then snacks - things that are not going to be sticky, dried fruit or rice crackers are good.

Gina says: When the boys were younger, we made sure to schedule a break with an activity or play area every two hours. Now we have a travel packet which includes maps with the highlighted route (a lot less "how much longer") and a tentative schedule. We stress throughout that schedules can change and that it is OKAY if it does. It gives our guys an idea of what is going on. We also include activities and information about the places we are going so they can learn en-route. They especially like to work on junior ranger booklets for the national parks. We print them off ahead of time and then they know a lot before we get there.

Cas says: Lots and lots of books. And a few screens. And some chenille sticks for creating things. Animal/Vegetable/Mineral. Notepads and pens. Stop every 250km or so for toilet/food. Longest day we had was 1100km I think. After three days in the car with three kids vomiting, we were very glad to reach our destination that night! And then we had to make the beds... but after four days driving we took a day off before completing the journey with another two days of driving.

Isn't it nice to know you aren't alone in making long trips, despite every obstacle life can and will throw at you? When we made our trek to Myrtle Beach, we went with other friends and family. A total of three cars made the drive. It was six adults and six kids. We left at about 10pm thinking we'd drive through the night, all the kids would sleep and we'd make it to our destination in plenty of time for the 4pm check-in. We didn't count on insane amounts of road work holding us up before we even began, nor did we think it would be raining in the middle of summer. We were renting a house, so we jammed everything we could in the mini-van. Each child had a backpack with toys and we had a cooler and a bag with plenty of snacks.

Unfortunately, Baby-Z was about 15 months for that trip and she did not like the car, at all! She screamed so much. K-Bear gets carsick, but we were able to help her out with Children's Dramamine! And Little Miss M is such a champ -- she curled up in the back of the car, surrounded by our stuff and a pillow and blanket and just watched movies on the video screen. We stopped often. We gave the baby some acetaminophen and lots and lots of snacks! We turned the movies up as loud as we could and tried to drown out the screams. We talked about where we were going and let the kids get up and stretch their legs. My husband is also great about making the girls books that have color pictures of everywhere we might go, so they can be familiar with what to expect. Sticker books or just stickers are wonderful too, as they can be stuck and removed everywhere. Puppets were fun too, because we put on shows for each other and talked to each other as actors.

My greatest advice for what to pack for a long trip is something that doesn't fit in a suitcase. Pack your patience, it's a magic "P" word in our house. If you are patient and calm, despite what obstacles are thrown at you, your kids will be that much calmer on their ride.

Good luck -- have fun and make some memories to last a life time!

If you have anything to add to our discussion, please comment on this post.

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Amanda is in no hurry to take a long road trip again, and will fly for their next vacation that requires driving more then three hours away

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