“Are we there yet?” It’s the bane of any parent’s life. That dreaded question brings so much stress and strain, but of course, it’s not the kid’s fault – it’s innocently asked out of boredom. However, they don’t have to be, and that question doesn’t even have to be asked in the first place.
The trick for any parent is to ensure long trips are organised and planned. Whether you’re going away on holiday, seeing far away friends and relatives, or taking a weekend break, make sure the children you’re travelling with have enough to keep them occupied or entertained. Here’s Budget Insurance’s top ten ideas.
The best place to start is with classic travel games. The majority of well-known board games will have a travel version. From Snakes and Ladders to Connect Four, there are thousands of scaled-down versions, perfect for those long distances. Some other classic games include Scrabble, Ludo, Cludo, Guess Who and Backgammon. Figure out what board games or children’s games your kids love, and get them a travel version.
Okay, it’s 2016, not 1980. Your kids may prefer a digital screen. If that’s the case, there are so many options for parents. Handheld games consoles are a good place to start. A simple search online and you’ll find hundreds of options.
Of course, we now live in an age of smartphones and tablets. Admittedly not every parent can afford the latest and most expensive devices, but if you don’t mind your kids playing with yours, then there are plenty of Apps to keep them entertained.
Music and Audiobooks
Whether it’s on the main car stereo or on their personal devices, allowing your children to listen to their favourite songs or story books is a great way for them to zone out and forget about the travelling. This can be used as a reward for good behaviour, or if they’ve won a group game, for example.
Sticking on music without anything else for them to do can backfire if they get bored easily, so make sure you mix up what they’re listening to, or the types of activities they’re engaged in.
Don’t just stop when necessary. Whilst adults can operate like this, children become fidgety and unhappy if they haven’t had their boredom broken by a pit stop.
If you’re driving long distance you should be stopping every two to three hours regardless – just to stay fresh and stretch your legs. In addition to this, stop whenever the kids see something they like. Take lunch in an open space and make use of the surroundings. Let them burn off some energy by running around or playing games, sports and activities too.
Puzzles and books are a great way to pass time. Whether it’s a crossword, word search, number puzzles, or spot-the-difference, pack plenty of puzzles, books, and colouring-in books. This will allow the kids to unleash their logical and creative sides.
Whilst board games and technology are fun for one or two, not everyone travelling in the car can get involved. Group games such as I Spy are proven to keep kids and adults alike entertained.
Other group activities include the name game, the animal game, 21 questions, word association – and if you’re not shy, singing along with your kids to their favourite tunes always goes down well.
Create a Holiday Scrapbook
Keeping a scrapbook of your holiday, or even your road trip can be fun, creative and rewarding. Give your kids responsibility to look after a part of the scrapbook e.g. taking photos, collecting memorabilia or making a note of everything that’s happened. Or you could even allocate one day to each child. Either way, this will get them thinking about things to include and ways to decorate the pages. Make sure you pack a scrapbook, pens, markers, glue sticks and sticky tape – oh and a camera too for those all-important snaps.
Do your children have a favourite toy? Of course nowadays it may be technology. If that’s the case, bring it along. Alternatively it may be a favourite doll, soft toy, car, train, or animal. If kids have something they spend a lot of time with, they’ll want it with them for the duration of the trip.
Reward Good Behaviour
Just chucking toys, technology, games and all sorts into a car and letting your kids battle it out is a recipe for disaster. Structure this by rewarding good behaviour. This isn’t to say that your entire trip must be planned with activities and an itinerary. However, if you allow treats or perks, because your children have finished a chapter of a book, won whilst playing a travel game or generally because they haven’t moaned or stropped, then it’s time to play their favourite song, audiobook, or allow them to play on their favourite App. Rewarding them like this will mean better behaviour for longer during the trip – so don’t use all of your ideas at once.
As mentioned above, there’s nothing worse than uptight parents on a strict schedule to get somewhere by a certain time. Of course if you’ve planned to be somewhere to meet relatives, friends, or to check into a hotel by a certain time, then it’s a good idea to allow more time than usual to reach your destination without tearing each other’s hair out.
This also means regular stops as mentioned above, but if time allows also having a bit of spontaneous fun. Pack a football, Frisbee or cricket set. If your kids spot something they want to see, like a play area or park, take the time to see it. The same goes for mum and dad – if you see a shop or famous landmark or attraction, make sure you take it in - it’ll make the trip far more fun and entertaining.