Traveling with kids doesn’t have to be nightmare

  • Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Dear Liz,

We are planning a summer vacation involving a long drive (three days worth each way). We have two girls ages 4 and 7 and a boy 12. My patience is thin already from the arguing at home. Now I’m dreading it. Ideas?

Driving me crazy

Dear “Driving’”

When I say that, my husband says, “you don’t have far to go.” Seriously, this calls for a family meeting and good planning. I start with a serious conversation about safety on the road, and explain “distracted driver” and the risk of accident. Then I use “distracted driver” as a code word while driving. Don’t drive angry - if the kids are not responding to the code word, then find a safe place to pull over and stop the car. Don’t threaten to stop the car, stop it.

Make sure everyone is in a seat belt before the car starts, too. Take frequent exercise and potty breaks. Stop for the night earlier if needed to stay safe. Have rules and consequences set in advance, and again, follow through.

The planning involves helping each child pack an activity bag with electronic and non-electronic distractions. There are also great driving game online the whole family can play. Travel also is an optimum time to learn geography and history.

Teach kids to use real maps (remember those?) and to journal with pictures about historic and other places of interest.

It can turn into a school project next school year. Remember summer reading as well.

Safe travel. Savor the time together in close quarters. It goes faster than you think and you have the rest of your life to drive in peace and quiet.

Dear Liz,

We are about to fly with our two children (ages 5 and 8) for the first time. We have a layover in Atlanta as well. I’m a nervous flyer as it is, too. Suggestions about how to prepare kids for travel?


Dear “Help,”

Step one: do some reading about air travel anxiety online. I used to fly with clients to help overcome fears. Discuss this with your doctor if needed. You obviously do not want to pass that on to the kids. Flying is safer than driving and airline pilots have the lowest rate of life insurance than most other careers.

Step two: As mentioned above, have each child pack a carry-on with flight-friendly activities.

Movies are a great idea. Have child-volume-safe headphones and find out if your flight has wifi and the cost. If possible, download movies in advance. Charge electronics fully before flight.

Pack tumm- friendly snacks and buy or fill water bottles once you are past security. There is a great online flight service www.flightaware.com that allows you to track your flight progress on a map in real time. It’s fun.

Most airlines have suggestions for traveling with children on their websites. Tell the flight attendants that this is your children’s first time flying. They usually let them meet the captain and other perks. Try to enjoy the journey.

Contact Liz via asksharpliz@gmail.com. Liz Brisacher Sharp is a Master degree level Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice with 35 years experience in mental health.

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