Traveling with children can be either a joy or headache depending upon the age. When my children were toddlers I refused to travel; it wasn’t worth the stress. As we discovered the benefits of exploring the country with our children in tow we began to find ways to make the journey less stressful. We’re not experts, but after a few years of full-time RV travel we’ve managed to make the journey enjoyable.
Traveling with tweens does not TYPICALLY require the packing circus that infants create. However, they still seem to require a LOT of stuff. My youngest travels with what we call her “entourage”. The middle sometimes takes her entourage. The teen travels with his “weapons” whenever we let him. This is addition to the required clothing, toiletries and other items needed for day-to-day living. For mom it can be a chaotic mess!
To keep the stuff from overflowing I have created a travel system.
- Each person is given a plastic box to keep their clothes and any other paraphernalia. If it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t go.
- I created a checklist that the kids use to pack. This means that I won’t be making an emergency trip to the store because a certain kid forgot to pack underwear.
- To conserve space and laundry, they pack 1 pair of jeans and pajamas for each 3 days of travel. They can take 1 shirt, underclothing and socks for each day of travel. I also have them pack an “emergency” outfit. They choose 1 pair of shoes that they will wear. I also take flip-flops for use in the public pool bathrooms.
- When each box is completely packed, I inspect the contents, label the box and place it into the back of the truck. When we get to the hotel each person is responsible for their own box.
Inside the truck they are allowed to take the following: a backpack with items of their choice, a blanket and a pillow. They are responsible for keeping their stuff picked-up and out of their siblings’ space.
When the kids were younger entertainment was important. Boredom seemed to set in as soon as we left the driveway. Not much has changed now that they are tweens. I have found some ways to keep the entire family happy without too many fights over whose music is next in the queue.
Four years ago I bought a dual mobile DVD player. This item allows us to stretch our traveling days by a few hours. I typically allow them to watch one video a day. Their favorites include Disney, Ice Age and the Star Wars series.
Our favorite travel entertainment is the Adventures in Odyssey CDs. Our entire family will listen to these for hours. They are funny, family-friendly and teach an important truth or value. Our tradition is to buy at least 1-2 new CDs each time we take a trip. This summer we also began to listen to books-on-CD. This has been a mixed experience, but one that I hope to expand.
Other favorite items to keep tweens busy include Kindle, i-Pad, drawing kits, travel games and logic problems.
There is something about a car and moving wheels that makes the tween/teen stomach grumble. We can get 15 minutes and I hear, “MOM, I’m hungry!” “Mom, when’s lunch?” “Mom, can we stop for something to eat?” Instead of insisting they wait until mealtime, we now travel with a variety of snacks.
The best snacks for traveling are those with the least mess and most caloric nutritional value. What are our favorites? We love nuts, seeds, rice crackers, cheese, lunch meat, cut-up veggies and apples. We try to avoid candy, chips, cookies and anything salty. Sodas and juice are not an option for traveling.
We have a small console in the middle of our front seat. This is where we keep the non-perishable items. The items that need to be cooled are kept in a small cooler in the back of the truck. Whenever we stop for gas or rest we offer a snack. Each kid chooses one snack for the next leg of the journey. They are also given a bottle of water.
Are you traveling this holiday season?
Slow Down. Talk. Laugh. Learn. The hours in the car together will be some of the most precious memories you create. The journey is always better than the destination.