School holidays are always exciting. The entire family has endured months of early mornings, gruelling traffic, runny noses and mandatory routine ad nauseam and a well-deserved school holiday trip is just what everyone needs.
There is however, nothing worse than the impatience of your children as you travel. “Mom, are we there yet?” “Dad, how much longer do we have to drive?” “We’re tired!” And then of course, there is the constant fidgeting, the quarrelling with siblings, and the general moodiness of being confined to a small space for a prolonged period of time. So keeping the kids distracted and engaged is a must!
“At Flight Centre, we understand that even the best made plans can be soured by irritable children, and we’ve compiled a few useful tips for parents on how you can keep the kids busy as you travel,” says Andrew Stark, General Manager, Flight Centre.
So whether you’re planning a road trip or preparing to take a flight, keep this list handy:
Begin by managing your children’s expectations
Kids respond to being prepared on what to expect as they travel, so excite them about the destination. Tell them what to look out for and make it clear how many different landmarks you will need to pass before you get there. If they can help you count the landmarks, it will help keep them occupied.
Set some travel rules
Tell them prior to the trip how you would like them to behave and let them know what their limits are. You can also set rules and promise an incentive for good behaviour. Get them to choose their punishment if they misbehave too!
Keep toys handy
Kids should never be separated from their toys, just as you would not want to be an inch away from your cell phone. And never make the mistake of bringing old toys along, unless of course these are their favourites. To retain their attention, they will need new items to fiddle with for a longer time. You can get inexpensive toys such as Play Doh, or plan for creative activities such as drawing – keep crayons and paper close by as this will always keep them entertained.
When last did you check granny’s little box of buttons? Why not challenge older children to make cute jewellery while you hide your head away in a travel magazine. You can also stock up on big colourful buttons from your local DIY wholesaler.
Snacks can do the trick
Snacks can really help keep little people busy. Choose the snacks carefully and go for healthy nibbles that are low in sugar. Cheerios and multigrain snacks are a great choice. If you’ll be driving, you can also plan your munchies according to where you are going to stop or possibly have a picnic at a pleasant safe spot and allow them to get rid of excess energy by running around for 10-15 minutes.
This is an obvious tool, so take a selection of their known favourites along so they can be engrossed whilst simultaneously enjoying their read. Audiobooks can also do the trick as well as crossword puzzles, or even the basic Sudoku.
Naps are opportunities
If your kids take naps at certain times, try scheduling your flights during those dozy stretches. You will relish having all the time to yourself and will be safe from the stares of those folk who aren’t too fond of kids. Alternatively, take an afternoon flight and before leaving for the airport insist that the youngsters play outside so they can work off some of their latent energy. They will hopefully fall asleep during the flight as they will be tired.
Don’t overlook the older kids
On long trips they can also behave like toddlers, so make sure that they remember their Nintendos and iPods to keep boredom and anxiety at bay. Suggest that they upload their favourite movies on their laptops but be sure to check the age restrictions before allowing older children to watch movie after movie.
An element of surprise
Take along a goodie-bag of treats and surprise them once in a while, as a reward for good behaviour, or just because you can!
Stark further advises that if your child is flying for the first time, be cognisant of problems such as motion sickness and speak to your doctor or pharmacy about any measures that can be taken. In addition, get the child’s ear canals checked as if they are small they are likely to be prone to air pressure which can cause pain and severe popping discomfort. “You will need to keep them awake, particularly babies, even if they have been sleeping, to avoid earaches. If you are unsure about anything, consult with your doctor before you travel.”
“By planning ahead, you can avoid travel-stress, and start your trip the way you plan to end it – with as much fun as possible.” says Stark.