I often bore my twelve year old son with tales of my hard knocks childhood; cable only on the TV in the living room, video game controllers that only had up/down, left/right, and A/B buttons, no DVR, the mall only having one restaurant, phones that did nothing but let you call other people, and perhaps the hardest thing for him to wrap his brain around, no iPads for road trips or plane rides.  In the good old days, we didn’t have electronic gizmos to keep us occupied (granted my brother and I kept ourselves busy by killing each other in the “way back” of my mom’s Jeep, but still).  Video games couldn’t travel, books were made of paper, and phones stayed in the kitchen, well until my mother stretched the cord long enough for the phone to reach to the living room.  And maybe I’m wearing nostalgia colored glasses, but those were the days.

Now when I tell my son to put down his iPod, he picks up his phone, NOOK, laptop, notebook, or DS. Unless of course the unthinkable happens, a battery runs out or we hit a “dead zone”, then it’s the end of the world.  Well it doesn’t have to be (just don’t say it like that to a kid, they already think we know nothing, saying that will only reinforce their beliefs), as a matter of fact, I think your next trip can be electronics free, just follow my handy-dandy guide to old school family traveling fun.

  • Car Games.  Remember these?  Well we’re probably lucky if most kids can name a car game.  Why not suggest the whole family plays a game of I Spy?  I don’t recommend playing this on the plane though, you don’t want your precocious toddler guessing “smelly guy next to me” when you spy something that begins with “S”.  My son and I have played The Alphabet Game (yelling out road signs following the ABCs), just be sure everyone is playing by the same rules when you start, I learned that little pearl of wisdom the hard way when I loudly accused one of his little buddies of cheating.  Car BINGO and monetary rewards for being the first to spot landmarks were big in my family growing up, although with inflation your kids probably won’t be psyched about getting a quarter for seeing a bridge.
  • Food.  Who doesn’t like eating in the car?  Personally it’s my second favorite place to eat after my couch.  Chowing down in the car doesn’t have to mean greasy fast food from a drive through, let your kids help pack a cooler full of goodies for your trip.  And although you can’t fly with your moisturizer, you can fly with a small soft cooler, so even if your trip requires a plane ride you can bring some treats from home.  Stuffed mouths are usually quiet mouths, and quiet mouths make for happy parents.
  •  Luggage.  One of my favorite things about traveling when I was younger (who am I kidding, its still my favorite) was packing my very own suitcase.  I would pack all the necessities like books, Barbie dolls, jelly shoes, peanut butter crackers, and some not really necessities like curlers (never a full set), a snow cone machine, and an open container of Play Doh.  Being able to pack my own bag made me feel like a jet-set world traveler, and what little kid doesn’t want to feel that way?  Let your kids pack a travel bag (note I do not recommend letting them back their own clothes), remind them that they’re going to be on a long plane or car ride, and they should bring a couple things (no electronics, we’re kicking it old school) to keep them occupied; a favorite toy, books, playing cards, coloring books, word games, basically anything relatively quiet that will keep a little one occupied.

The bottom line about traveling with kids is that if you don’t want them in a gadget-induced fog, you have to step it up.  You have to put down the phone yourself and engage your rug-rats.  Talk with them, play with them; you know pretend you actually enjoy traveling with them (I kid, I kid).  Sure it might seem easier to let your kid watch YouTube videos for an entire 2 hour card ride, but I think the whole family will get much more out of the forced family fun if you ban electronics and depend a little on each other for entertainment.  And if I’m wrong?  Well that’s why God invented naps, so as long as you’re in the passenger side I won’t judge.

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