“All Aboard the Train please! More more All Aboard the Train PLEEASE!” come the cries from the backseat. Our two-year-olds are waving their hands, bouncing, and crying out for their favorite song one more time. My husband rolls his eyes and looks at me to ask if he should play it again. I silently curse myself for teaching them to say please because they sound so cute and it is increasingly difficult to say no.
“One more time and then Shuffle is going to pick the song,” we decide. “Shuffle” has taken on mystical human qualities in our car. Shuffle has the power to choose songs and then mom and dad shrug and say, Shuffle picked. This seems to work, for now.
My husband and I are huge fans of travel. We love to visit new places. We love eating at new restaurants. We love the beach, pools, hotels, and even the occasional tacky tourist attractions. We love meandering through gardens. We love taking pictures. And more recently, we are working on passing this love onto our children. Our little ones have been flown, driven, and walked through countless places since they were born and in general, seem to share our enthusiasm for seeing the world. Along the way, we have learned a few things about enjoying road trips with youngsters.
Consider Your Child’s Schedule when Planning a Trip. If you respect your child’s needs for sleep, toileting, food, and movement when planning your trip it will be a happier time. This is the same for me. If I am tired or hungry, I am an unfriendly travel companion. I too will whine and grumble until I get a snack. Kids are no different. Plan stops that allow time for them to move around, use the bathroom, and get some food. If your child still naps, take advantage of this by getting back in the car on time for their nap and hope the movement lulls them into a deeper, longer nap.
Pacing. Wait to jump into “road trip mode” until necessary. Living in the country, our children are accustomed to driving for about an hour to get somewhere fun. They have a stock of books that sit in a box between them and they happily read, sing, and look out the window for about 50 minutes before they start to get antsy. This is the point in the road trip when we pull out something new and fun.
New Fun Things. Having new toys, books, etc to pull out during the road trip to occupy your child are essential. Pace them out throughout the road trip and be sure to stash at least half in the trunk for the drive home. This is when you and your child will be the most tired and sick of travel – this is when you MOST need fresh ideas. Some ideas for travel activities for toddlers include; old cellphones, new books or books they have not read in a while, finger puppets, Magnadoodle boards, stickers, I-SPY bottles, and books on CD.
Make up Games. We have passed countless hours during our travels playing silly made up games. On one trip to St Louis my husband and I spent the last thirty minutes of our drive playing the “Bridge Game.” Simply put, we kept an eye out for bridges and when one was approaching we counted down “3, 2, 1” and then “WEEEEEEE” with our arms up like we were on a roller coaster as we passed under the bridge. To our 18-month-olds, this was hysterical fun. Some other ideas: search for a color of car, count construction cones or barns, be the first to make an animal noise, or make a song up about where you are going.
There are moments on every trip, as I enthusiastically yell “WHEEEEE” while passing under the 20th bridge, that I wonder why we travel with our children. However, then I watch them stare up at the St Louis Arch as it towers over their heads, run excitedly from animal to animal at a zoo, or pull my hand into a lake that I smile and remind myself — this is why. The world is a huge wonderful place and I want to share my adventures with these two little people.
Erin Buhr lives with her husband and two year old twins in Wisconsin. She enjoys traveling, trying new things, taking photos, and being outside in the sun. She has a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education and is the co-founder of Bambini Travel, which hopes to inspire exploration and travel with young children.