Traveling with Kids, Making Memories on the Way

7 years ago
Lawrence Jones, 4, plays cards with his mother Susan Hourihan and brother Harvey as they wait for their flight to London, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport outside Kuala Lumpur April 21, 2010. The family, who lives in London, were on transit from Sydney and have been stranded in the Malaysia's capital since Saturday. Europe's skies were opened for business on Wednesday, but with so many planes having been grounded by the pall of volcanic ash spreading from Iceland it could take days, or weeks, to clear the backlog. REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad (MALAYSIA - Tags: DISASTER TRAVEL TRANSPORT ENVIRONMENT)

My family went to Florida once a year to see the grandparents when I was a kid. My husband's family spent the summers camping. They drove; we flew. The thing we have in common is that we each have a batch of stories about how each of our families traveled for those yearly sojourns.

His tales involve diecast miniature cars in the dirt; the time it rained for so many days in a row that his mother kicked him and his little brother out of their camper to go play in the downpour, because she couldn't take their cabin fever for one minute longer; and an old station wagon without air conditioning, where he and his siblings used to melt crayons along the edge of the "way back" for entertainment on the road.

My recollection of the yearly flight extravaganza is a lot simpler: Candy. I remember candy. We didn't have candy much as kids, and what we did have was stringently meted out at appropriate times. But before each trip my mother always took us to the store and let us each pick out two packages of candy apiece to bring on the plane. Then, we were allowed to each as much of it as we wanted, whenever we wanted, during the trip. It didn't matter if we took off at 6:30 in the morning; we were flying the candy-friendly skies. As my mother no doubt hoped, it made the journey much more pleasant, because it was such a treat for us. I also remember that we used to get Tomy Pocket Games and sometimes books of dot-to-dots or word searches to keep us busy.

One year, we decided to drive to Florida instead of flying. I can't remember why my parents made that decision, if I ever knew. But we packed up, hopped in the car, and ended up driving straight through (with my parents alternating at the wheel), which took about 25 hours. What I remember about that trip was that my mother had a brown paper grocery bag up in the passenger seat that was positively crammed with packages of cookies. Whenever anyone started to get a little fussy, they got a cookie. I'm guessing the reason we didn't stop for the night was because we were all too high on sugar to even think about sleeping.

(And before anyone asks: No, none of us ended up morbidly obese. Miraculously.)

Nowadays, I'm making new traditions with my own kids on the road, and while the sugar coma route worked well when I was little, I can't quite see doing the same with my children. I do pack a variety of snacks (many of them healthy, though) for either car or plane travel, because nothing's worse than being closed in a small space with hungry kid. I have both kids pack up books and other portable amusements, and trips are the one time I allow them to use their Nintendo DSes and a portable DVD player. (I know technology is ruining us all, but for very long trips, I have to admit my hat is off to the fine folks who've made these portable, time-killing electronics.)

Long trips in the car sometimes involve the standard array of car games (I Spy, the license plate game, and of course, Punch Buggy), and yes, sometimes I call out in desperation, "Who wants to play the quiet game? I DO! Okay!" But for the most part, we get where we're going, and everyone is (relatively) happy when we get there. I wonder if the kids will someday tell their kids about what it was like to take a trip with us, and what will be different by then. Will they tell them about rainy camping days when we sat around playing cards? Will they talk about the time we drove north for Christmas, and I squeezed between them in the backseat to watch a movie, which my son then insisted on setting to French subtitles? I hope so.

Other Bloggers Hitting the Road with Kids

  • Role Mommy shares her top five ways to keep kids occupied on the road.
  • Laurel Smith shares car game ideas on A Thrifty Mom, including letting the kids sculpt with aluminum foil (what a great, cheap idea).
  • At Simple Kids, Emily has the scoop on stress-free flying with infants and toddlers.
  • Gabriela Rives shares at My Tot Travels about her thoughts on traveling with her son.
  • Canadian Living has Claire Newell's suggestions for traveling with kids without going crazy.
  • Not only are the tips at Classy Chaos for traveling with kids good ones, there's a wealth of additional information in the comments.
  • If you have a sensory-sensitive kid, don't miss this Kids Enabled post about traveling with them; great tips!

BlogHer Contributing Editor Mir wants to know if we're there yet. (How about now? Now??) She blogs near-daily about issues parental and otherwise at Woulda Coulda Shoulda, and posts all day long about the joys of mindful retail therapy at Want Not.

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