Family

Unplug and enjoy gadget-free travel with kids

Nov. 12, 2012 at 10:57 AM ET

It’s not hard to find a dozen articles or blog posts highlighting the must-have gadgets to have on hand when traveling with kids this holiday season. But, why not try something new this year, like a gadget-free family trip. Is it possible?

It is. So put the iPads away, leave the portable DVD players at home and communicate as a family.

“Speak to your child about scenes seen from the window of the airplane or car. If you're in the clouds, talk about what you're seeing inside the plane. Look at maps. Discuss meteorology, time zones, aerodynamics. Travel is filled with rich teaching moments," says travel writer Janet Groene.

Take a look at these eight ways to prepare for a gadget-free family trip this holiday season.

Set road rules

Let your kids know your intentions before you leave the driveway. Go over them before the trip so everyone knows what to expect and no one is caught off guard by this gadget-free adventure.

Learn about the destination

Bring along a colorful kids almanac so children can brush up on the destination, whether in the car or on the plane. “We learn a minimum of three new facts a day about places we visit, even a few not found in guidebooks,” said Rachel Stephens, co-founder of TrendyKid, a children’s travel gear company.

Create playlists

Put together music playlists with your kids or ask older kids to put together music mixes on their own. Include a few of your favorites too. While on the trip, talk with your kids about why they chose the songs they did, and hear what they have to say about your music. “We did this last year and it was so funny to hear my kids say, ‘Who’s Duran Duran?’ My 10-year-old is now a Blondie fan,” Stephens said.

Bring fun snacks

Snacks are critical for any car or plane trip. Make snacking fun by bringing along favorite go-to snacks, as well as brand new treats. “The miniature boxes of cereal were the clear winners. They were easy for kids to snack on and kept messes to a minimum,” said Alissa Boyle, editor of Fun Finds for Families.

Pack a backpack

Fill a backpack with your children’s favorite items, like magnetic games, coloring books, crayons and Brain Quest cards. For older kids, include a journal to keep track of favorite places and activities along the way. Don’t forget favorite comfort items too, like blankets and stuffed animals.

Plan hourly surprises

It can take a lot for a young child to sit quietly during a car ride or plane trip. Before you leave, stock up on small toys, stickers and trinkets from the dollar store. Hand one out every hour to each child for being a good traveler (or use the goodies as distractions, if need be).

Play car games

Engage your kids with games that get them thinking and keep their minds off the drive. Play “count the cars” to see how many cars of a certain color they can find. Or, up the ante on the “license plate game” for older kids by choosing a number and having them find that magic license plate number by adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing numbers they see on license plates.

Use soap for markers

When all else fails, bring along a bar of soap. Give one bar to each child and let them mark up the windows of your car. They can play tic-tac-toe, write messages or play hangman, and the soap wipes off easily with a damp paper towel.

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