They say that it’s not always about the destination, but often the journey itself and this can be especially true during family vacations. We can all remember complaining about having to share confined spaces with our siblings for extended periods of time, listening to Mom yell at Dad for the 5th time because he took the wrong turn, or even when someone decided it would be great fun to stink up the car and take no responsibility.
These are the memories we cherish the most. It’s not always about the presents under your Christmas tree or the fights between brothers and sisters, it’s about coming to realise that journeys and vacations with your family are some of the best memories from your childhood.
But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t get a bit stressful for Mom and Dad from time to time. So, to help out this year we decided to speak to some of our friends who travel with young ones to share their tips and tricks on how they keep their kids entertained on long drives, to ensure that that Mom, Dad and kids will have the best memories for years to come.
The Gathering Folk keep it interesting with a new twist to an old favourite
The Christmas vacations are fast approaching and so are those traditional family road trips. Playing car games can be a little limited when you are dealing with younger children, but we managed, with a little adaption.
We spent the first half of 2017 travelling around the country with our four-year-old daughter, Everly. We aren’t big on screen time and so we had to come up with ways to keep her amused. There were plenty of old favourites like eye spy, and we made up a new one called ‘the person in my head game’ (not exactly an original concept but the name we can claim).
The person who is having a turn thinks of either a family member or a character from a movie (preferably one you have all seen recently, think Moana or Poppy from Trolls). The person having the turn then says, ‘I’ve got someone’.
The rest of the car asks questions that can only be answered with either ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Eg: Does this person have pink hair? Is this person a boy? Do they like to eat spaghetti? Does this person like to swim?
And the questions go on, and on, and on, and hopefully on, until someone feels confident to guess who the person is thinking of. This game got a big workout on the long legs of the trip.
We were also gifted the Lonely Planet Boredom Busters book. This helped us with ideas for games and, although it was a little advanced for her, it will be great when she is a bit older and can read the games herself.
After travelling 12,000 miles with a four-year-old, we are happy to report we loved it and would do it again!
The Great Escape, escape possible tantrums with fun in-car activities
Long drives are probably the worst part of the vacation season other than the pack up and knowing you're going back to work on Monday!
Let’s face it, no one really likes to be in a car for hours on end. So, we find regular breaks are good for both kids and parents, and there are generally plenty of playgrounds and picnic areas to utilise en-route.
We also use a combination of things in the car while driving - we made up a bag of toys and stuff for our son to play with and rotate items to keep it interesting, books, magnetised items, colouring books and stickers.
As far as food goes, I have heard of people using fishing boxes or similar to put different items in to nibble on, but regardless of what you use, regular snacks definitely help keep everyone happy. You can’t go past a good game of eye spy too. And yes, we have a tablet loaded with movies and games for those longer drives, we all need a break sometimes!
Once you get to your destination, hopefully you have chosen somewhere interesting, and the kids will entertain themselves most of the time. And the good thing about Christmas time is you can guarantee there will be plenty of other kids for him to play with. Another thing we do to keep our sanity is to make sure he keeps a pretty regular bedtime - this gives us some time to chill out in the evening and have a much-deserved glass of wine!
‘No-mad’ tantrums with The Blonde Nomads
Our mini blondies, Marli and Ziggy, are pretty good at travelling as they have been doing it since they were babies. Most travel has an element of waiting or having to sit still which is not easy when you have excited or tired kids, so we like to make sure we are well prepared by having plenty of food, snacks and activities on hand.
We pack loads of small games and toys - playdough, stickers, puzzles, drawing, anything to keep little hands busy. When packing snacks, we take a lot of small 'time waster' foods like nuts, dried fruit and popcorn that are harder for little ones to pick up and take time to eat. We are currently road tripping around Australia and are up for some big days in the car, so we find that giving the kids a good run around to burn off energy is great before we jump into the car. We also have a DVD player which keeps them happy and lets us get some good miles under our belt!
We make sure we communicate with our mini adventurers, so they know what to expect out of our day which often helps with possible meltdowns or tantrums. Where we can, we let them help make some decisions on our activities, so they feel like they are being a part of our adventures which they really enjoy.
Campers Pantry make free-camping with these activities
Once you're at camp what do you do now? The key is lots of exercise and outdoor activities to wear them out and get them to bed with no hassles. For example, if we're down the beach we make boats from sticks with feathers and shells. Sandcastles, Volcanos (wet sand), getting chased by waves, chase (catch me if you can), fishing (one rod only) and collecting bait are just some examples.
At camp, we're always singing and dancing. Lots of colouring in and craft. Making boats from sticks to float down creeks etc. Rope from trees to swing from. Collecting sticks for the fire. Finding the perfect stick for marshmallows.
Our girl, Pippa (three and a half years), is loving life on the road. She has got so much confidence now. She will strike up a conversation with anyone and loves introducing herself as, "My name is Pippa and I'm 3."
Many thanks to The Gathering Folk, The Great Escape, The Blonde Nomads and Camper's Pantry for their contribution for this blog, we hope some of these tips will give you ideas on how to keep your children entertained over the holidays. For more tips on having a stress-free Christmas vacation check out our tips and tricks for Christmas travel and our travel stress free this christmas blog.