SHERIDAN — It is hard to believe, but the holidays are upon us. If you are lucky, you will be traveling for Thanksgiving or Christmas to be with friends or family, or simply taking a family vacation and exploring a new place. However, the ‘travel’ part of a vacation is usually a stress-filled endeavor and children often find the experience just as frustrating as adults.
But with a little pre-planning, everyone can get through the car or plane ride with minimal discomfort.
Surprise them. Whether you have a long car trip or a short plane ride, surprising your kids with a new book, toy or game can get the trip started on a positive note and be a great distraction during the flight or drive.
Explain the procedures. Air travel, particularly during the holidays, can be slow and unpredictable and sometimes downright nerve-wracking. Before arriving at the airport, explain to your children what will be happening as you prepare for the flight — checking in baggage, getting boarding tickets, going through security, waiting at the terminal, boarding the plane and preparing for takeoff. Outline what behaviors are expected from them at each stop and also explain that there might be long lines which will require everyone to be patient.
Bring some comforts from home. Taking a nap on a plane or in a hotel room can be made better with a special blanket from home. A blanket and a favorite book can encourage children to relax and perhaps even nap during the flight. Small stuffed animals or toys from home take up little room in a bag and can provide comfort to young children traveling to unfamiliar places.
Stock up on snacks. Whether you are in a car or on a plane, having a stash of healthy snacks is important, as mealtimes may be irregular. Peanut butter pretzels, nuts, cheese sticks and other low-sugar snacks are satisfying and easy to transport. Many airlines no longer provide much for snacks during a flight, so having your own will keep hungry kids happy.
Let them help plan. If you are visiting a large city or popular region or landmark, consider purchasing a travel guide book on the area just for kids. The Lonely Planet’s “Not for Parents” books and ABC Travel Guides for Kids are made just for young readers. Allowing the kids to read about the destination and perhaps pick out an activity or site to visit is a great way for them to pass the travel time and get excited about the trip. The library can help you find kid-specific travel books and guides.
Electronics. Electronic games and devices have certainly created new ways to keep kids entertained during a flight or road trip, but be sure to set down rules prior to the trip. For instance, for first-time flyers, explain that the electronic device can be used in the terminal while waiting to board, but may need to be turned off for takeoff or landing. Having this knowledge in advance might deter a tantrum if the child is mid-game and insists on continuing to play. Also, if you are traveling to visit family or friends, set rules on the amount of time that kids can use their devices during the visit. That way, they are engaged with the hosts, rather than sequestering away in a bedroom each day to play games.
Create memories during the trip. One fun way to involve kids during a trip is allow them to document it. Purchase each child a travel journal and encourage them to draw scenes they encounter and write down their favorite experience, favorite meal, a funny thing they saw or heard, etc.
Stamps, stickers and crayons help jazz up the pages, along with small mementos collected during the trip such as admission tickets to events, boarding passes and other items related to the trip. Photos from the trip can be printed out and glued in the journal to complete the book when you return home.