By TERREECE M. CLARKE
Holiday travel. Airport lines. Obscene amounts of traffic. And little people who always have to go to the bathroom. Or want a snack. Or keep asking, “Are we there yet?” *shudder* Traveling with kids is so frustrating, many parents seriously consider skipping family visits altogether and parking it at home for the holidays. But you don’t have to disappoint grandma with a no-show on Christmas Day; just take these five simple sanity-saving steps to make things easier on the road.
1. Keep ‘Em Comfortable By…
Checking your child’s car seat straps. A growth spurt can make the shoulder straps uncomfortable and increase your child’s irritation. Before heading out, review your carseat’s instructions to ensure proper fit and comfort.
Securing lovey. Halfway to the destination, your child discovers her favorite stuffed duck is missing. Terror and crying ensues—and that’s just from the front seat. Avoid the drama by making binkie, lovey or blankey a special priority. Put them in the car first or attach them to your person. Nothing says “I love my kids” more than a hot pink stuffed koala bear pinned to your shirt.
Not overdressing. Chilly temps send moms on a sweater spree. Well, more like a sweater, scarf, blanket and mitten spree. It can also lead to your kids overheating and becoming cranky little monsters underneath all that stuff. Light layers are the way to go.
2. Keep ‘Em Entertained By…
Looking beyond DVD players for entertainment. On the tech side, there are tons of fun and educational apps for smartphones and tablets to keep the kids learning while on the go. Low-tech family games like I Spy and Family Trivia are fun time wasters.
Creating a playlist. Don’t trust the six month-old with your iPhone? Channel your inner DJ and create a family friendly playlist everyone will enjoy. A little Disney, a little R&B, some old school TV show themes—get creative! Nothing says fun road trip like a family sing-a-long. Need some ideas? Check out the MyBrownBaby kid-friendly playlist here.
Giving a special toy. Whether it’s a new coloring book with a fresh pack of crayons or a new action figure, make travel time special.
3. Keep ‘Em Fed By…
Sticking with fun and healthy. The standard holiday indulgences—cakes, candy, cookies—can wreak havoc on your little one’s digestive system. So can all the fast food we’re tempted to frequent while traveling. Save time and money by packing your sandwiches, drinks and snacks. Buy bulk items and chopping them down to kid size. Cut possible choking hazards into quarters and slices. Experiment with cookie cutters for sandwiches and cheese slices.
Upgrading feeding gear. When’s the last time you bought a new sippy cup? Avoid leaks and messes by stocking up on a few convenient snack holders. Don’t forget to label them!
4. Keep ‘Em Sleep By…
Traveling at night. Slipping out under the cover of darkness is not a bad thing. Whether you leave at bed time or before the sun rises, a dark car and the soothing vibrations of the road make for sleepy kids and a peaceful road trip. Want to guarantee quality sleepy time? Let them ride in a pair of warm jammies and bring a favorite pillow or blanket for some primo snuggle action.
Sticking to bedtime and nap routines. It is easy to forget schedules in the excitement and activity of traveling, but that is when kids need the stability of routine the most. Try setting phone or watch reminders to stay on track.
5. Keep It Moving By…
Stopping frequently. My family lives a little over two hours away from our home. If we travel during the day, we tack on an extra hour. This allows us time to stop midway, stretch our legs and let the kids wander for a while. Instead of one long drive, chop it up into quick stretches until you reach your destination. It may take a little longer, but the family will be happier.
Holiday road trips with kids can be fun and accomplished with minimal stress. All it takes is a little planning. Do you have a road trip tip? Tell us in the comments section!
Speaking of road trips—vote for Terreece’s family in Parenting Magazine’s Ultimate Road Trip Contest! The Clarkes are 1 of 10 families vying for a road trip worth up to $15,000 and they need your votes. It takes two seconds, literally—and Terreece will be absolutely geeked that you helped a sistah out. Vote for The Clarke Family.
Terreece M. Clarke is a freelance writer/journalist for a variety of magazines, newspapers and websites. She is also a rockin’ mom of three and the rockin’ wife of David. Read more of her work at TerreeceClarke.com.