My friend asked if I could write about advice for traveling with small children. We often say that our children were conditioned to travel long distances from the moment they arrived into our family since we had to fly home from China with them. Lian has traveled back to China with us when we went to receive her sister and both girls traveled to East Africa with us last Fall. They have made several domestic flights to see family and for work with me, but this was the longest stretch they've had in a car. We didn't know what to expect. Everyone said, "I hope you have lots of DVDs." We actually didn't pack any intentionally. Of course, we weren't sure if we'd have to buy one mid-trip to save our sanity, but thus far we haven't needed one. but overall it wasn't nearly as bad as we thought it might be. We have two completely different personalities in our children - Lian is quite content to play by herself quietly in the car, but when she's tired and hungry she can get grumpy. Anna is a constant chatterbug and hates to be confined, so we weren't sure what to expect. To be honest - at the end of five days of traveling in the car, Dano and I were ready to have a little space :) So here's a few pointers we have learned on this road trip and our other travels...
Children will rise to the occasion. If they hear you talking pre-trip about how tough the road trip is going to be in front of them, they will probably think it's going to be difficult. So make the preparations fun. Be excited about it in front of them. Don't complain in front of them.
Emphasize Team-work. We always start out any trip with a little family cheer. May sound corny, but I think it reemphasizes the fact that we are a team. If one of us is grumpy, it affects the rest of us. We are a team and we have to work together to make our trip a success. That means everyone has to help. S
The Power of Music and Podcasts. Prior to moving all our earthly possessions, Dano downloaded all of our music onto his IPod, so we wouldn't have to bring any CDs to Rwanda. According to Anna, classical music is her favorite. Anna is a non-stop talker. When she's not talking, she is singing to herself. This has driven us a little crazy on this trip, but we found that classical music helps calm her. We've also downloaded our own podcasts, not just kids music - i.e. BBC, 60 Minutes, Tim Keller sermons, along with enough 80's music to keep us going - stuff that makes us feel like adults. We tell the kids this is our tiem to listen to the radio and we expect them to respect that. Again, have high expectations - they will rise to it.
Two Hour Jumping Jack Stops and Find the Mc-Ds with a Playground. The kids need to run around and so do the adults. We tried stopping every 2 to 2 1/2 hours and we all did jumping jacks together outside the car. Pretty funny looking, but you'll never see the people at the gas station again :) The playgrounds at Mc-Ds were definite life-savers. We never spent more than 30 minutes at a rest-stop and never sat down at a restaurant. Always took our food with us - as that kept the girls busy in the car.
Fun, but relatively healthy snacks. The girls love the fruit roll-ups we brought and they take a long time to eat, so they're great! String cheese kept in the cooler is also great. We also got each girl a little bag of candy and when they're extra good, we give them a couple jellybeans or whatever is in their stash. And definitely give the incentive of at least one DQ stop. It's an incentive for the parents as well :)
Lian's Advice - Lian has her own blog for her friends called www.lianmeistravels.blogspot.com. If you want to check it out, send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, as it is a private blog. She wrote down some of her advice last night, which we'll try to post soon. Some of the advice was to bring lots of books and stickers and eat lots of snacks. I probably packed too many books. Would definitely go lighter on that load.
OK - those are some quick thoughts for the morning. Let me know if you have any questions.