Healthy eating, exercise and creative play should be part of every family’s getaway!
With the summer season just around the corner, plans and preparations are likely underway for a family getaway. Whether you are headed to grandma’s house for the weekend, touring a national park or visiting an exotic destination, healthy eating, exercise and creative play should be part of every family’s getaway. You can avoid stressful bumps in the road by planning ahead. Here are some tips for a stress-free trip.
Travel Bag for Kids
This is a must. Every child should have their own travel bag filled with their snacks and activities. This not only teaches kids to be responsible for their own possessions, but also teaches them to be organized and prepared. A travel bag should be a size that they can manage. A backpack or small rolling suitcase usually does the trick. Put your child in charge of packing their own travel bag, but give guidance. Here are our family’s 5 guidelines:
- Leave room for a bottle of water and a snack box (Yumbox of course)
- Pack a blank notebook and pencil case (pencils, crayons, glue stick and sharpener)
- Pack a little pouch of small toys (currently Petshop seems to be quite transportable)
- Pack a deck of cards (Uno or Go Fish works well)
- A book or two
Kids love surprises! Typically I slip in few extra secret goodies to make the journey more fun for the kids. I think time does stretch longer for children, so it’s important to keep them engaged and entertained. Ideas that have brought the most joy and amusement: Coloring or fact sheets about your vacation destination, stickers and coloring sheets.
Healthy Eating on the Road
When you are traveling, it is so easy to be swayed by the convenience of stopping off at a fast food restaurant for a quick meal. It’s “affordable” and easy. But that convenience carries a high price when you consider all the fat, sugar, sodium, calories and preservatives you just fed your family. We all know too well that bad foods create bad moods. That’s not what you want when you still have hours of travel time ahead of you. Sometimes, you have no choice, but when you do, and can plan ahead, you’ll be much happier and healthy for it.
When travelling with the kids, one thing I am certain to prepare is a travel snack box. I prepare one for each one of my kids. I stick to easily transportable foods that will not get soggy and will not spill. Finger foods, such as cubes of hard cheese, salami, bread sticks with a peanut butter dip, crackers, olives and of course lots of freshly cut up fruits and vegetables. I always cut the foods into bite size pieces to minimize choking hazards. I also throw some new treats in! That always keeps the whole group happy and makes the meal on-the-go experience more special.
To create a travel snack box you can either use a reusable multi-compartment box (like Yumbox) or use individual containers and baggies. Be selective with store bought snack packs - look for healthy options like nuts, dried fruit and yogurt. Use a thermal lunch tote to keep contents cool.
The same concept of a Travel Snack Box works really well when you’ve reached your destination and you’re enjoying day trips, hikes, sightseeing and shopping. How many times did we end up in a nice restaurant for lunch, only for the kids to declare that they don’t like anything on the menu and will only eat bread? Or perhaps you decide to sit down at a café and the children insist on another ice cream! Travel Snack Box to the rescue! The pressure to find foods that your kids will like or the temptation to give into unhealthy requests is minimized. Before heading out for the day, I fill the snack boxes with protein-rich foods. Protein is great for their keeping energy levels up when you’re doing a lot of extra physical activity. Having your own box of healthy goodies sets your mind at ease and means no hunger tantrums! It also helps to avoid impulsive, expensive and often unhealthy purchases.
Creative Passtimes become Vacation Memory Books
Sure it’s easy to throw your iphone to the kids to keep them quiet. But sometimes you need to use it! Kidding aside, family travel is a great time to encourage your kids to use their new experiences as part of creative play. Remember that blank note book your child packed? Turn it into a vacation memory book. My older daughter often brings a little sketchbook, where I encourage her to write, draw and create collages. An extra map from the tourist office will give your kids lots of landmarks and images to use for their collage. Younger kids can also get in on the fun with a little help. We often prepare a DYI coloring book, featuring landmarks or pictures associated with our destination. Using Picasa Pencil Sketch tool you can convert any photo you find online into a sketch, which works really well for coloring. This will keep your younger one quite busy! These activities are entertaining, cheap and will make nice souvenir to take home.
Toys to take with you on Vacation
Hopefully the vacation itself will be entertaining enough but inevitably there will be some downtime, waiting around time and and kicking back and relaxing time. Kids are always looking for something to keep their minds and hands busy. Limit the number of toys and gadgets by limiting the space allotted for them. Designate a space in their own bags or the family bags that will hold their toys.
Typically I like to encourage my kids to bring toys that will promote individual play and get them to exercise a bit when they’re bored. As a rule we always buy one souvenir, which typically becomes the star toy for a day or two. Here are some great recommendations on what to pack for outings or longer vacations:
- Jump Rope
- Sidewalk chalk
- Notebooks and crayons
- Pocket size dolls and toy cars
With the right approach, traveling with young children can be almost completely stress-free. The key thing to remember is to keep them well-fed with nutritious foods, have few little surprises at hand to keep them entertained during long travel times (or even long restaurant dinners!), and to ensure that they get sufficient creative play. Family trips are meant to create special memories. Make yours even more special by making them as easy on the family as possible.