By Emma Waight
With summer looming it’s time to think about travel, or more specifically, travelling with kids. If the nightmare of Easter travel chaos is fresh in your mind, you should be looking for ways to ease the drama for the half term and summer holidays.
Travelling with kids can turn what should be a relaxing holiday into a stressful affair. Even relatively short car journeys can test your patience in the (traffic) jam-packed summer season but with a little forward planning and some creative ideas, travel can be made fun for both you and them. And therein lies the key – if you can have fun as a whole family travel never has to be arduous again. If you’re already dreading your next car, plane or train journey, have a think about what you’ll enjoy as well as how to pass the time for them. Happy parents make happy children (and vice-versa of course). Here are 10 ideas to make travelling fun for all.
- Get nostalgic with the I-Spy books, remember those? Popular in the sixties and seventies, they were later bought by Michelin but went out of press soon after the millennium before relaunching again a couple of years ago. ‘I-Spy on a Car Journey’ costs just £2.50 and lends itself to hours of entertainment and friendly competition. Perfect for long and short journeys alike, just remember to keep your eyes on the road ahead too.
- Get lost in an audio book. This is a good option for travelling with slighter older kids as you’re more likely to find something you’ll all enjoy rather than having to brace yourself for a disc full of nursery rhymes. Of course, you could pass them the headphones but it’s nice to follow a story altogether and share in the narrative twists and turns.
- Let them drive. Not literally (unless your kids are of that age, in which case you’ll need a whole other list of entertainment ideas) but indulge them in some role-play. Very young kids might enjoy having their own toy steering wheel to play with, older kids can pretend to be a tour guide. If they feel more in charge of the journey they are likely to be more understanding of traffic jams and road works. Plus it gives you a chance to scream, ‘are we there yet?’
- Make something. You could have a lot of time to spare on a flight so invest it wisely by getting crafty. Why not make friendship bracelets for each other? Beads can run everywhere but go prepared with coloured thread, print out some pattern instructions, then use the back of the chair in front of you to tie the top of the thread to provide tension and you’re all set! Laid-back beach jewellery for all or presents to take home to their friends.
- Plan the itinerary. If your child is afraid of flying, or even if you are, then you want to focus on the destination. Use the flight time to browse the guidebooks, have a proper chat as a family about what everyone wants to do and ask the kids to draw up an itinerary with an illustrated map. The important thing is to stay sane on your flight so you can enjoy the holiday you’ve worked so hard for!
- Co-author a book. Again, you have plenty of time to get involved in a project whilst travelling so why not co-author a book together? Depending on the age of your child you can write down their story as they dictate it to you, or they can write it themselves. Then they can do the illustrations to go with it.
- Play a card game. There’s a card game for everyone and a pack of cards is a great thing to carry on a train journey because you can sit opposite each other and play on the table, plus there’s often little to look at out of the window. Family friendly card games include Snap, Go Fish and Clock Patience, or try a classic game of Uno.
- Do some colouring. Sure, your child is no stranger to a colouring book but what about you? Colouring isn’t just for kids, it can be addictively therapeutic for all ages. You can even get adult’s colouring books packed full of detailed images to bring to life. Just be prepared to share.
- Download an app. Kids are tuned into technology and whilst the natural reaction of parents might be to wean them off your tablet whilst on holiday, the use of such devices has been found to improve children’s technical, cognitive and social skills. Get in their good books by allowing them to play games in transit if they put them away once you reach your destination. You’ll find loads of reviews online for educational and creative gaming apps.
The final word
- Don’t forget the basics. Whether you’re a kid or an adult, everyone gets cranky when they’re tired and hungry. Involve kids in the travel preparations by asking them to help make sandwiches and snacks, this already sets them up to realise a long journey is ahead. Allow them to pack a bag with their favourite toys and books so that they are responsible for their own belongings.
Emma Waight is a travel writer as well as retail researcher and PhD concerned with the consumption habits of parents buying goods for their children. She is known in the blogosphere for her work on family travel www.holidayhypermarket.co.uk