It's that time of year where we're all packing up and flying or driving to visit family and friends for the holidays. As much as I would love to say I’m the perfect parent who never hands my kids electronics while traveling…well, I’m not.
I do, however, make an effort to keep the kids from mindlessly falling into the abyss of Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds, or from watching Spy Kids 3 for the 343rd time.
I might let the kids watch a movie or play a video game for flights or road trips longer than 3 hours. However, if I can get them otherwise engaged – especially in the destination or travel experience – it’s a win-win!
I started this routine when my kids were 3 and 6, and we flew cross-country to the Grand Canyon. My kids are now 8 and 11, and they have never – not once – complained of being bored or misbehaved on a plane or on a transfer to/from an airport. All it takes is a few dollars (a very few) and a little planning.
I call them my “trip backpacks”. Once we get on the plane (in the car, etc.) I hand them each their small backpack. Inside there’s an assortment of items that the kids have never seen before. These items might include:
- Snacks (usually something not-too-junk-foody…some crackers or cereal bars)
- A small travel puzzle (travel or destination or event related, if possible)
- 1-3 new books to read
- A coloring or activity book (our last one was a coloring Atlas of the US)
- A travel card game (such as Travel Trivia, Animal Facts, or Spanish phrase flash cards)
- A small craft kit
- 3-4 small containers of Play Doh (trust me on this one – it has saved many a trip)
The kids are always excited to see what “surprises” are in the backpacks, and the items never fail to keep them occupied and entertained. I rarely spend more than $30 (most of the items can be found at a Dollar store or your local Target), and what I do spend is worth it!
The result is happy kids who are exercising their minds, interacting with us (and each other), and sometimes even learning about the place we’re headed.
Think about putting together a “trip backpack” or two for your holiday travels, and let me know how it goes. Have a suggestion for the backpack? I’d love to hear about any particular items that helped your kids travel a little easier!
Happy and safe travels!