Make trips with kids fun

That car or plane ride as a family can be enjoyable if you plan fun stops and play games together

Vacationing with children, whether they are toddlers or teenagers, is a chance to create cherished family memories. But the journey to and from your destination, be it in a car or on a plane, may be a memory you will want to forget.

"Children can get impatient and cranky when they're travelling, which makes parents cranky and that trip unpleasant," says Eileen Ogintz, who writes a syndicated weekly column on family travel called Taking The Kids and has an online magazine of the same name.

Here, she shares strategies for making car rides and flights tolerable, even enjoyable, for you and them.

1 Plan stops on road trips

If you are getting to your destination by car, Ogintz recommends stopping every two to three hours to counteract the cooped-up feeling that comes from being in a car.

Make the stops fun - try a picnic, even if it is on park benches at a rest area, or visit a playground. Another idea is to see an attraction along the way, such as a lighthouse.

2 Use travel time as bonding time

Look at your journey as an opportunity to have uninterrupted time to connect with your children, she says.

On car trips, listen to audio books that all family members will enjoy, take turns picking songs to play or try classic verbal games such as "I spy". On flights, play card games or use the in-flight entertainment system or a tablet to play video games together.

3 Educate, then journal

Get your children excited about where you are headed by showing them a movie or giving them a book on that destination. Ogintz, for example, has a children's guidebook series on major cities in the United States, while A Walk In London, by Salvatore Rubbino, is a novel, for children aged five to eight, that describes attractions in London.

During your trip, buy postcards of the sights you see and, on the journey home, have your children write on the back of each card what they remember most about that site.

4 Have a food stash

Don't underestimate the power of food as entertainment, Ogintz says. She suggests taking treats that your children might not get regularly, such as small bags of their favourite candy.

Mini bagels, along with portable containers of cream cheese or chocolate peanut butter, are also a hit with children.

5 Allow electronic devices in moderation

Yes, there is such a thing as too much television or time on a tablet. "While sticking your kids in front of a screen may seem like an easy solution to keep them occupied," Ogintz says, "they will get tired of it."

She advises setting limits for using electronic devices. One idea is to allow your child to watch one episode of a TV show and then take an hour-long break before watching another.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 26, 2017, with the headline 'Make trips with kids fun'. Print Edition | Subscribe