Make Your Summer Travels with the Kids FUN with the Anti-Boredom Travel Backpack
Make one for your kids, then you can relax!
"She took my markers!"
"Gimme back my Gummi Bears."
"Dad, he's taking up the whole back seat!"
"Mom, this is boring."
"Are we there yet?"
As the survivor of twenty years of traveling with children, I have three suggestions for parents:
- Defy your spouse's request to keep packed items to a minimum! Let each kid bring their own pillow, blanket, backpack full of stuff, and electronic equipment. So what if you can't see traffic out of the back window of your van? Isn't that what rear and side mirrors are for?
- Do not leave a rest stop until everyone has gone to the bathroom, especially the kid who claims "I don't have to go now."
- When desperate, give them sugar.
Before you begin to assemble your kid's individual backpacks you need to do the following:
- Find out your kids' favorite book authors, musicians, colors, gum, and candy. If you don't know, ask them. Don't tell them why. It will drive them crazy.
- Get their friends' names and addresses. Give them each a small address book and tell them they have to write down all their friends' full names, addresses, and zip codes. They have to return it to you before you leave. You can motivate them with a promise of a banana split. I prefer to bribe my children with an extravagant reward that I know, and they know, will probably never happen. I offer them their dad as a servant for a day, or I promise them a Jaguar on their sixteenth birthday. Hope blooms eternal.
- Find a backpack for each of your kids. You can be very brave and clean out their school backpack (beware of old tissues, leaking pens, and sticky, unidentifiable food remains) or you can be smart and get new packs in their favorite colors.
Pack some, or all items. Judge as to age appropriateness for your child or teen:
- Bottle of water
- Gum (sugar-free or regular)
- Deck of cards (great cheap entertainment for hotel rooms and in crowded restaurants waiting for your meals to arrive)
- Clip board (mini-travel desk!)
- Bound sketchbook (so the pages don't fall out) for journal writing; drawing; playing tic-tac-toe and hangman; reviewing hotels and restaurants; writing silly limericks; making signs to communicate to other cars and trucks ("honk if you like mashed potatoes" was one of my kids' favorite signs); and keeping lists of: state license plates, animals they spot, cars they like, cool names they wish they had instead of their own boring name, things they hate/love about traveling by car.
- Markers of all shapes and sizes. Younger kids like the scented markers. *Hint: take out of boxes and put in zip-lock plastic bag.
- Kneaded eraser
- Lead pencils and colored pencils. See* in #6. Remember you take a risk packing crayons, they melt in hot cars.
- A great age appropriate, FUN paperback book or books (not mandatory books from their school's summer reading lists). Find books by their favorite authors. Ask your local librarian for entertaining books. Libraries have paperback copies as well hardback books.
- Correspondent's kit. Tuck the following in a large zip-lock plastic bag: their friend address book, blank postcards, STAMPS, stickers, water-proof pens or markers, blank cards and envelopes. Encourage them to write to their friends throughout the trip. And stop to mail!
- One-two packs of favorite candy. Keep back up supply with you to dispense gradually.
- Terrific sunglasses
- Healthy snacks – a banana, trail mix, or bag of carrot sticks
- Plastic bag full of disposable hand wipes
- Pack of tissues
- Comic books
- Dime store treasures: paper doll set (pre-cut and put in folder), animal stickers and album, Silly Putty, Fuzzy Magnetic Mustache Man, Kaleidoscope, etc.
- Ipod or personal CD player
- Audio books, age appropriate. Audio books are often more expensive than the books themselves, but at most libraries, you can borrow them for free.
- Music of favorite musical group
- Disposable camera
- Cheap binoculars for spying
- Flashlight for reading/writing/drawing when it gets dark.
© 2002 Mary Brigid Barrett; The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance