Whether it planes, trains or automobiles, the thought of a long journey with kids fills most parents with a sense of dread. And if your kids are of widely differing ages, this just compounds the problem. So, if you’re faced with a long journey this holiday season, these ten tips might just save your sanity!
1. Time your journey carefully
If possible, time your journey for when the kids are asleep—you can do this in two ways. Firstly, you can wait until mid-evening and put kids in their nightclothes before traveling. A warm blanket will protect against the chill and you could also pack a small pillow. Alternatively, dig them out of bed in the early hours, and hopefully, they’ll doze off again en route (ensuring they sleep for at least some of the journey).
2. Pack some snacks
Kids are perpetually hungry when traveling, so make individual snack packs filled with lots of healthy nibbles that take time to eat and won’t give them a raging thirst or a sugar high. Dried fruit, low-salt snacks, nuts, cereal bars, sugar-free cookies, cold meat—the list is endless. Make all food suitable for tiny fingers, and don’t forget a drink—juice or plain water is preferable to a sugary cordial or fizzy soda.
3. Individual entertainment packs
Plan individualized entertainment packs for each child. Buy cheap puzzle books or coloring books in the sales, as well as colored pencils and pens. Take their interests into account— a Frozen-themed puzzle pack will interest one child, whilst another might prefer a dinosaur theme. Plain drawing paper is handy, as well as stickers, self-inking stamps, and other art accessories. Even a two-year-old can tote a small backpack, so make each child responsible for their own entertainment bag.
4. Magnetic boards
These are great for using magnetic letters, numbers and fridge magnets. Have the kids practice spelling words or solving math problems. Plus, the boards can also provide a firm surface for other activities, like drawing.
5. Electronic devices
You may be lucky enough for each child to have their own iPad, so they can watch movies or play games as they travel. If you’ve only one, then agree on a rota so they each have a fair turn. In addition, don’t forget audio devices. Download music onto a phone or MP3 player so they can listen individually, rather than arguing about different musical tastes.
If you’ve got a central music system (e.g. on a car journey), plan ahead and create some playlists that everyone (except your cool 14-year old!) will enjoy. Movie soundtracks, sing-along albums, and even old favorite songs are always a good choice and will help pass the time. Some kids may enjoy light classical music too.
7. Audiobooks and stories
Audiobooks are a great way for kids to access books they maybe couldn’t read for themselves, although on a long journey they’ll love hearing familiar stories too. Alternatively, why not record yourself reading favorite books to them? With picture books, you could put the originals in their packs, allowing them to read along.
8. Photo diary
If your kids can use a camera, encourage them to take photos as you travel, so they can compile them into a travel diary afterward. It will help make the journey memorable and could extend to the rest of your visit too.
9. Pencil and paper games
Even the most exciting story or lively music can wear thin after a while, so it helps to have a few paper and pencil games ready. Childhood staples like Tic-tac-toe, Hangman, Boxes, and Battleships are all easy to learn and can be played on small scraps of paper. You could also have a sketching competition—who can draw the funniest rabbit or the cutest kitten?
10. Verbal games
Lastly, verbal games don’t need any equipment and can be adapted for different age groups. And who has never played “I Spy’” when trying to occupy kids? Adapt this for younger kids by focusing on colors (e.g. something that’s green). 20 Questions are also a firm favorite, or play the “never-ending story” game in which each person has a minute to add to an invented story. Older kids may enjoy ‘” Just a Minute” too, which requires them to talk about a given subject for a full minute (without stopping).