Let them eat cake!
Brittny/shutterstockCake for road trip snacks for kids? Everything in moderation, right? Erin McGann of Erin at Large lets her kids pick local snacks while traveling. "I really let them pick anything," says McGann. We've discovered some truly amazing things at bakeries and vending machines this way!" No worries, fellow moms, it's a once-a-day occurrence. McGann's other suggestion is to let the kiddos choose whatever fruit they want when they stop at a local farmers market. Choosing a fruit provides a fun distraction and break in traveling.
Ajintai/shutterstockThis isn't your typical, "Dear diary, today I had to sit next to my little brother who drove me nuts for 100 miles." This is an interactive journal meant to be shared. McGann suggests buying a basic travel journal with colored pencils and a glue stick. "When you're on the go, they are responsible for finding bits to put in them—business cards from cafes, coasters, fliers, tourist maps," says McGann. "They can spend that restaurant dead time to put things in their journal. It's a great way to talk over what you did that day."
gontar/shutterstockWe usually associate a carabiner with the rock climbing crowd but Elizabeth Newcamp of Dutch, Dutch, Goose! has several uses for saving the day while traveling with kids. "I typically have one clipped to my keys to keep them in my purse and then one to the boys book bags to keep their water bottles attached should they fall out the mesh side pocket," says Newcamp. "I've used them to fix a broken purse strap, attach a baby toy to a high chair, create a little handle running off the stroller for them to hold, hold a bunch of shopping bags and even just used it as a toy for the kids to play with in a pinch."
koosen/shutterstockLarge resealable plastic bags of all sizes are a traveling family's best friend. You'll want to splurge and get the trusted brand name ones for durability. One of Newcamp's favorite uses is for clothing. "I use zip lock bags to pack the kids clothes and keep outfits together. Each morning the kids can just pick a bag out of the suitcase and get themselves dressed." Pack extra bags for keeping wet items from the beach, to carry snacks or sandy toys. Another option for messy containment is to pick up a roll of dog poop bags. "They are perfect for diaper changes, wet clothes, vomit and anything containing a mess. I can put all our trash in there and then just toss it at the next trash can," says Newcamp.
Sing a soothing song
kak2s/shutterstockEven if you can't carry a tune, your kids can be lulled into quiet time or sleep with a song. "A week before you leave on your trip, choose a soothing song to sing to your child every night at bedtime that they associate with calming down," suggests Bailey Gaddis, CHt, HBCE, of the blog Your Serene Life. This go-to methods helps mom and kid settle down after a weary day of traveling. If you have a fidgeter, Gaddis suggests telling your child to close their eyes, watch your face or have them focus on a calming object so they don't get distracted.
Vitaly Korovin/shutterstockSightseeing can become boring for kids which usually leads to meltdowns. Gaddis gives her son a scavenger hunt to keep him engaged. "I make a list beforehand of common plants, animals, structures, or objects we're likely to come across as we sight see. I then read him the list on the way to get him excited about the activity," says Gaddis. If the kids run through the list before you're done sightseeing, just add more on the fly.
okskaz/shutterstockGaddis spends a few minutes every morning meditating on how she would like the trip to play out and attaches those positive emotions to positive outcomes. "This will send you into your trip exuding a positive attitude that will be absorbed by your children," says Gaddis. While traveling, Gaddis meditates with her son each morning. They close their eyes and visualize how they want the day to go. They share what they visualized, including the emotions, challenges, strengths and family bonding. "My son tells me what flavors of ice cream we'll eat at the end of day!" To further appreciate the travel experience the pair often meditates during the day. "We also have meditation moments throughout the day, where we take a moment to really take in how beautiful a flower is, how interesting a piece of tree bark is, what our hand feels like in a cool creek or ocean, and anything else that helps up slow down and be present in our vacation," says Gaddis. "I've noticed that this also helps prevent us from feeling like our vacation flew by—in a good way!"
Luis Santos/shutterstockBalloons require time and energy to inflate and take up very little space in a suitcase—which is why Suzane Brown of MomPowerment packs them on every trip. "It's great to have them for the hotel or in the airport," says Brown. "We blow them up and do games like keep the balloon of the floor or hit them with a book. We let the boys take the lead for balloon fun," says Brown.
Books with a purpose
vinnstock/shutterstockBooks are a popular item to pack when traveling with kids but choosing the right books can make a big difference regarding bedtime and travel time. Brown packs an old favorite book for familiar bedtime rituals and a new book for downtime while traveling in a car, plane or train."When it comes to books, our boys get to pick a favorite or two for bedtime. I buy the Look and Find books, based on their current areas of interest or related to something we will see while traveling so that I have the surprise element," says Brown. "The new books are to keep things interesting, so that we're not reading the same ones over and over and often give us something to do when we're tired and need something that requires low energy from our boys."
HeinzTeh/shutterstockNeed to buy some time on a train or plane? Legos save the day for the Brown boys. Contrary to what you might think (little pieces everywhere) these little packets of wonder can be kept in a tidy pile. "Our boys usually keep all the pieces in the bag or box and pull out what piece they need in that moment. A trick that helps is to use a piece of felt you buy from a craft store. It keeps the pieces from sliding around on a slick tray table on a plan or train," says Brown.