Holiday travel with kids: 7 tips for staying sane

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Holiday TravelIt takes about 12 minutes of travel time before the license plate game is just too much to bear. I Spy is great, but there’s one red duffel bag in your stuffed minivan and it’s already been the chosen object nine times.

“I spy with my little eye something RED!”

“We know, we know, the red bag.”

So they move on to this notorious question: “Are we there yet?”

No matter how many times, or how often, or how enthusiastically the kids ask, the answer is still the same. No, no we are not there yet.

If you want to enjoy your holiday travel and keep your sanity intact, use these tips as your guide to a Holly Jolly Christmas.

Snacks:

You already know how often your kids ask for snacks in the safety of your own home. Now picture them strapped into car seats for hours and that number multiplies exponentially. They need snacks, and they need them five minutes ago. They need them right now. Snacks during travel should have minimal mess factor. Raisins (or other dried fruit for those picky eaters) come in tiny boxes that leave chunky hands able to only pull out a few at a time. The more time it takes them to consume, the more moments you have before that next starving child demands a snack. Also consider packing a cooler for everyone’s favorite mess-free yogurt, Go-Gurt, or string cheese and pepperoni slices.

Crafts:

The best part about cold weather travel is that the crayons lost in between the seat won’t melt and stick like cooled lava pools into your upholstery. Give the kids a few lapboards, crayons and paper, and let their imagination do the rest. Ask them to draw their favorite landmark, the Christmas present they want the most, or a portrait of mom and dad.

Movies:

Consider the unthinkable, don’t limit screen time until after you’ve arrived at your destination. Just don’t mention those few hours of consecutive Disney movies you subjected your kids to on future Harvard applications, and chances are you’ll be fine. Also, peace and quiet … until the kids start disagreeing about which movie to watch.

New Toys:

It’s all about the Dollar Store. Fill a basket with a few small toys and pull them out one at time for a surprise every couple of hours. Nothing can quite entertain a child like a toy they’ve never seen before. Look in the backseat with pride as they trade their new treasures, and even play with each other. No bickering required.

The Semi Game:

Who can forget the thrill of driving past semis and using that universal symbol for “blow your horn.” Pass down the tradition and watch your kids giggle as they get a smile and honk form those truck drivers. (You can partake too; we know you want to.)

Lunch:

Ok, so the snacks will run out eventually, but remember to stop for lunch before the kids are starving. Fast food is simple and satisfying, but you can also pack some PB&J, reward the good behavior with a bag of favorite chips, and find a truck stop with an indoor (read: warm) seating area and have fun with an impromptu picnic. If you’re driving through a warm climate, take every advantage of it with a rare winter outdoor picnic.

Maps:

Lastly, keep your eye on the prize. Instead of answering “are we there yet” at every unreasonable interval, set a timer, let the kids follow along on a GPS or map (Don’t let map reading become a lost art!) and you can sanely countdown to grandma’s house.

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