How to Survive Road Tripping With Kids
Posted by: Dan on 15/04/2015
Road tripping with kids is a great way to create family memories, but, if you aren’t prepared, it can also be a sanity-compromising challenge. The key is planning ahead. Not only will you need to make sure your car is up-to-date on its maintenance, you’ll want to brainstorm a few strategies ahead of time to help keep your kids happy and entertained.
Check out the following ideas to help make your trip enjoyable for every member of your family:
Tip #1 - Hit the road early
If you have older kids, they may not like to wake up early. But if you can rouse them out of bed at 5:00AM and get on the road right away, you can get in a good three or four hours of uninterrupted driving before anybody’s really awake. By the time everybody’s ready for breakfast, you’ll have completed half your day’s driving. Assuming you’re driving no more than eight hours in the day, you’ll arrive at your destination in the early afternoon, and your kids will be ready to hit the ground running.
Tip #2 - Let kids sit in front for a while
If you have two adults in the car, switch between driving and sitting the back seat. While it’s not fun to sit in the back as an adult, you can help keep your kids occupied by taking turns and having them sit up front. They’ll appreciate the chance to help navigate and will enjoy seeing a different perspective from the car.
As a note, though, if your children are young, safety should be your top priority. Car seat laws vary by state and territory, but as a general rule, kids age four and under require a special child safety seat. Older children may still require a booster seat, and may be safer riding in the back than in the front.
Tip #3 - Let your kids plan a stop or two
While you’re travelling, it’s fun to stop spontaneously to enjoy the sites and destinations you find along the road. An even better approach is to let your kids choose an activity or two ahead of time. When they have a stake in selecting your outings, they’ll enjoy them more and appreciate feeling like they’re a part of the trip. At the same time, they’ll likely behave better because they know that you’re listening to them and their requests.
Tip #4 - Pack simple, healthy snacks
Kids get hungry at odd times, and you don’t want to have to pull over in the middle of nowhere and try to find snacks. With a small cooler, you pack simple foods in advance - saving you time that would otherwise be spent pulling over just to get an apple or granola bar. You’ll likely save money as well, as roadside snacks tend to be much more expensive than their grocery store counterparts.
Simply put, the more prepared you are, the happier you, your kids and your wallet will be.
Tip #5 - Stop for a hike or walk
Road trips make most adults fidgety from time to time, so imagine how difficult they must be for little bodies that are used to constant motion. Lengthy stretches of driving can frustrate even the calmest of children, so you’ve got to plan ahead. To get rid of this pent up energy, make arrangements to stop for a short walk or hike during your trip. Even a 20-minute walk in the woods (or, at least, on the side of the road), will help you and your family arrive at your destination happier and more relaxed.
Tip #6 - Develop a reward system
If your kids can be unruly, you may already be using a reward system in your day-to-day life to incentivise good behaviour (although you probably also know that you don’t want to reward them too much). On the other hand, if your kids are normally relaxed and quiet, you may still want to dole out rewards to encourage them to keep it up. Rewards can be something simple, like a piece of candy, or a bigger responsibility. Letting your children choose a place to eat, for example, takes the pressure off of you, while also giving your kids something to occupy their minds.
Tip #7 - Play games
If you can get everybody to turn off their digital devices, it can be a lot of fun to play games in the car. As example, try to find a license plate from every region or play the alphabet game, which involves spotting objects outside the car that begin with each letter of the alphabet. You’ll have fun and your kids will learn something new. It’s a win-win compared to just watching a movie or playing on a phone.
Tip #8 - Don’t eat meals in the car
While it’s great to have an apple or slice of cheese on hand to prevent snack stops, it’s best to avoid eating meals in your car. For the sake of keeping your car clean and having a little fun, try to eat at restaurants (or in a park, if budget is a concern). By doing so, you’ll not only keep your car clutter-free, you’ll enjoy getting to see new sites along the way. Getting out of your vehicle every once and a while will save you and your family time, money and headaches.
Tip #9 - Avoid the wrong foods
Can you think of anything worse than packing your kids full of soda and sugary foods, and then strapping them into the car for a long road trip? Of course not! Not only are they going to be stuck bouncing off the walls, the crash they’ll experience after the sugar rush will cause them to fall asleep at the worst possible time - like, the minute you pull into your hotel or campground.
Preparing healthy snacks ahead of time comes to the rescue again. Having healthy snacks and water (or juice with minimal amounts of sugar) will help give your kids a steady stream of energy throughout the day.
Tip #10 - Stay at a place for more than one day
If you’re used to adult-only road trips that let you drive for days at a time, you know how tempting it can be to want to keep on driving and see new places every day. But, if you want to keep everyone happy - including your kids - you should consider staying more than one night at some locations. Not only will doing so help you to enjoy your time more and see more along the way, but you won’t get burned out, and your kids won’t grow bored or frustrated sitting in the car all day.
Taking a road trip with your kids can be a great time, but you’ve got to go out of the way to make sure they have fun. If you ignore the ten tips above, you’re in for some long days on the road!
Do you have any other tips for road tripping with kids? Share your recommendations by leaving a comment below: