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Traveling with children can be fun

By Staff
Michelle Blaylock, Mom's Corner
The Blaylock family had a very busy Memorial Day weekend. We cleaned up the front flower garden, put in our electric dog fence -again, and painted, among other things. Now I feel like I need a vacation. Unfortunately, more often than not, I come home from the vacation needing a vacation from the vacation!
When we first thought of having a family, I had visions of quiet evenings playing games and reading books. I also imagined fun family vacations nourishing my kids minds with living history, science and thought provoking conversations. I saw us in our car or van happily singing songs, playing word games, and other car games. Now how I got these fantasies I have no idea, but for the most part that's what they were-fantasies.
We took our first trip when our oldest was four-weeks old. It was a little three-hour trip to Grammies. Well, I discovered real quick some children don't like to travel. She screamed for about two hours of the three- hour trip. I had never felt so helpless, nothing I did seemed to console her. My vision of arriving at Grammies with a happy cooing little baby went to the way of the wild goose.
I wasn't terribly discouraged, I assumed as she got older things would get better. They did. Well, sort of. By the time she was three, she did travel better. Unfortunately, she slept most of the way. So when we got wherever we were going she'd be wide awake and ready to rip and run. For example, if we went to visit my in-laws who lived an hour away, we had to make sure we left their house fairly early in the afternoon. If we left at six or seven o'clock, our daughter would sleep all the way home and then be up until midnight or later! Of course, the next morning she would still wake at her usual time and be crabby all day.
It wasn't supposed to be this hard to travel with my little ones. This wasn't what I had envisioned at all. However, by the time my third one came along I had developed some strategies. Here are a few things that work for us: 1) Try to stick to your home schedule as much as possible when traveling. For example, get in bed about the normal time, get up about the same time, eat at usual times, etc. Children need consistency. They feel safer and more relaxed when they can predict what's happening next. It also helps when you get back home, because you won't be fighting to return to the home schedule.
2) As you travel, plan frequent breaks. We usually take along a ball to play with at rest stops. The car seats that keep our little ones safe are also very confining. Our kids are used to being active and need to use those muscles and burn off their energy. Other things we have begun to carry are bubbles, various balls and mitts, and jump ropes. Basically, I let the kids take what they want as long as we have the room and it doesn't pose a danger to others when we're at a rest stop (absolutely no paintball). Also, we do try to stick to rest stops because it tends to be less expensive. There usually isn't much to buy there-thank goodness. Of course, if the weather isn't cooperating then we have to use places that have an indoor play place. However, before we go in we tell the kids how much they can spend or they are allowed to spend their saved money within reason.
3) Once you've reached your destination, don't try to cram every thing in. Believe it or not if you really enjoy the area and didn't get to see everything you wanted to it's OK. More likely than not the area and the attractions will probably still be there next year if want to come back! Do what you can in a relaxed way. If you're running from one thing to the next, the kids won't get as much out of it and you won't have time to enjoy it either. Sometimes it's real tempting to let your kids explore on their own within your eyesight, of course. Allowing this is good to a point, but be careful not to miss those wonderful teachable moments. Sometimes things just strike kids as very interesting. I try to take those times to discuss the interest and expand it as well. Let me give you an example, when we were visiting Dauphin Island about three years ago, one of the kids became very interested in the Battleship Alabama. Over all, most of us thought the battleship was kind of neat, but one child was fascinated in it.
He and his dad went through every accessible crevice on that ship. John took his time explaining the different aspects of the ship, but only as long as the child was showing interest. If the child became bored, John moved on.
However, the interest the child showed has continued and expanded over the last three years. When we returned home he began looking for information regarding battleships, weapons and battles.
I have a few other tricks up my sleeve for traveling with kids that I'll share with you next week.
I hope you had a great Memorial Day weekend!
If you have a question, comment, or suggestion, please send it to me at: Mom's Corner; PO Box 1496; Hartselle, AL 35640 or e-mail: