As the CEO of Osmond Marketing, I have to travel periodically for work. But, I’m also the mother of 5 kids ages 5 to 17, so I try to take my kids with me whenever possible. This has resulted in many, many trips with kids over the years, and I’ve had my fair share of fights, fits, headaches, and caffeine to go with them. While I’m always looking for the newest travel hack, I’ve learned a few things over the years. Here are 10 ways to keep the kids happy and preserve your sanity.
- Less is more. Bring a few toys, not the entire toy box. It’s overstimulated when your child has too much to choose from, not to mention stressful to bring along everywhere. Make sure the toys are quiet as well. There’s nothing more annoying than a game of bop it going on in the back for 2 straight hours. A whiteboard, Where’s Waldo books, action figures, and stuffed animals are some of my personal favorites.
- Embrace electronics. This is one time when video games are the best thing ever invented. Don’t forget to bring some movies or an iPad, and bring enough for everyone to minimize the “my turn” squabbles. Be careful with headphones, as most children can’t fit the normal ones in their ear, and the ones over the ears can sometimes get uncomfortable. Have at least one backup pair.
- Keep meals as scheduled as possible. Grazers tend to be less satisfied than kids with three solid meals. Look at your map and make sure you’ll be in an area that has places to eat around mealtimes. Also, start off the trip with a meal if you can, so you’ve gotten the first few hours of “I’m hungry” out of the way.
Get comfortable. Nothing is worse than an itchy shirt on the road. Bring your comfy shoes and a sweater that you can take on and off depending on the temperature. I also like to loosen my pants and wear a kevel, so I can give myself a little extra room in the sitting position.
- Add an extra two hours to any trip. If you plan for those unplanned stops, you won’t get as frustrated. Let the kids know when you’re going to stop too, to make sure everyone is on board and knows when they can stretch their legs and take a break.
- Give them room to stretch. Especially with little kids, tight quarters mean fights are inevitable. If you’ve got the ability to put a suitcase between them, do it. If you can isolate them, it minimizes the chances that they’ll bother each other, and you can avoid a lot of crying and yelling. If it’s unavoidable, then you can still go back to those family car games like twenty questions, I spy, and the license plate game to keep everyone occupied.
- Tag team. My husband and I travel together whenever possible, especially when we have all the kids together. It’s great because you’re not as outnumbered, and the passenger can be the one to keep the peace when the driver is occupied. Navigators can also double as snack administrators, referees, drink holders, and video game repair technicians. It’s also nice to have someone to talk to so you don’t get bored in the driver’s seat.
- Stock up on caffeine. Traveling is stressful — and I need caffeine to keep me going so I don’t get tired. Don’t be afraid to grab a few of those 44-ounce drinks if it’s a longer trip. But be prepared if you let the kids get a drink too, especially the little ones. It won’t be long until you’ll need another potty break.
- Don’t drive at night unless someone is actively up talking to you. Safety first. If the kids are asleep and there isn’t anyone immediately available, make sure you have someone to call. Don’t take a chance with precious cargo if neither of those options are available. Hotels are everywhere.
- Enjoy the ride! Some of life’s best moments are traveling together — especially when you stop to see unexpected surprises, landmarks, and treasures along the way.
Road trips can be a drag, but they don’t have to be completely miserable, and there’s no harm in having some fun along the way. Maybe that next trip across the country won’t be so bad after all. Just remember to be safe, be smart, and have a good trip!
Originally published at medium.com