Are you taking a long road trip or traveling with the kids this summer? As a family, we have taken numerous international flights, cross-country road trips, and even lived a year as digital nomads. In this blog post, I’m sharing 5 tips to keep your kids whine-free and happy while traveling without relying on your phone or electronics.
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If you had told me several years ago that I would have been living nomadically and traveling across the Eastern U.S. with my kids, I would have responded “No Way!” As a homebody, I like the comfort and organization of my own home. I like the basement playroom where my kids could romp around and yell without disturbing the peace (ok, my peace!).
While my husband was studying his PhD in the U.K., we had two sweet daughters in England. We also had doting grandmothers stateside who demanded to see their new granddaughters regularly. We frequently took flights from London to Washington, D.C. (once, I even took a flight standby ALONE with my infant daughter and survived to tell it). And, while the flights weren’t easy, I learned that traveling with small children could be a fun game.
Road Trips: Attitude is Everything
When the girls were infants, car trips were hard. My girls had a difficult time sleeping in their car seats, so I just didn’t love the experience. As they became toddlers, we worked really hard on creating a fun environment so that we didn’t have to rely on iPhones and iPads. While useful, have you ever tried prying an iPhone away from a tired, cranky child? Things go south fast!
My husband and I realized that we needed the train the girls to be content without electronics and use their eyes and ears to have fun on long road trips. I can now say, with these tips, we are electronic free for ALL road trips!
Tip 1: Podcasts
Do you enjoy listening to podcasts? We do too! There are some really great podcasts geared for elementary and middle aged children. Some of our favorites include:
- Circle Round (for a calming podcast)
- WOW in the World (fun, science based)
- But Why…
- Pants on Fire (Facts and investigations)
Our girls BEG for these podcasts and we love that they are often learning new factual information about science, stories, or culture!
Have your kids listen to them before your road trip so that they get attached to the stories and characters.
Tip 2: Adventures in Odyssey
While these are faith-based stories, our kids obsessed with the characters and will listen to them on repeat. They are available in both CD and have a digital subscription to stream.
Tip 3: Road Games
Road games are a great way to connect with your child! Make some fun memories and laugh with your kids while playing:
- I Spy
- 20 Questions
- “We are going on a picnic” (alphabet memory game)… (rules here)
- Storytelling (where someone starts with the story and then the next person continues from that story, and so on…)
Tip 4: Sticker and Activity Books
I have a special backpack that is ONLY for road trips or flights. It’s filled with small paperback books, crossword puzzles, stickers and crafts. I like to keep this bag stored away when we are traveling so the ideas and activities seem fresh and ‘new’ to them!
Some of my favorite activity books are from Melissa & Doug. The puffy sticker book is perfect for busy toddlers!
A good ‘ole coloring book goes a long way too on these trips! Get some from the dollar store.
Tip 5: Fun and NEW Snacks
We are not a big candy family! Candy is reserved for a very special treat and lollipops go a long way in our family.
I always pack new treats that excite the girls. Gum is a powerful tool for older children! I call it the ‘gum of silence,’ because surprisingly when I give the older girls gum, they are happy and quiet. 😉
I don’t offer gum to my toddler, so, sometimes I will sneak the girls gum when (IF?!) she naps. Fruit snacks, new crackers, and cereal can be a fun activity.
The night before a road trip, we will fill snack bags with cereal waiting in their car seat so we can get on the road (with coffee to go with mom and dad).
But what about electronics?
We used to let the girls watch a film or play games on old iPhones an hour before arriving at our destination, but in the last year, we’ve pretty much stopped relying on these tools. They are so busy having fun with podcasts, stories, and snacks that they don’t even think to ask! The older girls are BIG readers, so they often read a novel during the ride too.
What about you? What are your favorite tips for keeping the kids busy on long road trips or travel without relying on electronics? Please share in the comments!
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