Kids and holiday travel equal recipe for creative diversion

No matter how many threats of “Santa won’t visit if you’re not good,” it’s really hard to keep little ones from getting antsy during time spent in planes, trains, and automobiles (or waiting for them) during the holidays.

In “Eileeen’s Blog,” Eileen Ogintz, creator of the travel site TakingTheKids.com, publishes many tips and tools for traveling with kids of every age, such as an “annual guide to surviving visits to relatives over the holidays.” This is a peak travel time, and she notes that “The American Automobile Association (AAA) is projecting more than 94.5 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the holiday season, up 6 percent from last year.”

In the spirit of the season, Mary Mohler, put together “No-Stress Holiday Travel with Kids,” for Parents magazine, to help keep the season ”safe, sound, and sane.” She observes, “Traveling during the holiday season is never easy: Think traffic jams, winter weather, delayed flights, and crowded airports.” She also quotes Ogintz, who says, "…whenever you're on the road with children, it's important to stay flexible and calm."

One of Mohler’s tips for holiday travel is the basic-yet-sometimes-forgotten “bring snacks.” She suggests, “Have a supply of good travel foods (Cheerios, string cheese, bananas) with you at all times.” When driving she reminds Mom and Dad of the importance of packing emergency provisions in case of mechanical breakdown or weather diversion and also suggests trying to beat rush-hour traffic, considering leaving at night to encourage kids sleeping, taking regular breaks, and keeping kids entertained.

Here are 5 ideas for in-car activities to help parents stay “flexible and calm” and kids, entertained:

1) Mom and Dad can share the stories of their best and worst Christmas present ever—and why—or their best/worst holiday experience.
2) Bring a couple CDs of kids’ favorite carols and other music.
3) Pack a plastic bin with story books, coloring books, and other low-tech activities. The lid can be used for a tabletop-like flat surface.
4) Try and get everyone in the car focused on being the first to find “this and that,” including (somewhat) seasonal things such as: snowplow, Santa Claus, Christmas tree, blue twinkle lights, a red car, etc.
5) Keep a running list for each person, as he or she spies an object that starts with each letter in C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S. Offer prizes and/or rewards.

Other ideas for filling travel time with fun and learning vs. pouts and frowns, include apps. School Zone’s newly debuted Little Scholar® learning tablet focuses on apps that build foundational skills for preschoolers, kindergartners, and first graders. However, the entire family can enjoy apps on such as State of Confusion. Guess and learn key facts about the 50 states, including state capitals, state abbreviations, state flowers, state birds, state flags, and state nicknames. Older kids—and even mom and dad, as they take turns driving—will also enjoy giving memory, observation, and vocabulary a good workout with apps such as Memory Match, Tile Trouble, and Word Search Or help sharpen preschoolers’ or kindergartners’ problem-solving skills with the slim, creative take-anywhere workbooks Little Thinkers (Preschool) and Little Thinkers (Kindergarten).

Comment on what's worked for you and your little ones while on the road.

And to all, a good night!