Here we are in the midst of “summer driving season,” as it’s known in the travel industry, with about eight in 10 travelers driving to a summer getaway destination, according to AAA.
If you’re driving with children, you know that even a few hours in the car require advanced parenting skills. Try these tips to make your summer road trip more fun for everyone involved!
Safety first. Check your toddlers’ car seats to ensure they’re properly installed, and untwist straps for increased comfort and peace of mind. No matter how old your passengers, every vehicle needs an emergency kit. Make sure you have the basics like jumper cables, an inflated spare tire, lug wrench, and jack, a warning light or hazard triangle, bottled water, tire pressure gauge, flashlight, first aid kid, and road atlas.
Be prepared for anything. Think ahead about the kinds of things that could go wrong. Depending on the age of your child, you might need extra diapers and wipes. Extra Band-Aids. Extra snacks. An extra change of clothes, for you and your child. This post at Simply Preparing gives great guidelines for collecting items for an emergency road trip kit.
Prepare your kids for anything. Talk to them ahead of time about what to expect on a long car ride. Yes, they will be in the car for a long time. Yes, everyone might get a little grouchy as the trip rolls on. Yes, you’ll plan fun stops and treats along the way. Give each child a small tote bag and help them find a variety of toys, books, and activities to bring on the trip. Setting expectations can make a big difference, but most importantly, if you treat the trip as a big adventure, your kids are more likely to, as well.
Don’t drive sleepy. Many parents are tempted to set off in the middle of the night, thinking young children will sleep through the trip. Unless you’ve taken a long nap beforehand, this idea backfires. Even setting aside the obvious safety concerns, there’s no guarantee the kids will sleep, and your own sleep deprivation means frazzled nerves. No one will have fun if you start the trip cranky!
Stay organized. Sometimes it’s easy to pick out a family on a long trip based on the litter in the car. Keep your kid’s toys organized by hanging a shoe organizer over the front seat and fill it with stuff you know your child will need—sippy cup, crayons, DVDs, small toys. Don’t forget a trash bag!
Snack and Awe. Snacks are an excellent way to keep kids (and adults) happy during a long road trip. A road trip is a great time to let your kids have a snack they’re rarely allowed to have at home. Here’s another fun idea: Find a plastic box with dividers (like a small tackle box or craft storage box) and fill each section with a different snack choice, anyything from Cheerios and Goldfish to raisins and nuts. Pack some of these 25 Road Trip Snacks for Kids and you’ll be the road trip MVP!
Get the most out of your stops. Be prepared to stop more frequently than you did in your single days. Instead of stopping exclusively at gas stations and drive-thrus, take your breaks at parks and rest stops, and allow the kids a few minutes for fresh air and exercise.
Don’t be stingy with the screen time. Road trips are a good time to relax the rules about screen time, too. Getting to use a tablet or portable DVD player can be a nice reward along the way, and it will make the miles pass faster for everyone. Do yourself a favor and preview your kid’s entertainment choices, not just for suitability but your own sanity—some cartoon voices can drive a driver up the wall. Continental Kid’s Pinterest board has a slew of amazing kids’ apps and ideas for traveling with kids.
Appoint a junior navigator. Give your child a map of the trip, and mark your route so they can follow along. You might even want to parse out treats based on certain milestones you’ve passed, or encourage your children to mark their favorite stops with a sticker or note. If nothing else, it should keep the “Are we there yet?” questions to a minimum. Creekside Learning gives easy-to-follow instructions to create an interactive “Where are we going?” map.
Leave the kids be for awhile. In the early going, you might be tempted to entertain, but see what happens when the kids fend for themselves. Then, when things start to melt down, you haven’t yet exhausted your energy supply. And if your child stays occupied with a favorite book or the family tablet, know when to leave well enough alone.
Celebrate the journey. Help your kids find the joys of road travel along the way: A funny town name. Spying the license plate from the farthest-away state. Family games or songs to pass the time. Finding a local restaurant in a small town you’ve never heard of. Enjoying the scenery along the way! If you celebrate the little details, your children will learn to find the joy in travel, too.
Here are even more tips and tricks to road trip success:
Road Trip Survival Guide: Don’t leave home without our kid-friendly tips from BabyCenter.com
Best Road Trip Ideas from ItsAlwaysAutumn.com
10 Tips to Surviving Road Trips with Kids from kveller.com
Safe travels to you!