Hitting the highways for a family road trip this summer? While adventure is abundant in your future, there are also plenty of potential pitfalls — especially for those who don’t plan ahead.
With a little pre-trip planning and preparation, you can minimize issues and maximize family fun. Read on for a roundup of tips for making the most of your family road trip with kids this summer.
1. Plan your driving hours wisely
As all parents well know, kids get bored quickly. And once boredom sets in, it can quickly take over. One way to keep the backseat chorus of “Are we there yet?” to a minimum — especially if you’re traveling with babies, toddlers, and preschoolers? Drive at night while your kids sleep. This makes for a much more peaceful experience for the adult passengers in the car and may even allow for some hard-to-come-by grownup conversation. For children, this can also add to the sense of adventure: Going to sleep in one location and waking up somewhere completely different! (For safety’s sake, however, make sure the driver is well-rested.)
While middle-of-the-night departures work well for longer trips, an alternate option for shorter trips is leaving bright and early. Pack everything and load the car the night before. In the morning, grab your coffee and hit the road.
2. Take advantage of quality time with kids
We’ve all heard the saying, “Life’s about the journey, not the destination.” The same sentiment applies to road trips. Kids love attention, and there’s no better time to shower them with it than on a family road trip. From explaining where you’re going to talking about the places you’ve been, this is a perfect opportunity to connect with your children by answering their questions and encouraging them to express their thoughts and feelings.
Our favorite way to connect with kids on long drives if your family includes multiple adults? Take turns sitting in the backseat with the kids while the other drives. This not only makes chatting and playing games together easier, but you also become a buffer for feuding siblings.
3. Make it special
Family trips are rare and special occasions, so why not treat them that way? While we’re not recommending giving your kids everything they want while you’re on the road, an unexpected treat or surprise now and then can make the hours pass by much more quickly. New toys, crafts, and favorite snacks can help keep little hands happy and busy.
Just do yourself a favor by avoiding messy items. After all, you’re on vacation, too. It won’t feel like it if you’re on 24/7 cleanup duty.
4. Strive for balance
Today’s kids spend hours upon hours buried in their devices. Unfortunately, this can prevent them from interacting with other family members, taking in the sights, and realizing the full “road trip” experience. While taking away their electronics completely might lead to a mutiny, set limits instead with the parameters clearly established from the get-go. (While pleasant surprises are always welcome on a road trip, the same cannot be said of unpleasant ones.)
In addition to packing books and some electronic-free games, you’ll be surprised at the many ways your kids find to keep themselves entertained when they don’t have a smartphone or tablet to do it for them.
5. Schedule your stops
Leaving gas, food, and rest stops to chance may seem carefree and fancy-free, but it also increases the odds of hiccups and extra stops. To avoid setbacks, study your route ahead of time to find places to eat, local attractions, parks, and other pit stop spots. Playgrounds, state parks, and lakes are wonderful stops that allow kids to burn off energy after being stuck in the car for so long.
Plus, letting kids know when you’ll be stopping for breaks can help manage their expectations, so you’re not constantly fielding requests for stops.
6. Keep it comfy
The backseat of a car doesn’t have to feel like a torture chamber. Before you leave, stock up on blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, and other comfort items. Comfortable kids’ clothing is also key. The best part? With so many children’s clothing options out there, this doesn’t have to mean sweats and jeans — especially if you plan to hit the ground running when you arrive at your destination. Look for clothing in breathable cotton to keep them comfy the entire trip.
If taking a road trip with kids sounds more miserable than magical, you’re not alone. These six tips can help you keep your kids content while preserving your own sanity, too. In the process, your attitude may transition from focusing on merely surviving your family road trip to thriving on it.