Preparing kids for travel

It's all very well planning the family holiday to make the most of Christmas, but once you've made the bookings it is a good idea to do some extra work on preparing the kids for travel. Time spent working out how to keep them busy, and stop them fighting with each other, can make that first day of the holidays so much more enjoyable for everyone.

It would be nice to think that children travel as well as we do, but in most cases they turn out to have an extremely low tolerance to the efforts you have made to get them to their holiday destination. Here are some tips for ensuring that your Christmas holidays get off to a good start:

  • It might be a nice idea to “get away from it all” but the fact that it will take an eight-hour car journey to do that is a problem for most children. Think about breaking the trip up into two four-hour journeys with an overnight stop in the middle, or plan to do most of the driving at night so that wee ones are more inclined to fall asleep.

  • If you can find a train still operating in New Zealand, try to use it for part or all of your journey. Kids can run around and stretch their legs on a train and you can sit back and relax with a good book because you don’t have to concentrate on the long drive ahead.

  • Travelling by plane is faster and more convenient but your children are going to be crammed into tiny seats with very little room to move. When you book your trip, make sure you ask for seats near an aisle so the kids can spread out a bit, and try to stock up on books and toys they’ve never seen before to keep them entertained. A trip to your local op shop can usually furnish you with enough pre-loved books and toys to do the trick.

  • on any journey, always pack a change of clothes for you and the kids plus a pack of travel wipes. Also, don’t wear white. one trip on a plane with a toddler and a chocolate bar will teach you that lesson.

  • Consider taking a sing-along CD. I know it sounds corny and old-fashioned but it’s amazing how much less annoying a child who is singing can be. Also, think about a talking book, which you can hire from your local library, for children who are old enough to follow a good story.

  • Ring up your parents and ask them to tell you about games they used in the old days of long road trips. I Spy is a good one, as is First to Spot a Blue Car. oy latest favourite travel game is A to Z, where you go around the family taking turns to name a word that begins with a letter of the alphabet according to a theme like “zoo animals” or “food”.

  • Accept that motion sickness is always a possibility and be prepared. Your local chemist will be able to help you choose natural or not-so-natural remedies to have on hand just in case. In an emergency, a bottle of ginger ale or ginger beer can often do the trick.

  • If you don’t want to end up spending a fortune on roadside food, take along some snacks and drinks, such as healthy sandwiches, fruit and water. If you are super-organised you can make a travel meal for each child with their name on it. Don’t do lollies and soft drinks unless you want the kids bouncing around the car on a sugar rush. It might shut them up for a while, but you’ll pay for it later.

  • Make some rules before you start out. For some reason, kids get very territorial about their space when it is limited so have some rules for travelling in cars and on planes as well as consequences around respecting those rules. Some rules about not picking fights just because you are bored, and sharing food, toys, games and books, are a good idea.

  • Have a travel prize for the child who behaves the best. You’ll be amazed how well this works, especially if the prize sits on the mantelpiece to be admired by all in the days before the trip.

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