We're no strangers to travel at our house. We've done car trips, and train trips, and airplane trips, and even boat trips. I can't say we've enjoyed every single minute of the getting there part of our trips, but I can say they've haven't been that bad. Travel with kids is kind of like childbirth: when you're right in the middle of it all you can't believe you'll ever make it to the other side, but in no time at all the discomforts of it recede, and all you remember are the happy parts.
Two years ago I compiled a Bag of Tricks list of travel must-haves for keeping kids busy on long trips. This week I've been making lists in preparation for our road trip to New York, and Canada next week. I have an Errands-to-Run (Target, bookstore, eye doctor, Trader Joe's) list and a Grocery list (what I need to get once I make it to the store) and a Household To-Do list. I also have been busily making an Entertainment list, because frankly, the thought of keeping both my kids somewhat happy during the twelve hour drive to upstate New York is a little daunting. Much of what I posted two years ago about what to pack to keep kids happy is outdated. My kids are now six and nine, and stickers just won't cut it anymore. To help me with my Entertainment list, I polled my friends on Facebook earlier in the week, and got, predictably, a flood of comments, both there and by e-mail, in response. We parents have trips with kids down to a science, we really do.
Here are suggestions for the top trip must-haves I received from friends and family:
--DVDs. Invest in one or two new titles, or make a trip to the video store before you leave. We don't have those over-the-seat monitors for our kids, but we do bring along our laptop. The challenge for us, as parents of one nine-year-old boy with very focused interests and a six-year old daughter is how to find movies that they will both agree on. We've finally managed to agree on this one and this one (if I can find it), and we have our old standby, this one love, but I need to track down one more title for our return trip at the end of next week.
--Electronic devices such as iPods, DSs, portable CD players, Leapsters, etc. and accompanying games. One friend suggested renting one or two new games before we leave.
--Make sure devices are fully charged, and that you bring along extra batteries. A couple of years ago my mother-in-law bought us a car adapter for plugging in electronic devices and this has been a life-saver.
--Lap desks or light trays. One friend suggested using cheap, disposable shallow baking pans. They are lightweight and won't weigh down little legs, and will keep the toys,play-doh, etc. contained inside while the kids play. I'm definitely giving this tip a try.
--A friend suggested bringing along a soccer ball for rest stop breaks. This probably won't do much for L., who doesn't like to kick balls around, but T. loves soccer and this could stretch her legs out when we take breaks.
--Audio books. I love, love, love these for long car trips. I've already checked out a five-disc set of Little House on the Prairie, and L.'s all-time favorite Diary of A Wimpy Kid: Dog Days which both kids will enjoy listening to. I also scored Meet Kit on CD at the library, but negotiations are still underway for how we'll pull off letting T. listen to this with L. in the car (he's already gone on record stating he'll jump out of the car if we play it).
--Plenty of blank paper, pencils, and crayons. Thankfully, both my kids are happy drawing/sketching/coloring in the car, and the paper can be used to make airplanes, hats, boats, etc. when times get tough.
--Play-doh. T. still loves this, and a little play-doh can go a long way. We like to bring a long a little bag of play-doh friendly toys: small cars, plastic animals, plastic knives, etc. Making play-doh "houses" for the animals, and roads for the cars can keep T. happy for quite some time.
--Plenty of snacks. Watch this space for a post Friday on travel eats.
--Trash bags, disinfecting wipes, tissues, safe, kid-friendly remedies for travel tummies, first-aid kit, flushable wipes for rest-stop bathrooms--both to clean the seats, and in case you discover, after negotiating the tight space and helping position a pint-sized bottom onto the seat, that you picked the one stall without toilet paper.
--Small pillows, blankets, to encourage sleeping--if, of course, you have kids who sleep in cars. We don't. But maybe the pillows will work some magic when it gets dark and we're still a couple of hours away from our hotel. At the very least, a pillow would be perfect for some tired parent's head.
--And this, from a good, seasoned traveler-friend of mine: your sense of humor. Because if you don't have one, you will never, ever, make it through the trip alive.