“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1.

This summer, families are truly ready to get out and travel! I congratulate families on finding creative ways to have fun when we had to stay home last summer but this year everyone is planning delayed vacations and family reunions. We are still conscious of staying safe and healthy, but it is time to enjoy summer.

On day outings or a week’s vacation, those parents with younger children have to plan their schedule ahead of time. Planning and anticipating a fun summer vacation is half the fun of a  vacation or outing! Meeting the needs of younger children can be a challenge but a true JOY. Togetherness with family and friends is what counts in family trips. Here are some helpful hints that I have gleaned from others and have reused from my own teaching experiences with young children.

 Younger children operate better when they are kept on a schedule or routine. A routine gives a younger child security. I know even in the classroom that young children want to know the times for circle, snack, play and nap. This is when they are developmentally thinking. When you are traveling in the car, bus or plane, make allowances for your young child to eat on a schedule, take their daily nap, allow them time to stretch and get out of the car and run when making stops. Of course, safety is of utmost importance so please take time to go over the rules for safety.

Part of planning a vacation or day outing is to have your children help you to pack what is needed. Children from toddlers on up love to help and be a part of preparation. They can help choose what clothes they will need to wear, a few favorite toys, favorite blankets, toothbrushes, brushes, and more. This depends on what kind of trip or vacation you are taking such as camping, staying in a motel or staying with extended family.

Try to stay on course with meals. Plan ahead so you know where the restaurants are that you can stop at to meet your child’s mealtime. When flying or riding on a train, you can preorder a meal. With bus travel, I have found it best to take my little companion’s favorite, healthy snacks. My son and I use to enjoy our bus rides to visit grandparents, as well as to sightsee.  One of my close friends would take all six of her children traveling on the bus during the summer to see the country. Many bus lines offer really good deals. The key to having a good trip is planning. Be sure to take nutritious snacks with you so your child will not be eating a lot of “junk food”. Make sure for toddlers and twos that the food is cut up or broken into bite-size pieces so they don’t choke. Young children don’t need to be eating when running or playing; they could easily choke.

With traveling in the car, many families have found it best to begin travels early in the morning and stop early in the afternoon to allow for proper rest. Many times, starting off early means your child can be quietly picked up without even waking them. Always remember to discuss the most reasonable distance to travel each day.

Be sure to select some favorite toys, games, videos and CDS they might enjoy listening to. In selecting what you take, make sure these are toys you can travel with easily. One suggestion is to go to the dollar stores to pick out inexpensive coloring books, and games that your child hasn’t seen before. Don’t play with these ahead of time; this will be a nice travel surprise gift.

I always take a package of stickers as incentives on field trips and reward good behavior. It is amazing how a young child will work for a simple sticker. Other incentives can be used, like rewarding your child by stopping at their favorite restaurant or getting their favorite foods. You will be surprised at how simple things make a young child very happy. Verbal praise is one of those simple rewards that doesn’t cost a thing.

One does not have to spend an “arm and a leg” to have a good outing with young children. When traveling, my husband and I would pick out playgrounds in passing town for our son. We would pack a picnic lunch and spend a few minutes eating while our son played.

Try to choose places you stay as “child-oriented or child-friendly places.”  Most of our motels and campsites are definitely family-oriented.

Remember to take your medical kits to take care of emergency needs, as well as medicines your child usually takes. Be sure to take the phone number of your child’s doctor.

 Make sure you remember your camera or phone to make your special vacation or family outing one to remember. A picture speaks a thousand words and captures a happy moment or memory in time. Recapping a vacation in pictures makes the fun and family togetherness.

Remember to have fun with your child on your outings or vacations. TIME spells LOVE!

Classroom Observer, Beth Pinyerd