This week Sarah and I welcomed guest Jody Robbins to Best of Both Worlds. Robbins writes a lot about family travel, including a new book called 25 Places in Canada Every Family Should Visit. She shared tons of tips, including:
Why you should bring a cookie sheet with you on a car trip. It’s the perfect workspace for kids, and raised edges can keep crayons from rolling off and getting lost. The cookie sheet might also corral spilled fries should you wind up eating in your car.
Why you should visit the dollar store before a trip. Little surprises can fill a lot of time. Make a goodie bag for each kid with cheap items that they can amuse themselves with. Novelty can go a long way. Screens are great, but are often best deployed a few hours in, when everyone’s getting cranky.
Why you should involve kids in the planning. Older kids especially can be charged with planning rest stops along a route. Give them a map and let them figure out parks, or donut stores, or roadside museums or what have you. When kids know when they’ll stop — and feel in control — this can potentially cut down on whining. Somewhat. Not 100%. But you know that.
Why you should plan for individual family downtime during a group trip. Too many people can overstimulate kids, and sometimes it’s good to have a few hours per day when your normal family rules still apply. I’d note that adults can plan for their own individual downtime too. It might mean waking up early, or using nap time, or trading off with people, but it is possible.
Why you should schedule a massage after you return. Some trips are “duty” trips. Even if there are fun elements, not every moment of a family “vacation” is going to be great. So Robbins recommends scheduling a fun adult activity within a few days of return, such as a massage or a date night for you and your spouse.
Why you should visit Canada! For people with spring break coming up, the mountains around Banff will have “champagne powder” in late March/April. People who are into Vikings might like Newfoundland. And if you want a taste of Europe without the overnight flight, Montreal is a great option. Just be sure everyone’s passports are up-to-date!
In the question segment we talk about what people can do in those little spurts of time while a small child is playing independently. You can’t do anything involved, and you can’t leave, but they don’t really need you either. We welcome suggestions.