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Travel Tips–help!

By Hildie Westenhaver

Summer is drawing to a close and it seems like most everyone has taken their summer trips. We’re just getting started, though. We will be taking our six kids on a plane tomorrow to head to the Motherland (a.k.a. Utah). What I’ve learned about plane travel is to wear shoes that slip off and on easily and to not unwrap all the little toys I’ve bought for my kids (the unwrapping kills five minutes right there.)

Car travel seems to be a bigger obstacle. It takes a lot longer than a plane ride usually, and there is a lot of room for annoying and obnoxious behavior where kids are concerned (sibling rivalry to the tenth power!)

We have a DVD player in our car, but I hate to keep it going full time. Growing up we endured yearly drives across the country and I really grew to appreciate the simple things like reading and looking out the window at the changing scenery. I feel like my kids should have that same experience, but turning off the DVD player seems to punish the parents more than the kids.

I read that staying hydrated is really important, so on our last car trip I drained my water bottle regularly. Which meant that I had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the New Mexico desert more than once. So now I have decided that staying hydrated is maybe not the best idea for the two days we are stuck in the car.

What secrets have you learned travelling, either with kids or without? Has anybody ever given you really great (or really awful) advice ?

About Hildie Westenhaver

(Blog Team) was born and raised in Detroit, but is happy to call Austin, TX home now. She majored in Art History and Geography at BYU and graduated a week before having her first baby. There have been five more babies since then. Hildie is an avid baker and tries to fatten up the people she loves.

26 thoughts on “Travel Tips–help!”

  1. Audiobooks! I try to read out loud to my children on a regular basis. We really bond over the shared experience of a good story together. The day I picked up the audiobook for Harry Potter 2 from the library in preparation for a trip to the beach was a turning point in road triping for us. Silence. Suspence. Anticipation for the next leg of the journey. We've listen to dozens now, and my children actually ask me if I have any long errands to run when we have a good one standing by.

  2. Ditto the Harry Potter audio books! The voices are so entertaining and engaging. They keep the adults on down to the toddlers interested! And they last for hours!!

  3. My biggest recommendation is healthy snacks. Leave the candy and junk at home. Pack grapes or blueberries in a tupperware. Peel some honest to goodness carrots (not the tasteless baby carrots). Trail mix can be fun…I mix my own with M&Ms, peanuts, pretzels, sometimes goldfish. My kids don't like cashews or almonds, so the store-bought trail mix doesn't fly with them. Cheerios or fruit loops can be strung on a necklace during the flight to eat during the movie. Just bring a few lengths of yarn: it's a snack AND an activity.
    We just had a cross-country plane ride where they served no snacks and because of turbulence they had no drinks for hours. Boy, were we glad that we brought empty nalgene bottles and filled them at the water fountains before we boarded.

    A random suggestion: bring a roll of blue painter's tape. It's great! You can create streets on the tray-table for cars. You can tape sculptures. You can let your kids tear apart their pictures and retape them into balls, etc. Just let your kids go crazy with it. It's amazing what they can come up with.

    I've done many google searches for "traveling with kids activities". There's some good stuff out there!

  4. Depending on the age of your kids use it for some good conversation time. My dad would always start out by asking: are you happy?
    Or we would be able to listen to some of our music and then have a discussion about why we like it. But that of course only works with older kids.
    When contention came up in the car my dad would put in the Book of Mormon tapes. That would put us all right to sleep 🙂 Actually to this day i have a problem listening to audio tapes when i drive the car because my brain is trained to fall asleep when i hear an audio voice 🙂

  5. Oooohh, another YES vote for the Harry Potter audio books! My husband and I LOVED them. We listened to the whole series during our first two years of marriage. Every road trip we listened to the next book.

    Also, Ender's Game could be a fun one, too. That is a good audio one, and kid friendly.

    Beyond that, I spent years resisting the dvd player in the car. I kept saying "its not a necessity" and refused to get one. Then we borrowed our inlaws' for the long 12 hour trip home, and afterward I told them we weren't giving it back, lol! It feels wrong, but man, if it keeps them quiet and happy- USE IT!!! Its different than when we were little. They can't lay down or stretch out, etc, they are buckled down in a car seat.

    Also, healthy snacks…a little cooler with fruit and sandwiches and juice boxes.

    And our saving grace- DRAMAMINE. Our daughter throws up EVERY TIME she's in a car longer than 30 minutes. So its a staple on our road trips.

  6. Try and scope out some city parks to stop at ahead of time. It helps to be able to get out and play for a while at lunch or just for fun. My husband is usually willing to just drive around in a city until he finds a park, but I get annoyed because it seems like it wastes more time than its worth. If you already know where some are, though, you're in good shape.

    Regarding hydration, my strategy is usually to drink plenty of water the day before and the day after, but to just sip what water I really feel I need during the trip.

  7. Pipe cleaners are great on an airplane.

    A small bubble tumbler is great for the car. At random times, I turn the air up and let it blow bubbles into the back seat.

    We rarely have potty problems in the car. Every time we stop for gas, it is MANDATORY potty time for everyone and that helps a lot. Plus they can stretch their legs.

  8. When in doubt, lower your expectations. Seriously, that helps every time…helps with traveling and with family get-togethers. If you go into a big, stressful event like traveling with six kids expecting that there will be lots of fighting and probably at least one potty accident and lots of marital irritation, then it doesn't surprise you when all those things do happen. good luck!

  9. as for really awful advice, it was some I gave to myself. I was traveling alone with my 17 month-old daughter, and I thought if I kept her well-fed she would stay happy. Everyone told me to make sure she was sucking on a something during take-off and landing to help her ears stabilize. So I practically drowned her in milk during the flight and within 20 minutes of getting to my sister's house, my daughter threw up EVERYWHERE. Vomit on the bed, carpet, walls, hall floor, bathroom floor, bathroom wall, shower, toilet sink, couch, etc. I had no idea her little stomach could hold so much, it was insane.

    The point: it's a good idea to bring plenty of snacks and treats and fun foods, but don't over do it or else you'll be dealing with a bunch of sick kids, which is worse than dealing with bored kids.

  10. My sister is currently driving cross-country from Va to Utah for the same family reunion that will have me driving from Vegas in a couple of days. These are some of the ideas I gave her.
    1) surprise times, randomly placed throughout the day where children get dollar store goodies to open.
    2) Cracker Barrell will let you check out a book on tape and return it to the next Cracker Barrell on your way.
    3) a cheap ball in the car can be pulled out at rest stops to facilitate running and playing.
    4) snacks in 1/2 c sized rubbermaid containers–you can toss them to car occupants and they can toss the empties back to you for refills. Less mess.

    And yes, mom o' boys, bargain basement lowered expectations are a must.

  11. Depending on the ages of kids, give each a roll of either quarters, dimes, or nickles that will be their's to spend when you reach the destination. Each time they are annoying, obnoxious, ask 'are we there yet?' or fight with a sibling they have to give you a coin.

  12. The first time I flew with a toddler, everyone told me to give her Benadryl – it would put her to sleep. Well, we found out that Benadryl makes her drunk (and wired), so at 11pm on an otherwise quiet flight, our shy little 18 month old was drunkenly saying, "hello! hello!" to anyone who would listen, and couldn't stop moving her body to calm down. So, know how your kid will respond to any meds that you might give them before you get on the plane.
    I agree with the other advice above – and don't feel like you have to rush. The more deadlines you have, the less you will enjoy the trip.

  13. Make the trip part of the vacation. Stop at regular intervals. Get a motel with a swimming pool and or a hot tub. It takes a little longer, but there are no security lines and none of the stuff that go with it. It is so worth it.

  14. We adopted my sister-in-law's system for road trips and prepared a "Cooperation Store." (It saved my sanity and possibly my children's lives.) Before a trip I bought play money and filled a backpack with new little quiet toys, sticker books, coloring books, paper dolls, activity books, travel games and treats that I wouldn't normally buy. Each item had a price for purchase or "rental." The kids earned a "dollar" at specified intervals for keeping the lid on their obnoxious impulses. Once they had saved up enough, they could buy whatever goodie they coveted at the moment. It worked like magic.

  15. One bit of advice that really helped me years ago…Explain to the kids that it will be a LONG drive, really emphasize it…that will really help them to not ask so often: 'Are we almost there?'

  16. Tell stories together if your kids are old enough. Have each person pick one or two things that could be in a story (an ogre, a watch, a tree, a cow) and then take turns telling parts of the story (one or two sentences or a paragraph at a time). Once all the objects have been used and everyone has had at least one chance to help move the plot along, the story's over.

    You can tell silly stories or serious stories or try to sidetrack or undermine others' story plots as you go along, depending on how far out you want to stretch the game.

  17. I love wiki sticks, paint with water books (just use a q-tip with an ice cube), and the trick or treat size of playdough (small enough to not make a huge mess).
    We also built forts in the car or on the plane by strategically draping a blanket over a seat or tray table.
    One thing that has been a life saver though is buying my kids' good behavior. I give them money (a dollar or several quarters or a roll of dimes depending on the length of the trip) and tell them this is their money to buy a treat during the vacation- but they are not to spend any until we get there and as they choose not to listen and obey during the trip I can take money away. It works really well for us.

  18. my only travel trip…STAY HOME!

    ok, i'm just kidding (kind of). great suggestions above. for me it's all about earplugs. so so wish i had discovered them much earlier. xox

  19. I enjoyed Harry Potter, but Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites is sooo much better! Really. I have a degree in Humanities (ok, so I'm still just giving my preference). We loved listening to these in the car (and could work on a plane too). There are 10 and they teach good things along the adventurous way. I would never have bought the campy sounding books without the recommendation (and gift) of a BYU musuem curator.

    We just flew with six kids from NY to UT last month. My advice: Jetblue and don't wean the baby yet.

  20. My kids are far better at long car trips than I am. I get boooored.

    So, we stop every 1.5 to 2 hours, and get out at a park or playground to stretch and run. We stop at museums for a quick tour. We stop and take silly pictures. We stop and eat real food from our cooler (real meats, good cheese, fresh fruits and veg, nice crackers or bread, marinated artichoke hearts, black olives… all the good stuff!).

    I do bring audio books; we listen to the radio, and I have this nifty little jump-drive broadcast thing that plugs into the cigarette lighter and sends all the music files from a thumb drive to an unused FM station on my radio. I LOVE that thing–it was under $30 at the store. We also visit a lot.

    I break the rules and put small bits of extra padding under my little girls; car seats are *not* designed for comfort on long drives.

    (My kids range from 14 to 2.5 years, and my mother lives 10 hours away… we don't make the trip too often, but when we do, we go with a plan!)

  21. I can only handle about 6 hours in the car/plane, 8 is pushing it. So if it's a drive that's more than 8 hours, we stop for the night somewhere.

    We only have one kid and she's a pretty good traveler–she has some toys that she only gets to play with on trips, and we bought a cookie sheet that's just for her in the car that she can use to play cars on or draw on, which works pretty good. She rarely asks to use the DVD player, but we have it just in case.

  22. We live overseas and travel to and from the USA regularly, so my kids have had many experiences with 20-30 hour plane flights from the time they were infants. My suggestions echo those already said above — the little gifts, lots of diversions. Healthy snacks and drinks every so often, hand held game devices, paper pencils, etc.

    On a very recent drive (8 hours) we had activity books, did the license plate hunts (I offered the kids a quarter for every different state they could find), and old fashioned books. Oh, we also made an MP3 where we had lots of favorite songs, so someone was happy to hear when one of their songs came up. Singing made the time go quickly.

    Good luck!


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