We've traveled a lot together. Part of that had to do with the job: the nine years we were houseparents, our family had to leave home in order to get a break, and when hubby was the associate pastor overseeing missions trips, we went on a lot of those. And, of course, God has taken us to a few places on our own. One of our greatest joys was having our son join the rest of us in Africa so that we spent five months serving together as a family.
So I've learned a few things about traveling with kids. Not all my attempts to keep them occupied were successful. Some were utter disasters. But I thought it might help to share what did work for those participating in Works-For-Me-Wednesday.
First off, you have to view traveling as an ADVENTURE. If you convey that attitude, you're more than halfway there! Kids pick up on your attitude. If you're dreading the trip, they'll sense that dread and act out. If you keep talking up the trip, and how much fun it will be, then they'll catch that excitement and be in a much happier frame of mind from the outset.
And remember, every child is different. So what worked best for us was to let each child have a backpack for their own stuff. Early on I packed it. As time went on, I contributed but they determined what would be included.
I always put in books. Picture books when they were younger, how-to books for my son as he grew, lots of fiction for both. Drawing supplies always made the cut, too, but we limited it usually to a pad of paper and couple of good drawing pencils. No sense in cluttering up the vehicle with a multitude of small pencils or crayons that just get stepped on and broken or lost. That philosophy also led me to ban anything with lots of little pieces. You have to take along enough stuff when traveling, why add to the volume unnecessarily?
Our son always had some ongoing project and if it was small enough he was allowed to take it along. I think he was about 12 when he found a site online that detailed how to pick locks. He and a buddy created their own lock pick sets and on one trip they took along a bunch of different locks and practiced unlocking them, timing to see who could do it fastest. Some of you are wondering if it was a good idea for us to allow this? Well, all I can say is it's a good skill to have when you've accidentally locked the bathroom door after starting to run the bathwater. And to my knowledge, he's never used the skill in a nefarious manner :-)
We also picked up books-on-tape from the library that the whole family could enjoy. Remember, this was before the ubiquitous portable DVD player. And while I have nothing against those, I still think a book-on-tape is a great travel tool. Our family enjoyed a lot of books together that way.
We played games, of course. And we talked. Many of our best family times have been in the car during a long trip. Especially as the kids got older. We listened to music and learned new songs. We stopped at rest areas as often as needed, and not just for potty stops. Sometimes the kids just needed to get out and stretch their legs, run around a little. Or we'd stop at an outlet mall and walk around window shopping.
Again, it all goes back to our attitude. When I have a good attitude, the trip goes so much better! And that continues to this day. I still love "road trips" with my kids and have been blessed to have a few since they've become adults. So start looking forward to them, enjoy them, and make travel an ADVENTURE!