Parents, you’ve heard the advice: When taking a long flight or road trip with little kids, make sure to bring activities. And so you do. As soon as the young travelers buckle their seat belts, you hand over a backpack or box full of fun stuff to keep them entertained for the duration of the ride, and then recline your seat in bliss. Your job, you believe, is complete. Vacation, here we come!
This is a mistake. Your kids will plow through whatever special toys and activities you’ve packed, and before you can start the podcast you’ve been waiting to dive into, will launch into the dreaded question of “How much longer? … How about now? … How about now? … How about now?” And you still have seven more hours to go before your next stop.
You must pace yourself.
While on the journey, you should be the keeper of the bag of goodies, and surprise your kids with a different toy or activity every hour, or whenever they’re done with the one they’re playing with. These items don’t need to be fancy—I’m thinking things like a comic book, a small puzzle, a memory card game, a mini Mr. Potato Head, a bag of Cheerios and some string for necklace-making, or five crayons and a notepad. The surprises also don’t need to be physical objects—on road trips, you can play a game (“I Spy” is always a hit in our car) or turn on a kids’ audio quiz show (Pinna’s ExtraBLURT is great) or announce that it’s “quiet time.” If you’re bringing an iPad, save it for the final stretch of the trip—that’s when you’ll need it most.
It’s all about timing. Don’t burn out too quickly.