Traveling during the summer holidays can be the pinnacle of family events as the family looks forward to a relaxing getaway from a
few days or weeks. Getting there, especially with kids in tow, can be quite a journey, especially if children are young and require a lot
of attention. Here are a few tips to make the journey to your holiday destination as frazzle-free as possible.
Interesting pit-stops encourage valuable family time and add interest to the monotony of a long journey.
Time your Journey
Time your journey to begin when the kids are happy – this usually means they are full, clean and well-rested. The last thing you want are hungry, grubby and cranky children crammed into a small space for a few hours! Leaving just at naptime is a popular choice since the motion of the car helps put small children to sleep. Depending on when they nap, this could be in the morning or afternoon.
“I make sure Khalis has a heavy breakfast and feed,” Murni Morad, an executive at an international airlines and mother of an 18 month old son, “he normally goes off to sleep in the car when he’s happy and full.”
Saaleha from Johannesburg, South Africa, prefers to leave in the evening. “We are able to skip the heat and the children are in good spirits.” She has five children within a 10 year age gap.
The best time for travel really is a personal choice, depending on your family’s time management. However, it may help to leave during non-peak hours or quieter days of the week to avoid congestion on the road and to reduce the risk of encountering accidents.
Pack a Kiddies’ Bag
Packing bags for those with multiple needs is sometimes like packing the whole house into the car. Firstly, plan ahead. If it is possible, pack what you need for the journey and for the first few days – if you know that your destination has affordable and reliable shopping outlets, you can always buy diapers, baby food, snacks and even extra outfits there.
For the journey itself however, pack a bag with the essentials for the trip. “I just stuff everything into one bag so I can grab them easily,” says Murni. This usually means the bag is spacious, expandable and organic; it can fit easily into the nooks of your car without taking up much space.
“Diapers and wipes are a must,” reminds Saaleha, whose youngest son is 10 months old, “plus icy water and scrumptious snacks.” Remember to pack extra outfits for younger children and a collection of books and simple toys that can keep children entertained. Murni usually carries along Khalis’ favourite soft toys – those that are colourful and easy to hold.
Break up the Journeys
If you are comfortable, the older children are in good spirits and the younger ones are asleep, you probably would not want to break up the journey, especially if your destination is not too far away. However, if the kids are getting frustrated, it is time for salaah or you are feeling a little claustrophobic, it’s time to take a breather. It is probably a good idea to take a toilet break and allow the driver some fresh air.
Planning ahead allows you to know the best route for your family and the available, hygienic pit-stops. Getting out of the car with give you a breath of fresh air and the children will be able to stretch their legs.
Saaleha breaks up her long distance travelling with two-hourly stops at garages. These normally have playgrounds. “Once, en route to the Cape, we stopped along the road at a picnic site. It was evening, the sun was setting; we needed to perform salaah. It was wonderful,” she recalls. “We ate at the roadside, the kids waved at passing trucks and we got up close and personal with lots of sheep.” Interesting pit-stops encourage valuable family time and add interest to the monotony of a long journey.
Play Car Games
Car games are fun and essential when there are no available breaks for the following few miles and all of a sudden, everyone wakes up. If the children are beginning to get restless, car games will divert their attention to something more interesting. In fact, constructive car games will help stimulate the intellect and creative minds of the little ones.
“Each person [in the car] selects a colour and counts the cars of that colour coming from the opposite direction,” says Saaleha. The “Counting Cars” car game allows the children to practice their colours and numbers at the same time.
Another fun car game is the “Cloud Game” that is played universally, in and out of cars. Ask your children to describe the clouds they see, and tell a story about what comes to their minds. Describing birds, other animals and trees also capture the interests of younger children. Take this opportunity to remind them of the importance of preserving the environment, the dangers of endangered species, and also the importance of thanking Allah for all His blessings through nature.
Maria Zain was a prolific contributor to SISTERS magazine, writing extensively about issues including parenting, inter-cultural relationships, homeschooling and homebirthing, and even Muslim fashion. In December 2014 Maria Zain died, insha Allah a shaheedah, related to birthing her sixth child, who survived. SISTERS magazine will always be indebted to Maria for the immense work she did for the magazine as well as for the SISTERS family as a whole. We ask that readers consider donating to a fund for her six children in hopes to help their father continue to raise them in the loving and deen-centered style the parents worked so hard to foster.
Donations can be made at www.gofundme.com/mariazain