Americans are known for their adventurous spirits. So much so that road tripping is one of their most favorite forms of travel. However, only brave parents can face the prospect of driving for hours with a kid (or a bunch of kids) in the back seat repeating over and over again “Are we there yet?”. Family road trips are not for the faint of heart, they say. False! Family road trips don’t need to be stressful. With some planning and preparation, more patience than usual and a good dab of good humor you can actually enjoy and not just “survive” a road trip with kids.
Get Your Car Ready
It is ideal to get your car serviced right before the road trip so that you clearly reduce the chance of unexpected nasty surprises related to your vehicle while on the road. Have the mechanic check the engine, battery, brakes and lights and that the spare wheel is in good condition. Do you know how to change a wheel? If you don’t, take your time and learn over the Internet how to do it until you’re familiarized with the process.
Take road safety seriously and don’t start your trip without a complete set of vehicle tools and ensure that you know how to use them!
Don’t forget to update your insurance policies as well!
And If You’re Renting A Car…
Whether your car is not spacious enough for spending long hours in it or it has a compact and limited boot space, sometimes your best option is to choose for a rental vehicle. No matter what car brand and model you choose, make sure it’s the one you are familiar with (opting for a van when you haven’t driven one before it’s not a good idea, believe me). To rent the best vehicle for you and your family, take into consideration how many people will be travelling in the same car, the boot space (the ampler the better), your destination and the roads that we’ll take you there. On a general basis, an SUV is a great choice for most families!
Don’t forget to invest in a car rental insurance policy. There are many options available in the market but probably you’ll find the most complete, competitive and affordable one here.
Get Enough Sleep Before The Trip
It can be really a bad idea to start your road trip after lack of sleep. Even if as parents you are used to little sleep, both the driver and copilot have to be super alert while driving so do your best to have a repairing sleep the night before.
Your children should be well rested as well so that everybody starts the road trip in the best of moods! We all know that children can be grumpy if they have had a restless night.
Have A Plan And Share It!
Once you’ve decided on your destination, grab a map (and not only Google Maps or your GPS) and look into the different road alternatives you have to get you there. Try to strike a balance between highways that allow you to reach your goal faster and have more road-side services available and the scenic ones that take you through stunning views. Have a rough estimate of how long the whole road trip will take and add a few hours to be on the safe side (and keep everybody’s expectations at bay).
It is equally important to plan pit stops wisely. Since you’ll be spending plenty of time sitting in the car without having any chance to move much, make sure that every stop you make allows you to do more than just stretch your legs. A park, open green space or playground are great ideas. Go for a walk, grab a football or frisbee, play and have fun. Grab something to eat and drink and recharge your batteries to get back into the car and continue with the trip.
Share your plan with your children. It will help them ease their anxiety a little bit and look forward to the next stop you make or the next city you visit. It’s a good idea to give them a simplified version of the route and highlight the most interesting things they’ll be able to see and enjoy during your road trip.
If Possible, Take Turns To Drive
If there are two adults in the car and both of them know how to drive, take it in turns to be behind the wheel and look after the children. It will make the journey much more relaxed and friendlier for everybody. Switching responsibilities with your spouse or partner will make the trip less tiring for the adults in charge as well.
Choose The Best Time To Drive
There’s a lot written and discussed over the best time to drive with children. Many advocate the idea of driving long stretches while the children are sleeping at night in order to avoid the “Are we there yet?” chant and make the trip shorter. However, you’ll then have to cope with fresh, well rested and fully energetic children ready to sing, talk, play and pest each other while you are tired, sleepy and not in the best of moods.
You know yourself and your family better than anyone to find the best time to drive. Remember that safety comes first, always.
Don’t Forget Snacks!
Hungry children and adults make lousy traveling companions and packing plenty of healthy snacks for everybody is the remedy against this. Pack a cooler and put water bottles and juice boxes, crackers, fruits, dried fruit, veggie straws, veggie chips… you mention! If you freeze some of the liquid, it will help to keep other things cooler and they’ll be ready to drink further into the trip. Make sure there are plenty of healthy options available at all times as it helps you limit junk food.
It’s always a good idea to prepare individual snack packs with some of your children’s favorite treats and foods such as apples, pears, grapes, popcorn, yoghurt, juice and water. It will keep children’s cravings at bay and it will give you control over what they eat whenever they are hungry!
Pack some kitchen essentials: baggies of different sizes, disposable cups, plates and cutlery and napkins.
Keep The Children Entertained
Road trips are fun and adventurous and should be a great experience for everybody. But children can be hard to please and they can easily get bored. Providing them with different entertainment options is the best way to keep them happy.
Music can be a great ally during road trips. From a playlist of family-friendly tunes for an improvised carpool karaoke or to listen to at the background while enjoying the views from the window, songs and music offer plenty of cheerful moments!
Audiobooks and podcasts can also keep older children busy and focused on something they are interested in! Use technology to your favour. Load your children’s mobile phones and tablets with their favorite games, apps and videos. As long as you previously agree on how much screen time they can have to avoid getting them over excited and don’t forget your chargers, you’re good to go.
Finally, don’t forget the traditional offline games that we’ve played for ages and that children still enjoy today: I Spy, Word Games, Scavenger Hunts, Letter Search, Number Search, coloring books, pipe cleaners, calculators, a set of Legos in a lunch-box, finger puppets, books and no-mess art materials are fantastic options.