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Category Archives: Family Travel Tips

Snacking on the slopes in Tahoe, California.

How do we keep adventures fun with our kids?

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The short answer is food!

It didn’t take my husband long to learn that when I got hungry, I got grumpy, or ‘hangry’ as he lovingly refers to it. When our kids were younger, I learned very quickly that the fastest way to let a wonderful outing spiral downwards, was to let the ‘hungry’ monster creep up on us. It seems the apples don’t fall far from the tree.

With this in mind, whenever we left the house, it didn’t matter where we were going, I had food in my bag. This may seem like a tedious chore, packing food every time we set foot out the door, but I can assure you, it has kept the lot of us in check on many an occasion.

It would have been remiss of us to not extended this foresight to large outings like: sight seeing, cruising national parks, hiking trips, car drives, days spent skiing on the slopes, and more. The unexpected benefit of doing this, is that it also saves plenty of money. ‘Outings’ in general mean that you have vendors or shops that have seriously hiked prices as they know they are getting the tourists. If you realise this before you go, you can avoid paying premium price for generally sub standard food, by taking your own.

We have always found that regardless of the adventure, the excitement will wain as soon as blood sugar levels drop. We have also found that when we want to do something that the kids don’t particularly want to do, if we take delicious treats we can bribe them into enjoying themselves, at least a bit, by feeding them tasty morsels along the way. If you’ve done a fair amount of adventuring with your children, you will understand my guilt is minimal; we all have to find what works for us.

I try to keep snacks primarily healthy with a few treats thrown in for good measure. Gauge how much you need by what kind of outing you have planned. For example I wouldn’t pack crisps for a hike, they will probably be crushed before you open the bag. The more exercise is involved, the more food you need, don’t underestimate how much your kids can eat when exerting themselves, and try and pack high protein snacks for these occasions.

Some ideas of what snacks to pack:

  • Granola bars
  • Energy bars
  • Fruit (low maintenance like apples)
  • Dried mango or dates
  • Crisps
  • Popcorn
  • Nuts
  • Raisins
  • Boiled eggs (preferably pre-peeled)
  • A bag of sweets to dish out from when sugar levels are in desperate need of raising (ie. When the grump sneaks in!)

Are there any snacks you have found work particularly well for your family? Let me know. Happy adventuring!! 🙂

How do we keep our kids buckled in and *happy* on a long trip?

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Frankly, there is just no option in our car. When it comes to buckling in, there is no wiggle room, no room for negotiation, no complaining about it.

I know I make this sound easy, but it’s been our rule since they were born. They have never known any other way, and I think this is what’s made it easy for us. Now that they are older they understand why they need to be buckled in, but there was a time when we had to stop fairly frequently so they could run around and stretch their legs, tiring themselves out before being strapped to their chair again.

We have always had a large, puffy pillow in the car that we put in-between them on the back seat, so when they need to sleep they can lean over and put their head on the pillow, but remain buckled in. This has been a huge help and possibly the only way to keep them comfy while doing long drives. Travelling around the states when Lola was 4 and Lincoln was 3 meant they slept often on our long drives. This ensured they were comfy, but also helped in keeping them away from each other which, when confined in a small space, was necessary for a little ‘alone’ time.

The minute kids know there is an option to not be buckled in, they will use it, and work it, until they get what they want. It is the same in every scenario the children face. If they see there is an angle they can work, they will. If you erase the angle, they realise continual pushing is futile.

When it comes to keeping them happy, this is something every parent has to think on for their own kids. You know what makes your child tick, and what keeps them entertained, and it is usually not the same for each child in a family. When they are young, let them choose toys (under your supervision) that they can play with in the car. Do not let them choose toys that make noises, it will drive you mad! I have always found toys that can be used for make believe games (plastic animals or stuffed toys) to be the best, it gives them diversity to entertain themselves for hours. But that said, no toys have ever entertained my kids as long as a movie. Having an iPad or laptop handy has been hands down the best entertainment on long journeys. Have a couple of movies saved on the device so there is some option, it will amaze you how quickly they can tire of a movie and get bored if they’re in the wrong mood for it.

Another firm favourite when my kids were younger was colouring or work books. These kept them entertained for hours while in the back of the car. As they have gotten older they prefer drawing books, so they each have a bound, blank page drawing book which is theirs to draw in wherever we are. These work incredibly well in restaurants too. No two days are the same in a car, so if you are doing a long road trip make sure you have enough for them to do.

One standard I did everyday for our long drives in the States, and still do when taking a long trip, is pack the kids a lunchbox. I put a selection of healthy foods like nuts, dried fruit, biltong, crackers and cheese, and then a couple of treats too. I give them free reign to eat what they want when they want with the strict instructions that when the treats are finished there are no more. I encourage them to decide for themselves how much to eat and when, and giving them this freedom makes for a far more enjoyable car journey than listening to them whine about being hungry every ten minutes.

I consider us pretty seasoned travellers, having driven in excess of 30 000 km’s with them and flown between several countries. These tips are the tricks I have learned along the way. I hope at least some of them work for you. It’s not actually as hard as you imagine. Good luck!

Lincoln age 3, in North America

Lincoln age 3, in North America

Lola age 4, in North America

Lola age 4, in North America

Finding the Magic – Our ‘North America’ Story for Child Magazine – South Africa’s Best Guide for Parents

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For a brief overview of our families 5 month trip to North America, you can read the published article here.

It shares the highs and sometimes low’s, of our family of 4, myself, my husband Shaun, our then 4 year old daughter Lola and 3 year old son Lincoln, as we explored our way through a foreign continent. You can read more on each destination in my travel section.