This is Part Four of a series on traveling with children. Click here for Part One, here for Part Two, and here for Part Three.
When we first started traveling, I packed so much stuff for the kids to do en route. Coloring books and crayons, story books, tactile toys, cars, and more filled my “activities bag.” I would get to the end of our journey with sore shoulders from the extra weight and sweat on my brow from feverishly trying to collect toys and crayons that had rolled around the floor of the airplane before deplaning.
Eventually, I wised up and recognized that for everything there is a season, including a season for unlimited screen time!
Tablets and headphones. Our kids do not get a lot of screen time at home. So when we travel, I let them gorge themselves on movies.
During a great sale a few years ago, my husband bought two Amazon Fire tablets* for around $35 a piece (they are currently regularly priced at $49.99). We also have an old iPhone, and I bought extra storage on SD cards (again, on sale). Since we are already Amazon Prime members, I can download movies and TV shows to each tablet. The kids can swap tablets for more variety if we are on a long trip.
I have also loaded a few games and a reading app, which the kids love exploring (since they rarely have unfettered access to tablets!) These tablets are not connected to the internet when the kids are using them—everything they have access to is curated by me and downloaded for use offline.
Give yourself plenty of time and leave room for stops. If we are driving, and the GPS says it should take us four hours, I allow six. If we do a potty stop and ten minutes later someone needs to stop again, no problem! We’ve got all the time in the world! When it’s time for lunch, we use Yelp to try to find a fast food place that has a play area. Does it make lunch take longer? You betcha. But the kids play and are often ready for a car nap when we hit the road again.
If we are flying, I try to get to the airport more than two hours early so we do not have to feel rushed through security and so that the children can meander through the airport. Nothing kills the fun like screaming at a little child to “run!” because you’re afraid you’re going to miss your flight! Some airports, like SEA-TAC, have play areas in side, which our kids love. It’s a great chance for kids to blow off some steam before boarding a plane. But you need a solid margin of time to do it.
Easy Does It. We have to remember that, as stressful as traveling can be for parents, it can be even more stressful for children. So it’s up to us to make it fun and stress-free as much as possible. Practice some mindfulness ahead of time to help you be prepared to go easy on the kids if they’re not moving as quickly as you’d like. There is so much to see in an airport! Riding in a car can be so boring for a child! We need to practice giving our kids extra grace when we’re traveling and build in as much opportunity for us all to rest and refresh as possible.
In these four posts, I’ve shared some of the things that have helped us make traveling fun for our kids. What would you add? Please share your feedback below!
*Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” [Disclaimer Credit: Michael Hyatt]