If you’re moving with kids in the near future, you know better than anyone how stressful and logistically-demanding it can be. Finding a new neighborhood, a great new home, changing schools, organizing the logistics, packing, saying goodbye to your friends, neighbors and possibly even family members… it’s all a huge undertaking that takes a large toll both financially and emotionally.
With all of those things obviously taking precedence on the relocation radar, it’s only natural that most folks might leave the planning of the actual traveling to the last minute. This might spell disaster with a capital ‘D’ if you’re not prepared, especially with the possibility of your children already being stressed out due to the life-changing events transpiring around them.
So whether you’re making your journey by plane, train or automobile, we’ve got you covered with some useful tips to keep the kids distracted on your move.
Make an activity book for the road
This might seem self-evident, but the best ways to keep kids distracted is to provide them with things they like to do to pass the time. If you’re not of the hand-held gaming persuasion, you could take some time beforehand to prepare a crafty, customized activity book for your kids.
You can make one easily with a cheap three-ring binder, a three-hole punch and some imagination. Fill the binder with sheets of stickers, blank pages, coloring book pages, puzzles, games, and so on. Include a pencil case filled with a variety of crayons, colored pencils, and markers so they never run out options.
Tell the kids that this binder is their own travel journal and they can write or draw whatever they are thinking or feeling. You could even keep it and give it to them when they are older as a fantastic memory. If you are traveling by car, pick up a few extra travel bathroom organizers and hang them in the back seat, filled with books and activities to keep your kids busy.
Stop at restaurants with kids’ amenities
Despite every parent’s best intentions, preparing a nutritious lunch for the road on a day that many consider to be more stressful than a wedding just might not be feasible. Indeed, packing cute little sandwiches without the crust is probably the last thing on any parent’s mind on the eve of a big move, and besides, you’d be missing out a potentially life-saving element of road food: the play areas.
Say what you will about the meals, but a good half hour of running around a playpen and dispensing that pent-up car energy might help make for a smoother (snoozier) ride. You may not often let your kids eat at restaurants like these, so for them it will be a fun treat and make moving a bit sweeter.
Make a treasure map
As most parents know, kids tend to get antsy on long car rides, so frequent stops may be inevitable. That said, why not make stops part of the relocation journey? Create some sort of treasure map leading up to the new house as the end goal, which includes landmarks and fun sights along the way. This will build up your kids’ excitement and keep them entertained on the road; it’ll break down the trip into smaller, more manageable chunks with the reward of a fun activity at the end of each one.
Another idea that builds on this concept is to create a countdown to the new house, with each stop bringing everyone closer and closer to the end goal. You can include the treasure map in their activity book so that they can follow along the way.
Audio books and movies
For those equipped with onboard DVD players or tablets, the value of bringing along a bunch of movies is immediately clear on long trips. For those whose kids get a bit too motion sick for movies, audiobooks are a great and too often overlooked option that can get the whole family participating.
A tablet loaded with your children’s favorite movies is also an amazing idea for families flying to their new location. Many of the movies offered on board are either too mature or just not diverse enough for kids, so having your own in-flight entertainment prepared will (hopefully) guarantee you a few hours of peace and quiet.
Play ‘I Spy’ and Bingo
The easiest is the license plate game – print out a sheet with pictures of license plates from each area (like surrounding states), and each time they see one, they place a sticker next to the picture. The first one to fill up their page wins!
Have a few snacks or prizes ready and give your kids one each time they completely fill up a card with stickers. They will be so busy looking out the window for the things on their cards they won’t even realize a whole hour has passed!
By far the easiest game on the list, all you need is a paper plate, scissors, and a marker. Write the letters of the alphabet around the outside rim of a paper plate, and cut small slits between each letter. In the center of the plate, write down your child’s name. Once you are all settled in the car (or plane) pass them the plate and tell them that each time they see an object that starts with a letter of the alphabet they should fold the letter down. The first kid to fold all their letters wins a treat! (even if it’s a pat on the back)
Let them pack their own carry-on bag
Let your kids feel in charge of the move by encouraging them to pack their own carry-on bag. This works best for families traveling by plane, but it can also be a great trick for those making the trek by car. By letting them pack a bag, your children will pick out their favorite items, which will help them feel comfortable and safe throughout the trip. You can even help by preparing travel-friendly sizes of their favorite snacks! This is a life saver when your kids begin whining that they’re hungry and your hands are full checking in your luggage. It’s also convenient when larger carry-on bags are packed away in overhead compartments.
We hope that these little tidbits will help you get your kids excited for your new home, and make the journey itself a bit more smooth. The important part is to try and enjoy it as a family, and to remember that the end goal of a great new start is closer than ever!