Traveling with kids while avoiding meltdown modeTraveling with kids on vacation can fray the nerves and tax the patience of even the most unflappable parents. Tonya Saele Boynton makes the 1,300-mile trek by van with her family every summer from their home near Sacramento, Calif., to visit her parents, Harris and Dianne Saele in Devils Lake.
By: Pamela Knudson, Grand Forks Herald
Traveling with kids on vacation can fray the nerves and tax the patience of even the most unflappable parents.
All the are-we-there-yet’s, poorly timed poops and threatened meltdowns can turn the experience of getting to your destination from fun to frustrating in an instant.
“We bring lots of electronics, that’s really what gets us through,” said Tonya Saele Boynton who makes the 1,300-mile trek by van with her family every summer from their home near Sacramento, Calif., to visit her parents, Harris and Dianne Saele in Devils Lake.
“I also bring lots of snacks and food,” she said.
She and her husband, John Boynton, are raising sons Bryce, 11, Braden, 9, and Cameron, 6, and daughter Autumn, 2. They get electronic gifts on their birthdays and Christmas.
“We don’t let them download apps but, at the beginning of the trip, we let them download an app,” she said.
During long days on the road, the kids watch movies on a DVD player, using their own headphones, so she and John can have “a little peace and quiet” and enjoy listening to satellite radio, she said.
The kids also use a Kindle computerized tablet to read books and play games. Her two youngest watch movies and play games on an iPad.
Tonya also brings along a few printed books as well as paper, crayons and colored pencils for drawing.
“They like to draw,” she said, “but you have to watch, so that the crayons don’t melt” into the vehicle’s carpeting or upholstery.
‘Started as babies’
She’s been making the annual, three-day trip with her kids for the past 11 years.
“Honestly, the kids have done really well traveling; they all started as babies,” she said. “They’ve gotten used to it from Day 1.”
The family usually drives about 10 hours a day.
“Every once in a while, if one is crying, we have to stop, or we just bear through it.”
At times, “there’s a lot of pestering, and they can get antsy,” she said. “We try to stop once every two hours.”
During their trip to North Dakota in the first week in July, Tonya said, “It’s been really hot since we left California — over 100 degrees outside, so our stops have been pretty short.”
They prefer bigger gas stations where the kids have ample room to run around and the bathrooms are larger and cleaner, she said.
She’s found that restrooms in smaller gas stations don’t have diaper-changing tables, a necessity when you have little ones, she said.
While traveling, in order “to prevent a breakdown, especially by the younger kids,” she reaches for “anything to distract them from whatever is setting them off…
“I’ll pull out my purse and look for something different. They like to play with my makeup — things like tubes of lipstick and Chapstick... My youngest loves the Chapstick.”
“The older ones don’t really break down, they just get moody,” she said.
And, if necessary, she and John resort to Plan B.
“If they get too rowdy, we have threatened to take away the Kindle or the movie. That usually works pretty well,” she said. So far, she hasn’t had to carry out that threat.
For the trip each year, she packs a supply of Dramamine, Tylenol and Advil.
Her oldest child is susceptible to car sickness but “usually only when we’re going through winding roads.”
“About 80 percent of the time, we end up needing something.”
She brings snacks including Fruit Twists, trail mix, beef jerky, Chex Mix, dried mangos and “Pirate Booty,” a white, sugar-free, puff-ball.
During the trip, the family stays only at motels that offer breakfast and take fruit from these buffets to eat later.
As a mom who’s traveled with children at different ages, Tonya said it was easiest when her kids were babies.
“You’d think it would be easier when they’re older (but) when they were babies — that was best for traveling — they slept all the time.
“When we’d stop, they’d wake up and you’d feed them. Toddlers could be a little more antsy.”
When preparing for the trip, she packs a smaller bag, with everything her family needs for overnight stops, “so we don’t have to unpack everything” at each motel. She brings one satchel for dirty laundry. She also consolidates luggage by packing the kids’ things in one large suitcase to use at their destination.
On this trip, she’s brought along a port-a-potty for her youngest, who “should be potty-trained,” but is still working on it.
“If you have young kids, it’s nice to have that with you because in some areas there’s not always a bathroom for miles.”
Their summer visits with family in North Dakota used to last four to six weeks, she said, but because 11-year-old Bryce is playing competitive soccer, “it’s getting hard to be gone now.”
This year, the family will spend two weeks with her parents in Devils Lake, she said. Her husband also has to get back to work.
The trip home presents a special challenge for Tonya because, by that time, her kids have lost interest in their games and books.
“Going home seems to be the hardest,” she said, “because they’ve done it all.”
In the past, to keep her kids occupied on the long trip, she said, “I’ve had to stop at Walmart to buy new movies they haven’t seen yet.”
Tips to ease family travel:
• Plan ahead. Write down everything you’ll need while you’re away from home, and do so as far in advance as possible. Consider your travel schedule and think through possible scenarios (Will there be naptimes and mealtimes? If so, how many?), and what you’ll need to handle these situations.
• Travel light(ish). Pack everything you can days before departure. Consider what you could borrow or buy at your destination. If you’re checking most of your bags, don’t forget a carry-on with extra outfits for the kids and an extra shirt for you in case of spills or spit-up.
• Organize your Mary Poppins purse. A bag with separate pockets or compartments will store documents, snacks, baby gear, handiwipes and other essentials. Those things that you’ll need often or quickly should be easily accessible. Carry ziplock bags of medications your kids may need, such as fever reducer, throat soothers, and gas and allergy relief.
• Give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination. It always takes longer to get out of the house than you think it will. Leave a half-hour earlier than you think you need to.
• Ace airport security. When possible, use the “green circle” lanes, where you’ll be allowed extra time and assistance to get through the lines. Follow regulations on carry-ons: gels, aerosols and liquids should fit into a one quart-sized ziplock bag per passenger. Maximum container size is 3.4 ounces. Wear easy-to-slip-off shoes, jackets and belts (children younger than 12 can leave their shoes on).
• Fill their bellies. Take along plenty of snacks (infant formula and finger foods). If you’re flying, have a baby-bottle ready for take-off and landing. Swallowing will help your baby’s ears adjust to pressure changes. For older kids, a low-sugar lollipop works great. Take care of yourself, too, by drinking plenty of water and eating snacks.
• Make time fly with entertainment. Whether you travel by plane, train or automobile, you will have plenty of downtime. Buy a new toy for the trip, and bring books, an iPad and pacifiers. Be wary of bringing anything that makes too much noise. For older kids, get books or iPad apps about your destination, so they can learn about it. Don’t forget comfort items like a favorite teddy or soft blanket.
• Map your road trip. If you’re traveling by car, bring plenty of snacks and toys to keep kids occupied. A DVD player and headphones will preserve parent sanity. Check your route ahead of time and plan stops at locations, like parks, where kids can burn off energy. A fast-food restaurant with a play area or a rest stop with an open grassy area will do.
Source: Princess Ivana, blogger for “Princess Ivana — The Modern Princess”
Knudson covers Health and Family for the Herald and can be reached at (701) 780-1107, (800) 477-6572, ext.1107 or email@example.com.