Making Holiday Family Travel a Bit of Geeky Fun

Image via Flickr user David Berry

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It’s that time of year again: time to pack the whole family into one or more means of conveyance, and traverse some measure of miles/kilometers to someone else’s home where the holiday experience will create lasting memories. Of course, the travel part is usually the chore that has to be suffered through before the presents and comfort food makes everything better, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Planning, and a geeky sense of fun can make all the difference. Here are a few ideas that may help:

Make the Trip a Game: Gamification is a great way to get kids focused on goals and working together in challenging situations. If you give out points for achievements through the trip (quiet time on the road, good listening going through the TSA checkpoint, efficient rest stops), and then allow the kids to trade those points for rewards (time riding in the front seat on a long car ride, a food treat on the airplane), you can set up a responsibility and reward system that keeps them engaged. You can take this kind of thing as far as you like, and make it as detailed as you yourself have the time and focus to follow-through upon, but parents with some table-top gaming experience could turn this into a pretty big, and enjoyable, deal.

Give the Kids Responsibilities: Navigation on road trips can be something a youngster can really get into, and putting them in charge of the GPS or tracking progress on a phone/table app can make them feel truly empowered. Work with them beforehand to program the device, and then have them be nominally in charge of where to take gas and rest stops. If you’re travelling by plane, give kids the responsibility for carrying and producing important documents (which you have the primary copies of, just in case), and gently talk them through the importance of their task. Take the time before arriving at the airport to describe what the whole security process will be like, and work with the entire family to figure out how to make the experience as efficient and painless as possible. And give each kid a checklist of the important items they have brought with them – especially their favorite toys or electronic devices. Challenge them to go through their checklist and ID where each item is at all times, and even point out every opportunity for keeping items charged up.

Cover All Contingencies: Being prepared is the best thing you can do to make any big family trip successful. There will always be hiccups, but if you have fallback plans for all the reasonable problems, you’ll be able to ride them out without significant meltdowns. Make sure kids have spare clothes easily accessible. Carry extra charging cables, and even back-up batteries for all your devices. Put duplicate copies of all tickets and other important documents in multiple bags or on multiple people (I also put digital copies in my Dropbox, just in case). Make sure as many gadgets as possible have some kid of locator feature turned on and active. For additional security, consider travel insurance from our sponsor, Protect Your Bubble, which can provide protection products when dealing with possible weather delays, lost luggage, or even being forced to cancel trips due to illness or other factors. And if you have to rent a car, Protect Your Bubble also offers rental car insurance (with optional roadside assistance) at rates that beat what the renters themselves offer.

The bottom line is that treating your kids as part of the adventure, rather than part of the luggage, can make all the difference in the madness of holiday travel.

This post is brought to you by our sponsor, Protect Your Bubble. Visit their website for a full list of offerings

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Ken is a husband and father from the San Francisco Bay Area, where he works as civil engineer. He became the Publisher of GeekDad in 2007, and the owner in 2010. He also wrote the NYT bestselling GeekDad series of project books for parents and kids to share.