Vacation Travel With Kids

By Ali Langen, Courier & Press, July 28, 2015 –

Summer brings lots of great things like warm weather, pool time and vacations. We’re heading north to Minnesota this year for our family vacation, a 16-hour car ride.

When it was just my husband and me it was a pretty easy drive. Now that we have a wonderfully active 2-year old, the ride will be a little different. My goal for this trip is to limit screen time (TV shows, movies, games on the phone and iPad) and still keep him entertained.

When planning for the drive, the first thing to consider was our son’s attention span and maturity level. He turned 2 a few months ago, and like most other toddlers, he is very high-energy.

Coloring with crayons and markers typically means he has multiple self-drawn “tattoos”. He does tend to color off the page and onto any surface that looks interesting, so it isn’t practical to do a lot of coloring. We will also stay away from any small objects that could be a choking hazard.

Since we live in age social media, I took to Facebook to ask other parents how they entertain their kids on long drives. The response was great and I got a lot of feedback. Popular suggestions were the classic Etch-a-Sketch, travel tunes and a variety of snacks. Some parents mentioned particular brands such as Melissa & Doug (www.melissaanddoug.com) that carry travel toys and activities for kids of all ages.

While these were all great suggestions, I knew I had to find more travel entertainment for my toddler. My next step was to go back to the drawing board and look up ideas on Pinterest. If you aren’t familiar with Pinterest, you must try this free website that allows users to save — also known as “pin” — inspirational ideas and projects.

After logging in, I typed “toddler entertainment for car ride” in the search bar, and an entire page of creative and easy suggestions popped up. There was even an entire blog post devoted to another mom’s experience from a 16-hour car ride with her toddler and preschooler. Her suggestions included fun window clings and an eye-spy game with handmade binoculars fashioned from recycled paper towel rolls.

In addition to this mom’s blog, there was a surplus of other good suggestions. I considered each, bearing in mind whether or not the idea was age-appropriate and a good fit for my son’s personality and temperament.

Because of the long duration of our trip, we will be making stops so we can get out and stretch our legs. My goal is to plan the drive so we can stop at restaurants that have playgrounds for him to swing and go down the slide. This will help break up the trip and hopefully wear him out while we eat and take breaks.

One of our favorite fast-food restaurants is Chick-fil-A. Their website has an app where you can plan a trip by entering start and end locations, and it will pull up all of the Chick-fil-A restaurants along the way.

The Internet and other parents in your network can be great resources when looking for advice or suggestions. To search for more travel activities, look online or use specific websites like Pinterest. Having plenty of activities to amuse your child will make the time go by much faster.