Traveling With Kids

Plan for Success

Traveling with kids can be a wonderful experience full of exciting adventures. It also can be a challenge for parents. Some people find going away with their children as stressful as Survivor. Fortunately, there are many things parents can do to prepare for a successful trip.

  • Plan ahead. Start talking about your trip at least several weeks before you leave. Tell your children where you're going and some of the things you will do. Take books out of the library that describe going on vacation or tell about the places you're going to visit. You'll enjoy reading together, and it will help prepare your kids for the trip they're about to take.
  • Let each child pack a small bag with special toys, dolls or books he or she would like to bring along. Our family always takes a set of art supplies when we're traveling. Pads of paper, markers, glue sticks and scissors all come in handy when you're stuck in traffic or waiting for a delayed flight. Pack a bag of books or books on tape, and your kids can spend time reading or listening to stories if they're bored.
  • You also can take turns picking favorite music stations. Talk with your kids about taking turns and sharing your traveling experience, and they'll learn to cooperate and solve problems.

Many parents let their children watch videos during car rides. Having a TV on board can be a great way to break up a long drive, but don't overuse it. Kids may be quiet when they're watching, but TV is a passive activity. Your children will need to use up some of their natural energy, so limit the amount of TV or videos they watch. That goes for movies on airplanes, too-just take away those earphones when it's time to do something else. Also, try to vary your children's travel activities and let them run around at rest stops or when changing planes.

Enjoy spending time together as a family, and make your trip fun. If you're taking a long car trip, take turns telling stories or jokes. Sing songs together and play games. If your children are learning to read, encourage them to read signs to find the letters of the alphabet or their names. Keeping busy will help pass the time, but don't expect your children to be on their best behavior the whole trip. It's normal for kids to act up now and then, even on vacation. Be patient, and talk to your kids about how you expect them to behave.

Discipline doesn't end when you head out the door. Be consistent in setting limits, such as no hitting or kicking, and impose consequences or withdraw their privileges if your children don't follow the rules. You also can offer incentives for good behavior. You might tell your kids that you'll go out for ice cream if they sit quietly in the car for two hours. If you're traveling by plane, tell them you'll give them a special treat (perhaps a small toy or book) if they behave for a given amount of time.

Let your children know you're proud of them when they behave well. If they're reading quietly or playing nicely together, tell them what good travelers they are. Praise motivates kids to continue good behavior.