For many of us, the holidays mean travel.  What was once a relaxing car trip, is now a battle to keep confined children happy. It’s important to remain stress-free during your holiday travel.

Here are some tips for traveling over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s house with your toddler or preschooler.

  • If possible, avoid peak traffic times and bad weather.  That’s general road trip advice, but its extra important with kids.  If they sense your frustration or stress, it will escalate the behavior in the back seat.
  • Drive during a time when your child sleeps.
  • Warm the car, then seat your child.  You want them dressed for the temperature of the car because once strapped in, they can’t add or remove layers.
  • Avoid stops.  Not only do they lengthen the trip, but they often wake a sleeping child.  However, know your child.  You might need to stop for a break to prevent further melt down.
  • Have favorite items within reach, such as stuffies, pillows, or blankets.  And, consider buying a grabber to pick them up when they inevitably get dropped just out of your reach.
  • Have a back pack of distractions for each child.
  • Have items you don’t want them to have out of sight.
  • Bring on the snacks!  But, limit drinks for potty age children, and keep a potty in the car so you don’t have to waste time finding a rest stop, or deal with a wet car seat on the road.
  • Accept that you might need to keep the kids engaged directly most of the time.  Be prepared to sing songs, play looking games, or read aloud.

Ideas for that backseat back pack

  • Something new, or that hasn’t been seen in a while.
  • Books with flaps and Look and Find books — lots to look at without an adult needing to read.
  • Something soft to hug.
  • Magnetic drawing toy: The fun of drawing without the mess or need to balance supplies on a hard surface.
  • Headphones and a device that plays MP3’s.
  • Photo album.
  • Toy phone, camera, or steering wheel.  All are small and one piece, but allow some dramatic play.
  • A few animal or people figures.  These are favorites for both my kids.  They talk to them and have them talk to each other.
  • “Lego” style blocks which fit together.  My son will stack several of these over and  over without boredom.
  • Game similar to “Find It.”  A tube or bottle you shake to find items hidden beads or dry rice.

What advice and ideas do you have for traveling safely with children? Let us know if the comments!

(Image courtesy of oddharmonic on Flickr)