I don’t think that I ever really thought much about long trips before we had our first child. “B.C.”, (Before Children) Kim and I would just throw a small duffel bag in the back of the car, jump in and go. We wouldn’t stop except when we needed to gas up the car. The “end” justified any of the “means” that we had to endure to make it through a long-distance trip as fast as possible.
All of that changed when LK was born. I will never forget our first trip home to Tennessee with a baby. We had to stop ever two hours, spend 30-45 minutes trying to get her to drink her bottle, and what should have been a seven hour trip took nearly fourteen hours. Needless to say, we didn’t travel much over the next couple of years.
Now that we have three children, all under the age of six, we have developed some practices that help us when we have to make that long drive home to see family.
Let me share them with you in the hopes that they will be a blessing if you have to make a long-distance drive during this holiday season.
Ten Tips For Traveling With Children
1. Plan Ahead. Search the Internet to find activities, events or interests that your children would enjoy. Let them decide which ones they would like to see or do during the trip.
2. Pray First. At the beginning of each day of travel, take time to pray together as a family. Ask Jesus to keep you safe and help you to have fun together.
3. Pack Smart. Make sure to pack items that will expend energy after a long day of travel. (Balls, Frisbees, jump-ropes, bicycles, etc.) Also, don’t forget games or items that might come in handy in the event of a rainy day once you reach your destination.
4. Point Out. Let them trace your route on a map. Show them where the trip will begin, and where it will end. Explain some of the interesting places they will pass during the trip. If the trip covers several states, share some interesting bits of information about each state. Review them with your children during the course of the trip.
5. Prepare Before. Explain any rules or expectations that they will need to know and observe during the trip. For example, if you’re going to a campground, share the rules that they will be expected to obey once you arrive and set up camp. If you’ll be staying at a hotel or resort, make sure that they understand any noise or safety requirements.
6. Participate With. Don’t just watch your children. Get involved. Sing along with them in the car. Play games with them. Pass the ball around at the rest stop. Ride around the campground together. You’ll be making memories that they will never forget.
7. Put On. Make sure to put an identification card on a chain or ribbon around your child’s neck. This card should include the make of your car and license plate number, as well as the name of a family member or trusted friend with contact information who is not on this trip for them to contact in case of an emergency.
8. Potty Often. Stop every couple of hours for a potty break, or just to stretch your legs. This isn’t just good for the little ones, but for the driver as well. This will help you arrive at your destination without being totally exhausted and unable to enjoy yourself.
9. Picture It. Make sure to take lots of pictures. These will become some of your most precious and prized possessions as your children grow older. They will also help to relive and remember your trip as the years pass.
10. Pray Last. Once you arrive at your destination, take a moment to thank Jesus for allowing you to travel safely, and for time spent together as a family.
I hope that these simple suggestions help you and your family as you travel during this holiday season. Remember, the trip is often as important as the destination. Enjoy your time together as much as possible. As many of my mentors have shared with me, and I have found their counsel to be true, these days will pass, and your children will grow up way too fast. Enjoy every minute together!