“Are we there yet?” Are these familiar words you dread hearing when you’re off on a family trip? If so, have no fear. There is help. In a special three-part series, “Today” shares some helpful hints to help families tackle the vacation blues. In part one, Lisa Bain, executive editor of Parenting magazine, offers some advice to start your planning off on the right foot with gear, entertainment and tips:
Thinking about taking a family trip with your kids? Whether it’s by plane, train or automobile, here are some gadgets and gear that can make traveling easier and more entertaining for you all:
GEAR AND GADGETS:
Kelty convertible, $160 — For the parent who wants the convenience of a child carrier and stroller in one product, the convertible blends high performance backpack features with a unique and agile stroller design. It has great safety (harnesses) and dual functioning so it cuts down on what you need to bring.
Philips bottle warmer, $30 — Whether you’re in the car or at your destination, it can be a challenge to heat up a bottle. This bottle warmer has a standard AV adapter and a car adapter, and it fits all bottle sizes and baby food jars. It also has an overheating protector. On the plane or train, it’s battery operated so you can really travel with it.
Munchkin throwaways, $4/pack — Tired of carrying around zip lock plastic bags for all of those dirty sippy cups and tiny spoons? Toss ’em without guilt with this new line of disposable travelware. It’s $4 per pack of either 30 infant spoons, four feeding bowls, six sippy cups, or six snack cups.
Eat-n-play activity cooler, $19.99 — Again this item has dual uses. This is a 3-in-1 cooler, placemat and toy. It folds up like a lunch bag/cooler, opens up to have a placemat with games on it, toys included for the kids that can be attached so you don’t lose anything. Think on the plane or on the train when the kids eat and how messy it can be, this will confine their space and let them play too.
ENTERTAINING YOUR KIDS:
Leapster multimedia learning system, $79.99 — You know leapfrog educational computers? Well this is the travel-size young version. This is a handheld game, much like Nintendo, but teaches kids school skills. There are homework helpers, education games, books to read and creative studios. Lots of the games are also famous brands ie: Dora the Explorer or Spongebob.
Gamewright travel games, $5.99 - $12.99 — These travel card games are now the “it” thing! Wig Out, Go Bananas, and Fowl Play are only three of Gamewright’s expanding line of 12-minute games. The main attraction of these games is the fact that they all play in about 12 minutes, are reasonably priced ($5.99), and more importantly, they make a great travel companion for those long car rides! Each of these three 12-minute games has won the Dr. Toy’s best vacation product award. This is also an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio award-winning game for traveling!
Magnetic puzzles, Etch-A-Sketch, Rubiks puzzles, books, smaller travel toys, all under $20 — Traveling is all about being prepared and not hearing that “Are we there yet?” from the kids. So entertain them and let them be creative and play. All of these games/puzzles are cheap and creative and are travel friendly. (For example: The magnetic puzzle doesn’t let you lose pieces.)
TIPS FOR FAMILY TRAVEL:
1. Let them play more: Nothing is easier then giving the kids something to do. If you pack correctly, crayons, paper, markers, pipe cleaners and even Post-it notes become toys for the kids to play with, draw on and create in the back seat.
2. Make lunch the big meal: Kids are most likely to be tired and cranky at dinnertime, plus restaurants are often less crowded at midday.
3. Be an inventive packer: Take gear with dual uses. A stroller can double as a high chair and a safe place to nap. While the car seat is non-negotiable, most families can do without a portable crib.
4. Plan no more than two activities per day: To avoid meltdowns, don’t overplan. You may be anxious to check off all the “must-see attractions” on your list, but don’t cram too many tourist spots into one day of sight-seeing. Have some time in case your family wants to eat a good meal and bond.