Pretense: “Are we there yet?” This is probably the first phrase that comes to mind when you are considering a road trip with kids. Children are impatient and energetic, and the combination of the two can sometimes get in the way of a great road trip. Many parents won’t do it. “There is no-way I’m driving X many miles with my kids. They will drive me crazy.” I thought the same thing, but I was pleasantly surprised by my son’s patience and mature behavior on road trips. So far he has been on three road trips; the first when he was about 2, another at about 3, and the latest at 4. He’s done quite well on all of them.
Children have an amazing ability to adapt to their environment, even if that environment is in a car for several hours at a time. Here are some tips to help make your next family road trip a success.
Start your road trip in the early morning hours, between 3-5 am. Hopefully, your children will stay asleep in the car for a few hours, allowing you a stress-free head-start. We actually have begun our road trips 9-10 pm, but we found that it was a bit taxing on us adults since we were interrupting our own sleep patterns. Let the kids stay up late so they are thoroughly tired in the morning. Then take off before daybreak.
Stop Every 3-4 Hours
Stopping more often will extend your road trip too much. Taking too long to stop will tire the kids out. Every 3-4 hours is just the amount of time you will need to stretch and allow the kids to run around.
Don’t Leave Any Stone Unturned
This means don’t pass by the generic dinosaur statue sitting awkwardly in front of a roadside diner. I have yet to go on a road trip and not come across a billboard advertising caverns, ziplining, or drive-thru wilderness parks. Every stop is an opportunity for education and family photos.
Comfort is key to enduring a long car trip. Allow your kids to remain in uber-comfortable clothing. Pajamas, shorts, baggy T-shirts, even a shirt with no pants if that’s what she prefers. Whenever you need to get out of the car, have all missing items such as shoes, pants, etc. close by. My son’s shoes come off immediately when we begin a road trip.
Bring all of the electronics you can carry. Headrest DVD players, tablets, iPods, laptops– these will all come in handy when your kids are getting antsy in the back of the car. But devices shouldn’t be your only form of entertainment. Good old coloring books and those little-travel games are also great.
Pack Some Snacks
Juice boxes are amazing on a road trip. They take up very little room, and can quell a thirsty mouth without stopping. I also like to carry dried fruits, my son is a big fan of dried mangos. I don’t like to load up on too many snacks because they often go uneaten, and stopping for food is a great opportunity to stop and stretch your legs.
And Don’t Forget The…
Baby wipes, a small throw, and pillow. Baby wipes even for teenagers are a must; you can clean any mess with these things. For those that get a little chilly or need to be covered up to sleep, having a throw and pillow will add some extra comfort.