A long-distance road trip with the kids isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s often the only practical choice to get your gang from point A to point B. If you’re planning on traveling with your children this summer, try these tips for keeping your children happy and entertained so that you arrive at your destination with a minimum of frazzle.
1. Hungry and overtired children don’t travel well.
Make sure everyone in the family is well-rested and fed before starting your journey. It often backfires to try and tire out a child in the hopes they sleep through the trip, and you wind up with fussy, whiny children and frustrated, exhausted parents. Not only is this unpleasant, it can also be dangerous.
Likewise, it’s tempting to travel through the night; however, many experts advise against this, as the risks of sleepy parents driving is not inconsiderable ― up to 60 percent of highway accidents can be attributed to drowsy driving. If you must drive overnight, do so with a partner, and make sure both front seat passengers stay alert and awake the entire time and avoid medications that can make you tired.
Bring plenty of snacks and drinks and plan on taking time to stop to eat, use the restroom and stretch your legs. Your trip might take longer this way, but it’s bound to be much more enjoyable.
2. Use screen time judiciously.
In small amounts, it can be quite entertaining and make the time fly by for your children. Too much, and you’ve got a meltdown on your hands. You can relax your usual screen time rules for the journey, but don’t let things get out of hand, especially if your child has proven himself or herself prone to meltdowns after too much screen time in the past. In fact, if your child has reacted poorly to video games or excessive videos in the past or has never experienced them, it’s probably more prudent to avoid them altogether.
3. Look for travel versions of popular board games that your child can play alone or with siblings and parents.
A wooden Memory game is a good choice for the preschool set, and Hangman is easy for children to play with parents while sitting in the backseat. It’s a good idea to choose games that your child is familiar with, as the road isn’t generally conducive to figuring out how to play a new game.
Don’t forget old favorites such as I Spy, the alphabet game or 20 Questions that don’t require any equipment to play. Before your trip, prepare yourself by packing a small bag with your travel games as well as a printed list of traditional car games ― including the rules.
4. Be prepared!
Make sure that each family member has a full change of clothes in an easy-to-access place along with diapers, wipes, Pull-Ups or any other personal care items you’ll be sure to need. Hand sanitizer or wipes will serve well to clean your hands without running water before you eat. A first aid kit with bandages and over the counter medicines for common remedies is also very useful, as you can’t count on finding children’s medications at highway rest stops.
Knock on wood that you’ll never need it, but be sure that your car is equipped with an emergency kit fully stocked for the climates you’ll be traveling in. It might not keep your kids happier and easier to travel with, but it could save your life.
5. Take advantage of the time together to bond as a family.
Sing silly songs. Tell embarrassing stories about your childhood. Take turns talking about your hopes and dreams. A box of conversation starters can be a good way to get the ball rolling, especially for children who need a bit of prompting to engage in conversation. You might be surprised at how fast the time flies when you are having a good conversation with the people that you love.
If your children aren’t old enough for “real” conversation yet, you can still have quite a bit of fun singing songs, trading animal noises back and forth or even just blowing raspberries at each other.
6. Books are a time-honored way to while away travel time.
But be aware that some kids and adults experience extreme car sickness if they attempt to read in a moving vehicle.
Come prepared with books on CD or downloaded to your iPad. If possible, look for a story that is appropriate for all members of the family so that you can enjoy it together.