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Avoid Summer Meltdowns: How to Keep Your Kids Happy and Engaged on Long Travel Days

Avoid Summer Meltdowns: How to Keep Your Kids Happy and Engaged on Long Travel Days

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Are you planning a summer vacation but are worried about your kids handling travel days? You won’t want to miss this list of tips for helping your kids manage long travel days this summer!
This list of summer family travel tips was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

Summer is the season of sun, fun, and vacations!

But if you’ve ever traveled with kids, you know it can also be the season of restlessness, boredom, and the dreaded “Are we there yet?” on repeat.

Fear not, because I’m about to share some ultimate hacks to keep your kids happy and engaged on those long travel days.

Say goodbye to summer meltdowns and hello to smooth travels!

Image of a boy wearing a backpack walking toward an Alaska Airlines plane
My kids travel a LOT and these tips have helped me a bunch! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

How to Handle Long Travel Days with Kids Like a Pro

1. Pack a Travel Adventure Bag

Every superhero needs their toolkit, and every traveling kid needs their Adventure Bag!

Before your trip, pack a special bag for each child with items just for travel. Include things like coloring books, model magic, stickers, and small toys.

Surprise new books or toys can be especially exciting because they’re new and interesting. This isn’t just a bag; it’s a treasure chest that keeps giving throughout the journey.

2. Tech to the Rescue

While too much screen time isn’t great, travel days are an exception. Load up a tablet or smartphone with their favorite movies, games, and apps.

Image of two boys playing Nintendo Switch at the airport
My kids like using their Nintendo Switches at the airport. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Don’t forget to download everything in advance so you don’t need internet access to enjoy them. Headphones are a must to keep the peace in the car or on the plane.

Educational games and e-books can also mix learning with fun. My boys love reading graphic novels and manga on their Kindles.

3. Snack Attack Packs

Hungry kids are cranky kids. Avoid the hunger meltdowns with a ‘Snack Attack Pack’. Pack more snacks than you think you’ll need.

Boxes with healthy food full of colorful vegetables and fruits. Nuts, blueberries, yogurt, pomegranates, bananas, raisins, celery, carrots and peppers. Meals for the day.
Here are a few healthy options, if you’re kids will eat them.

Mix healthy choices like sliced fruits, veggies, and yogurt with some fun treats you might not usually allow at home. Also, keep hydration in mind—water bottles are essential to keep everyone feeling good.

Just remember about the no-liquids rule if you’re flying. We usually bring empty water bottles to fill up at the airport or we get bottled drinks in the terminal.

Letting the kids choose some snacks before the trip can also be a fun activity!

4. Game On!

Create a travel game pack. Classic travel games like “I Spy”, “20 Questions”, and “License Plate Bingo” are perfect for road trips because they don’t require any materials.

You can also create a travel bingo or a scavenger hunt where kids tick off items they see along the way.

For flying, you can get travel-sized games or bring Uno. My kids also like playing Monopoly together on their iPads.

These games help pass the time and keep everyone’s brain engaged.

5. Scheduled Breaks

If you’re on a road trip, plan for regular stops. Breaks let everyone stretch their legs and burn some energy.

Exhibition Park is located in the Exhibition neighborhood of Saskatoon.
We like to stop at cool playgrounds when we do road trips.

Look for rest stops with play areas or plan your route passing parks, playgrounds, interesting landmarks, or fun attractions. It might make the trip longer, but it will definitely make it more enjoyable and tantrum-free.

Of course, this is harder to do if you’re flying. But, if you have a lengthy layover, find an empty gate where kids can run around a bit. Or see if your airport has a play area (many of them do).

6. Comfort is Key

Make sure everyone is dressed for travel. Comfortable travel clothes are a must, preferably in layers so you can adjust to changing temperatures in a car or plane.

Bring pillows and blankets—especially for long trips where the kids might want to nap.

7. Listen to Audio Books or Podcasts

Listening to stories is a great way for the family to enjoy the journey together on a road trip.

Headphones, mobile phone, idiobook, coffee cup on a wooden table. The concept of leisure and learning, hobby. Listen to music, literature. Top view with copy space
Download some books, podcasts, and music to your devices.

Choose a children’s audiobook or a family-friendly podcast, which can be another fun way to keep the travel environment calm and engaged. It’s like watching a movie with your ears!

Older kids can pick their own books and listen with headphones on their devices for plane rides. Audiobooks are also available from the library.

8. The Surprise Pack

Have a few surprises up your sleeve. These could be small toys, a new book, or a snack they’ve never tried before.

This is different from the Travel Adventure Bag because your kids don’t know it’s coming!

When you sense the mood in the car or plane taking a dive, whip out a surprise! It’s a great way to shift their focus from boredom to curiosity.

9. Involve Them in the Travel Plans

Kids love feeling like they’re part of the planning. Before you leave, talk about where you’re going and what you’ll see.

Give them small tasks like being in charge of a map or a travel journal. They can draw what they see, write about their experiences, or place stickers to mark each stop. This makes them feel important and keeps them engaged.

This is a really great activity to do on the way home from a trip because your kids can take time to reflect on their experiences.

10. Keep a Routine

Try to stick to your kids’ routine as much as possible, especially with young children. If they nap at a certain time, plan your travel around these times. Keeping meals at regular times is also helpful.

If you’re taking a red-eye flight, it can be helpful to dress your kids in jammies and have them bring their favorite stuffy. Add anything else that you normally do as part of their bedtime routine.

Travel Day Family Travel Tips Wrap-Up

Traveling with kids doesn’t have to be a stress test! You can turn a long journey into an exciting adventure with a little preparation.

These tips will help keep your children happy and make the travel experience enjoyable for the whole family.

So pack up, gear up, and get ready for a meltdown-free summer travel! Happy journeys!

Looking for more family travel tips? Check out The Ultimate Summer Travel Hack: Top U.S. Destinations That Are Surprisingly Cool and Crowd-Free, The Disneyland Price Hike: Strategies for Enjoying the Park Without Emptying Your Wallet, The 5 Biggest Travel Mistakes Families Make and How to Avoid Them, and Best Super Fun Things to Do in the Summer at Home with Kids!

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