Growing up I had a large family in New Jersey and New York City, and growing up on Long Island meant family visits were an hour away at least. My family is even farther from me and my son now, but I’ve learned that there are lots of ways to keep the family close, even when the geographic distance isn’t so much.
Review photos and tell stories. Skype or Facetime with cousins or grandparents prior to the visit if you don’t already. It builds up the excitement, creates a connection and helps bridge the distance between your kids and their relatives. In theory, this helps alleviate some of the “awkward dance” kids do with their lesser-known relatives upon arrival (you know the one.)
Discuss the place where the family lives. Check out a book from the library or do a little Internet research about the state and city. Google’s your best friend. Find out interesting things about the location’s history. Look to see if there are any interesting landmarks...even some funny ones will do the trick. (Longest ball of twine? What kid wouldn’t want to check that out?)
If you’re headed on a long road trip, research in advance some good places to eat along the way. Are there any famous diners/dives/burger joints? Have your kids pick the place to eat...it will become more than a meal. It will be a memorable destination.
If you’re traveling on a holiday, take a few minutes to tell your kids why that holiday is special and how grateful you are to be sharing that day with them.