Vacationing with your children, whether they’re toddlers or teenagers, is a chance to create cherished family memories. But the journey to and from your destination, be it in a car or on a plane, may be a memory you will want to forget. “Children can get impatient and cranky when they’re traveling, which makes parents cranky and that trip unpleasant,” said Eileen Ogintz, who writes a syndicated weekly column on family travel called “Taking the Kids” and has an online magazine with the same name.
Here, she shares her strategies for making car rides and flights tolerable, even enjoyable, for you and them.
ON ROAD TRIPS, PLAN STOPS If you’re getting to your destination by car, Ms. Ogintz recommended stopping every two to three hours to counteract the cooped-up feeling that comes from being in a car. Make the stops fun: Try a picnic, even if it’s on park benches at a rest area or a visit to a playground. Another idea is to see an attraction along the way, such as a lighthouse.
USE TRAVEL TIME AS BONDING TIME Look at your journey as an opportunity to have uninterrupted time to connect with your children, Ms. Ogintz said. On car trips, listen to audiobooks that all family members will enjoy, take turns picking songs to play or try classic verbal games such as “I spy.” On flights, play card games, or use the in-flight entertainment system or a tablet to play video games together.
EDUCATE, THEN JOURNAL Get your children excited about where you’re headed by showing them a movie or giving them a book on that destination. Ms. Ogintz, for example, has a children’s guidebook series on major cities in the United States, while “A Walk in London,” by Salvatore Rubbino, is a novel for children ages 5 to 8 that describes attractions in London. During your trip, buy postcards of the sights you see, and on the journey home, have your children write on the back of each card what they remember most about that site.
HAVE A FOOD STASH Don’t underestimate the power of food as entertainment, Ms. Ogintz said. She suggests taking treats that your children might not get regularly, such as small bags of their favorite candy. Minibagels, along with portable containers of cream cheese or chocolate peanut butter, are also a hit with children.
ALLOW ELECTRONIC DEVICES (IN MODERATION) Yes, there is such a thing as too much television or time on a tablet. “While sticking your kids in front of a screen may seem like an easy solution to keep them occupied,” Ms. Ogintz said, “they will get tired of it.” She advised setting limits for using electronic devices. One idea would be to allow your child to watch one episode of a TV show and then take an hourlong break before watching another.
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