It’s a pet peeve of ours that society today suffers from an impression that a.) your life is over once you have kids and b.) you can’t do anything fun once they are here. Neither of these beliefs are true. Your life begins being really fun and more memorable once you have kids. Also, it is entirely within the realm of possibility to teach and train them to enjoy life with you. It will take a little work, yes, and a great deal of effort but we think you’ll appreciate the time invested in the end.
Do you enjoy having adventures? Trust us – kids loving having them even more that you do. For real. They are (always) totally up for a good time, even if it involves driving for a bit in the car to have one. Our kids are no exception to this rule and while the concept of a road trip was a hard one for us to wrap our minds around at first, we’ve all totally warmed up to it. Our kids are now great road trippers. (Truth be told, we think they road trip better than we do.)
The thing about this mode of travel is that it takes practice in order for everyone to be ok with it. Putting a kid into the car and expecting them to be happy to go on a 10 hour drive the first time is likely asking a bit too much. We start each of our kids off easy, traveling for 1-2 hour distances and then increasing the time as the kids have aged. At the time of this post, our kids are ages 2, 4, 6 and 8 and we can travel about 8 hours a stretch quite easily. Any more than that would be pushing it but our ultimate goal is a 10 hour day drive.
When we first began road tripping with the kids, things didn’t go so well. We were considerably unpracticed. My mother-in-law made a suggestion which I took which soon smoothed things out considerably. Every hour (like clockwork!) we dole out a snack. Now, you can pick the time frame that works best for your child, of course. Perhaps every half hour would be a better idea for you and your family, but the concept remains the same. When you give the kids something to look forward to, they can learn to be patient and happy, knowing that something fun is coming up soon enough.
For snacks we give small items. It might be as simple as a lollipop or a piece of chewing gum. This past trip we instituted a snack box which ended up being a great success and I suspect we will use again.
I purchased these Multi Purpose Mini Cups with Lids (although not on Amazon because they are more expensive ordered online; I picked them up for about $2 at the supermarket).
Before our trip I invited the kids to help me fill up a whole bunch of cups with things like raisins, (unsweetened) banana chips, nuts, fruit snacks, etc. Then we loaded them into a bucket/drawer which we took with us in the car. Every hour they could pull the bucket out and choose a cup for themselves to snack on. These cups proved a huge hit and there was great excitement every time it was time to get a new snack. They began planning in advance what they would choose on their next turn.
Other items I take for snacks on car trips might include:
- Fruit snack bars (containing just fruit and no sugar, because I’m mean like that)
- Applesauce squeeze pouches.
- YumEarth Organic Vitamin C Lollipops (because they don’t know the difference).
Really, having an hourly snack to look forward to is a tremendous advantage in keeping the kids happy.
Then I also create a little container/box before the trip which ends up being placed between sets of children (we have 4 children, thus 2 boxes). These boxes might contain new books (picked up at thrift stores usually), notebooks to draw in, new pens, or a small toy item for them to play with on our journey. These boxes are a highlight of each trip because they never know what they might find inside.
Another thing I’ve been collecting for road trips are audio storybook albums. Specifically, our kids enjoy listening to Jim Weiss who has an vast collection of stories to choose from.
All of his recordings are very well done and maintain the attention of all of our children. One of their personal favorites is:
Don’t underestimate the importance of stopping for breaks and a chance to stretch legs! We probably make a stop about every hour and a half to two hours. We hand out liquids for them to consume about 30 minutes prior to our stop so that we can combine bathroom breaks in the same stop. Letting them know your plans ahead of time will allow them to patiently endure and happily anticipate. Bonus: taking the time to explain your plan helps to eliminate the “are we there yet?” question.
Does traveling with kids/going on road trips take a little extra thought and work to prepare for? Yes, indeed, it does! However, it can be done and it is worth every amount of effort to make memories together as a family. They love traveling as much as we do. In fact, they love it so much that on this last trip, (which contained more than one 8 hour travel days), they informed us that they weren’t quite ready to go home because they were having such a good time! Success!
Don’t for a second think that your life is over when you have kids and that every amount of fun you can imagine has been snatched away. If that’s what you think, you need to change the way you imagine life with children. Include them in your play. Yes, your own plans might need a little tweaking as you learn to accomodate the needs and wishes of the little people but, again, it’s worth it. You will find your trips, your travels, your memories, and pretty much your entire life, all the more rich for having them along! True!