Traveling with kids
doesn't have to be a nightmare

Traveling with kids, even if you're just going out to the store, has some parenting challenges, doesn't it? At home, my kids can have decent behavior, but in the car or plane, it all goes out the window. What's up with that?

I think this is true for three reasons:

First, most kids are creatures of habit, and they like their routines . If you leave the comfort of your own home, it's a new situation that can invite some chaos. Have you noticed that some parents are reluctant to correct a child's behavior in public? Don't be one of those Like sharks smell blood, kids sense your lack of control and will attack. .

What you can do:
Tell you children what the plan is. This also helps with clean up time and getting out the door without a lot of stress on either side. Be flexible and bail if you need to.

Second, the close proximity of the back seat, even if it's just for ten minutes, can create opportunity for sibling strife.

“Don't make me pull over!” Even I have said that on a bad day. In truth, if you have said that, you probably should have pulled over ten minutes ago. Make an “enforceable statement” and stick to it, like “we will drive again when I don't have to worry about noise in the back seat...” Yes, you are inconvenienced also when you just want to be done, but believe me, the remainder of the ride will be improved.

What you can do:
Don't cram too much into one outing. Remember to be flexible and just go back home if your kids are hitting the wall. Also be sure to recognize good behavior when it's happening. A well placed “Honey, I really appreciate your cooperation—it makes it so much easier.” Occasionally you might even give an unexpected treat by saying “we finished early because I didn't have to waste time handling problems with you guys—let's stop for ice cream!”

You could consider bribery (although this works less effectively than the occasional and unexpected reward). If you can stick to the arrangement, though, and allow your child to actually fail if they blow it, they'll know you're serious and it might work. This could be effective if you privately negotiate with the older sibling, who may have a higher degree of control over his or her actions. If your kids misbehave often on car trips, you could put an item on their reward chart .Lastly, can you believe how much stuff kids require?

Babies need diapers, extra clothes, toys and more. Kids need entertainment and tools to look presentable. It's a challenge to remember it all, let alone actually have it in the backseat when you're traveling with kids.

What you can do:
Be prepared! Here's my checklist for car necessities:

  • hair brush
  • hand mirror
  • hand sanitizer
  • baby wipes
  • minty gum or even toothbrush/toothpaste
  • hair accessories
  • first aid kit
  • change of clothes
  • water bottle
  • books
  • activity books
  • emergency snacks

That's usually good enough for around the town errands trips. There are additional items on our car trip checklist or our airplane checklist, but wherever you go, it's important to be prepared and avoid stress while traveling with kids.

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