I’m mothering four children, all of whom are under the age of ten. And we travel: often.
Don’t get me wrong. It is NOT easy to load our four kids (including an infant and a very active preschooler) into our minivan and go five minutes, much less five hours, away from home. Even with the on board DVD player and iPads (21st century magic; can I get an “amen”?), my kids, like all kids, need more to make our time on the road easier, calmer, and happier.
So here’s our secret: travel backpacks.
When we hit the road (or the plane!), to visit our kids’ birth families (twice a year), or to head to Disney (every-other-year), or to visit Grandma and Grandpa (six to eight times a year), the backpacks come down from the top shelf of my closet. And it’s like Christmas Day. I’m not kidding. The kids go completely over-the-moon excited for their travel backpacks.
Want to get in on the magic? Here’s what you need:
1: One backpack per child. Either one leftover from a previous school year, one found in mega-clearance, or a freebie from an insurance company (whatever works!).
2: Backpack contents. A variety is best: books, toys, art supplies, games, etc. The more variety, the better. In my kids’ backpacks, there are: mini matching games, art supplies and coloring books (dollar store ones work great!: think post-it notes, washable markers, stickers, etc.), action figures, small dolls or plush toys, stretchy exercise bands (these are fantastic for travel!), books, flashlights, and cars and trucks.
3: Surprises. Depending on where you are going, adding a few surprises can be thrilling for kids. For example, on our Disney trips, I might throw in a Disney coloring book, figurines, stickers, or one of the newest Hallmark Disney Itty Bitty toys.
After we get home from each trip, I go through the backpacks and throw out anything that’s trash (say, wrinkled paper), broken (lots of crayons, always), or damaged. Then I store the backpacks for the next trip.
A few tips:
1: Make sure the backpack’s size and weight is healthy for the child. You don’t want them to end up with a back or should ache, and you definitely don’t want to be carrying their backpack for them!
2: Safety first. Watch out for choking hazards (such as small parts), batteries, etc. If you’re driving, you need to know everything in your child’s backpack is safe.
3: Don’t pack the child’s favorite things. Familiar objects can be helpful for a child, but those should be the things you store yourself. Backpacks get hauled in and out of the car (or plane), in and out of hotel rooms, etc., and the contents can easily be forgotten and lost. I highly recommend filling the backpack with replaceable and inexpensive items. The dollar store can be your best friend!
With your backpacks in tow, you are bound to have a “Bon Voyage”!