Any fun trips planned with the kids this summer? Trips, yes. But whether or not they'll be fun has yet to be seen....
The success of any travel venture with small children depends on preparation and planning. Long periods of immobilization in the back seat of a car or on a crowded airplane are extremely taxing to young kids. The simple fact of not being able to move for several hours at a time is challenging for them. Throw in unfamiliar environments, breaks in routine and sleep loss, and you have a recipe for potential disaster.
On the other hand, children do adore the novelty of travel, as well as the sense of family togetherness that it can bring. The trick really is to make the journey from A to B bearable for them -- fun, even! -- so that they can then enjoy the good stuff: the new places and adventures ahead.
A few new toys, activities and rad pieces of equipment can go a long way toward conquering kid travel doldrums. Below you'll find a list of our tried-and-true Savvy travel favorites. These items have saved our kids' tempers and our own sanity time and time again.
Given how much we dislike chasing tiny pieces of train tracks and teensy little doll shoes down the space between airplane seats, it comes as no surprise that we are big fans of these self-contained, double sets of cards. But it's not just that we are crazy about the way that they pack 300 fully-illustrated questions and answers into two decks of impossible-to-pry-apart card (although we are), we really love the content too. There are fun I-Spy games; there are three scenes that your little one must place in sequence; there are shapes to identify, things to count, body parts to name. Classic preschool real-world themes are the focus: getting dressed, colors, shapes, counting, naming, etc. And the two decks make it immune to sibling squabbling. Well, almost....
Innovative, funky and fabulous design meets children's travel gear... and makes everyone happy! Who would not smile to see their kid rolling around the airport on his very own ride-on suitcase? Does traveling get any more fun? And this, friends, is what we call an awesome travel gadget: the booster seat that doubles as a backpack, aka the "BoostApak." (James Bond, step aside.) The company also makes a cute and comfy neck pillow for nodding heads.
What is possibly the worst thing about traveling with kids? The neck- and back-aches parents get from lugging around all of their young progeny's stuff. Eliminate that problem in a flash with a well-made rolling suitcase that is just the right size for kids to lug around themselves. Let your junior traveler choose her suitcase's color and personalize with embroidery of her name and a favorite image. You'll suddenly have a kid who can't wait for the next trip to show off her travel style.
There is one thing that all parents we know pray for when traveling with young kids: that they will sleep. There's no better feeling on a trip than watching your child slide into slumber and knowing that you've gotten a reprieve from the constant flow of demands for snacks, drink, and entertainment. The quiet is beautiful - now we've just got to keep them asleep! Here is where the Lug Travel Blanket you've stowed in your back seat in its cozy zip-up pillow case will come in handy. Place the pillow under a drooping head or tuck the blanket around a sleeping form - and pray that the sleep is long and deep.
The kid wants to draw, and he wants to draw now! Who are you to stand between your little artist and his next airplane masterpiece? Rather than searching through your handbag for the bits of crayon buried beneath other rubble, pull out this neat mini-art set from Chasing Fireflies. With crayons, colored pencils and pastels all sized for small hands, your little one's creative brainstorm can find expression no matter where on the journey you are.
There's nothing like a good game to make travel time pass quickly... at least for the children. Bring along this excellent new travel version of an old favorite, and rediscover the fun of hangman with your kids. Those just learning to read and spell have a ball thinking up tricky words, and smaller tykes who know their alphabet enjoy nothing more than shouting out random letters with great gusto. It's up to you, dear parent in the front seat of the car, to figure out the word before you get hanged! (And how we love the clever design of flipping pieces that won't get lost!)
Kids are like everyone else: they want to know where they're going. Help them figure it out, and buy yourself lots of quiet time in the car by giving them their very own kids' road atlas. Maps, travel games and state puzzles and facts keep the kids interested and occupied, all while sneaking in a bit of geography. Now the only question is, do you need one for each child in the back seat? We think you do.
Parents say it over and over again: packing is the hardest part of traveling with kids. Packing! Do your best, we say, but try to not to stress about it too much. Yes, we try to stay organized and put each child's stuff where each child can find it. We try to have change of clothes, sunscreen, snacks, favorite toys and all the rest in carefully placed in logical compartments of various pieces of luggage, but... when it comes down to crunch time, what you really need is a good tote bag. A solid, roomy tote, preferably pretty and cheerful like this Scout from Bungalow, into which you can dump all of the odds and ends that don't have anywhere else to go. Thank goodness for tote bags - we would not survive summer without them.
Too tired from travel planning to put together travel activities and amusements for the kids? Give yourself a break and let the clever folks at TravelKiddy help. Their travel kits for kids have plenty of crafts and toys to keep the little ones amused, as well as bandages and hand wipes - all in a compact, attractive bag. You'll henceforth be known as the most organized parent ever!
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