‘Tis the season: distracting kids from “Are we there yet?” syndrome

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it 100 times—a small, sad voice from the backseat plaintively asking, “Are we there yet? How much farther? How much longer? How many more minutes?” Thanksgiving signals the start of the holiday travel season, and whether going by plane, train, or automobile, here is a cornucopia of tips and product ideas for making it more doable for your youngest travelers.

According to a press release, “AAA Travel projects 46.3 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Thanksgiving weekend, the highest volume for the holiday since 2007 and a 4.2 percent increase over 2013. Almost 90 percent of travelers (41.3 million) will celebrate the holiday with a road trip and likely will enjoy the lowest Thanksgiving gas prices in five years.”

Though car travel is hands-down the most common way to get there, Airlines for America (A4A), an industry trade organization, has projected that “24.6 million passengers will travel globally on U.S. airlines during [by their definition] the 12-day Thanksgiving travel period.” Crowds, weather, delayed flights, and time zone changes are travel challenges for adults, let alone kids. In 2012 Condé Nast Traveler published “How to Navigate Airports with Kids: Holiday Travel Tips,” which includes some great suggestions. Maybe the #1 take-away, applicable to far more than air travel but often tough to pull off during the holidays, is: Allow extra time.

Even the littlest learners will find hours of amusement and learn important skills in coloring and sticker books designed especially for toddlers. With activities that are easy for little hands to navigate, charming illustrations that bring smiles, and memorable titles like Vroom, Vroom!. Scritch, Scratch!, and Oink, Oink!, bored will turn into busy.

Another super travel companion is the Little Scholar® learning tablet. Recently nominated for Toy of the Year, in what is known as the “Oscars” of the toy industry—the annual Toy Industry Association (TIA) awards—this mobile device comes preloaded with apps, videos, books, songs, and games, as well as the exclusive, interactive, educational video series Charlie & Company™. Since it requires no Wi-Fi, it will work in a car and even on a plane. Though designed for preschool through first grade, it has activities the whole family can climb aboard.

For example, one of the apps on Little Scholar, which can also be downloaded separately for iOS and Android devices is State of Confusion. Learn key facts about the 50 states, including state capitals, state abbreviations, state flowers, state birds, state flags, and state nicknames. Next, put together a USA puzzle—a perfect game to learn state names, the location of each state, and which states are next to each other. Finally, test learning by selecting Quiz mode.

Put “smart” toys in little hands during holiday travel and make the “Are we there yet?” syndrome fade away fast.