It's Summer Time!! For many of us that means traveling with kids and taking amazing family vacations. Even if those family vacations happen to be in the backyard. One of the things I do know that happens when we travel is our screen time routines go out the window and managing screen time can be hard. These are a few of the things we do when we take our 10 hour road trips and flights to manage screen time with our family.
Ok so I want to bust a myth right now. When we're traveling with kids, we're not in normal circumstances. Most of us travel in "survival mode". We do anything and everything we can to keep our kids respectable and avoid comments from haters, bystanders, and the peanut gallery. Do not beat yourself up if your kids watch more TV or play more video games than they should because you are traveling!!! That being said, I do know some really good tricks for traveling with technology and kids that will be super helpful to you.
Don't even get in the car to ride the Uber to the airport without setting the expectations. This will set the tone for all your travels. We sit down with our kids, do our travel routine and then immediately remind our kids of the screen time rules. Your rules don't need to be complicated but they should be simple. Examples of our rules are:
Don't overcomplicate it either. If we're going to be on the plane for 10 hours straight, tell your kids they can watch 2 movies after the plane takes off, food or bathroom breaks, etc. Nothing is normal when we're traveling so make sure you're 100% able to follow through with your rules.
The above concept leads right into this next one which is have definite times for screens to come out. We like our set time to be the most boring part of our journey. It's typically the part where we know our kids will lose it. Our kids do not have their own devices for lots of reasons, so we have them share. I know not every parent wants to do this, but it's the battle I'm willing to fight for. We set time limits on who gets to pick which movie, game, etc. My older kids rotate through the devices as well to maintain their time limits. Do what is going to work best for you. Just be sure that you're 100% ok with what they're going to do.
My next trick is to have a list of approved screen and non-screen activities for my kids to do. This has been a huge game-changer every time we get in the car to take a trip. We always make sure that the non-screen activities are just as exciting, fun and entertaining as the screen time activities. We also try to have our activities be ones that you play with another person. This way our kids aren't diving into their technology and getting lost in it. They create really good bonds with their siblings, cousins, etc. Below I've included some of our most favorite screen and non-screen activities we do.
You don't have to make it complicated either. Go with what you already have, what you're willing to clean up and what you know your kids will enjoy.
When we worry about our kids fighting with screen time and activities, something we do is assign each kid a special job. My husband and I typically have these jobs be something fun and exciting that our kids don't normally get to do. Some examples are:
It's not a super long list, but you get the idea. I have found that it's even more fun when the job rotates at every stop or transition we make. On airplanes we set a timer and change it up as time goes by. Our kids love having jobs, especially ones that make them feel more grown up. Our teens love it because they feel like they're adults.
We all know that despite putting in these awesome measures, our kids will still have meltdowns. We all need a break in confined spaces, too much time with the same people and recharging. This is why we plan family screen resets. We usually do them when we're going to have a lull in our trip, but sometimes they happen when we least expect it. My husband and I use these meltdowns of frustration, anxiety and lack of sleep to focus on the positive and reset the mood. It's a simple thing like singing a calming song, pointing out a funny thing we see or just simply rewarding our kids for playing "The Quiet Game". The goal is to do something that is soothing, relaxing, calming and inviting to everyone breathe and remain calm. Just do what you can and be ok with meltdowns. It happens when travel parenting!!
A System For When You Arrive At Your Destination
The last thing we always do is have a plan for the tech devices once we reach our destination. We simply lock our devices up in our suitcases and don't pull them out unless we need them. Our phones and cameras are usually the only devices we take with us on vacation once we've arrived to our destination. Everything else is "Out of sight, out of mind." Why do we do this? I really do it to avoid having my kids disappear into the online world to check messages when we're here to interact and experience things as a family. Your kids may want to take their devices along. If you're fine with that, then let them. Set tech zones for the devices when you're going to allow them to be used and when they won't be allowed. As always, let your kids know the plan and rules before you even get out of the car.
I know these tips will be super helpful for those of us who are traveling this summer. What would you add to the list?