Bayou Kids | Tips For Traveling
article by Cindy G. Foust
Ideas for Entertaining Young Travelers
Travel, travel, travel…is there anything more fun and exciting than loading your “crew” up in the “family truckster” (I have a feeling I will be referencing Clark Griswold a lot in this month’s column) and heading out for a 22-hour cross country trip to Wally World? I think most parents would agree that they would rather have their head shaved than embark on such as journey. Yes, hopping on a plane to Las Vegas with your best friends for four or five days of rest and relaxation simply doesn’t have anything in common with a road trip with your young family (even if it’s just to Poverty Point). I’ve mentioned before that when I was a child, my father worked overseas, so when he came home to the States, he wanted to do just that…stay home. So it will suffice to say my family didn’t travel much, except for the annual summer vacation. But to be perfectly honest, I don’t know how my parents even stood those summer trips. Last month, when I wrote about staycations and all the fun things you can do with your family by staying “at home,” I mentioned the ole Chevy Citation. Well, just imagine that trailblazer with three little girls and one male toddler all crammed into the back of what would come to be known as the “Cindy-Citation” and heading out to our favorite camping destination at Lake Ouachita or Six Flags. For one, the only electronic device available in our version of the “family truckster” was an 8-track tape deck that would be blaring Alabama, Ronnie Milsaps or Willie Nelson (think Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain at the top of our lungs). I mean, who today can travel without DVD’s, I-Pad’s, Leapster’s and cell phones? Second, there was barely a back seat, much less a third seat, which translates to no room for the “invisible line” that you drew and forbid your siblings to cross. For crying out loud, we didn’t even have enough elbow room for a coloring book and crayons…think sardines in the back of the Chevy! But the good news for parents today is that it’s not 1982, the Chevy Citation has phased out and many families do have the comfort of SUV’s or larger family-sized cars. More importantly, parents today also have the benefit of some very useful electronic tools to help prevent boredom meltdowns, which prevents family squabbles, which could lead, in the most extreme cases, to divorce. Yes, technology on family vacations has probably saved many marriages.
But even modern technology, at its finest, can’t pacify those youngsters for the entire 7 or 8 hours it takes to get to Destin (and heaven forbid to Disney World).
That’s why, when my friends at BayouLife suggested that this month’s magazine would actually focus on traveling, I started researching some “boredom busters” for those young travelers that I think might give some inexpensive and easy alternatives to eight straight hours of Sponge Bob Square Pants or Strawberry Shortcake Has a Birthday Party. I do have friends who load their children in the car at like three a.m. and hope they sleep most of the way. But for those of you, like me, that doesn’t know there’s a world in the middle of the night, a little trip preparedness might make for a more enjoyable car ride (not sure that’s entirely possible in the same sentence…enjoyable…car ride) and I’m willing to give it a shot.
In my research (you know, like I’m getting ready to cure Covid), I found plenty of ideas for pacifying the kids; there is truly a plethora of material out there. But who wants to do their own research when the Bayou KidZ writer can make it so easy for you? So for Vacation 2023, we are coming for you with the following divorce prevention travel kits and ideas for our young travelers:
• Find an unused backpack or small bag for each traveler, and allow your child to have some input on what items they would like to put in the bag;
• Visit a dollar discount store and pick a few surprise items; individually wrap each one in newspaper or cheap wrapping paper. Give each surprise every 30 minutes to keep the suspense going and something new in their lap;
• Buy some Colorforms, just one set (or that might be further grounds for divorce when Dad has to clean them off), but this will be fun and entertaining for your children to use the Colorforms to act out scenes on the windows;
• I found a small dry erase board with washable pens that is lap-sized, and my children have always spent a lot of time doodling and erasing, doodling and erasing, so yours might, too;
• Attach chalkboard paper to an old baking tray for a portable, magnetic play station;
• If your children are a little older, laminate a road map of your trip and let them mark off the cities you drive through;
• Pipe cleaners: I wish I had invented them and then I could be sitting on an island drinking out of a coconut, but since I didn’t, pack a Ziplock bag of them in different colors and watch the art your kids will create;
• I love the idea of putting a Post-It sticky pad in their bags, so they can draw pictures or write notes and then stick them on the windows;
• You can find those little baskets at the dollar store that have compartments, so make the kids their own travel basket. It’s a great way to organize their coloring books, crayons and markers as well as their Sippy cups, water bottles and snacks;
• Snacks and gum are pretty much essential when traveling with young children, so be creative in how you store them. I’ve used brown lunch bags with grapes and Goldfish in each one, stapled it shut, and played a guessing game for what was in the bag. Of course, juice boxes with straws prevent spills and accidents, so try to pack a small ice chest to keep drinks and even fruit cool.
In the end, a road trip doesn’t have to be the end of your family life as you know it. No one wants to arrive at their destination and have everyone crabby and irritated at each other. So if your husband has to take your vehicle to the car wash as soon as you get to Gulf Shores to clean out all the paper, and peel the Colorforms and sticky notes off the windows, it’s certainly better than the drama that these simple boredom busters can help prevent. I will say that I am not in agreement with the travel tip of giving your child a roll of scotch tape, because you don’t want to pull up beside a Child Protective Services agent at the red light, and have your child’s mouth taped shut…probably not a good way to start your vacation either. Just as well, take a little time to get organized, visit your local dollar store for some real treats, and get your kids excited, rather than dreading, the road trip. Because unless you are visiting the world’s largest ball of yarn, the memories you will make on your vacation will be worth the travel and trouble it was to get there.
Cindy G. Foust is a wife, mom, author and blogger. You can find her blog at the alphabetmom.com for weekly columns about home life, parenting, small business stories and insight with a smidgen of literacy. Give her a like or follow on Facebook and Instagram.