Last week I shared five of my best tips for surviving enjoying a road trip with kids. If you missed that post, you can read it here. This week I have five more time tested tricks to having your best family road trip ever. Remember that every family is different but these really do work with my kids. Try them out and keep the ones that work for you.
Get the kids excited
Taking a family road trip is a perfect way to teach your kids to enjoy the journey. Tell them about the things that they will see and brag about the fun they will have the same way you do for the rest of your vacation. Give each kid a special job to help prepare or let them select the perfect toy for the ride. If your kids are old enough, get them to help you plan a route or look for places to stop along the way. The Roadtrippers app is great for finding weird attractions and easy enough for kids to use. Help you children understand that life isn’t just about the big destination ahead; they should also enjoy the time it takes to get there.
Turn off the electronics
Many parents think that electronics are the only reason that road trips are tolerable. I agree that they can provide a nice distraction but, just like at home, I think they should be limited. When everyone is staring at their tablets, no one is talking or seeing the amazing country out their windows. Play road games or dance to the radio. Look out the window and talk about the amazing sites. So what if a few of the 47 alligators that your four-year-old sees might have actually been logs? At least you are interacting as a family and experiencing the journey.
Don’t stop at the stops
We have a rule that everyone exercises every time we stop. Each time we get gas, all the kids get out and do jumping jacks beside the car while we pump. Most gas stations also have long sidewalks or a grassy area nearby and I make the kids race back and forth for several minutes. After all of that time sitting, kids (and grown-ups) need to move their bodies. I find that everyone feels better afterwards and is ready to handle getting back in the car. I also like to look for restaurants that have a playground or have a picnic in the park instead of hitting up a drive-thru. It may add a few minutes our travel time but I am convinced that it has added hours to my life.
Avoid sugar rushes
I know that there will always be bumps in the road but I try to set my kids up for success as much as possible. That means that sugary snacks are off limits on days we are driving. Each kid gets their own super cool water bottle that they picked out themselves and we carry a gallon jug of water in the car. I also pack healthy snacks like apples, crackers or sandwich bags of banana chips for them to munch on when they are hungry. After a few hours in the car the gas station munchies can be tempting and you may even consider rewarding a well behaved child with something sweet. Resist this urge! Otherwise 20 minutes down the road your toddler will be bouncing in her car seat while another child screams, your husband cries and you consider burning down the convenience store that provided your family with the dreaded sugar rush and subsequent crash.
Create road trip rituals
Vacations are a great time to throw out the usual rule book. Find something special that you only do while driving. It could be a certain game or random dance parties. I Like to play a game I call scan dancing. Simply put the radio on scan and dance to everything that comes on. Last year I started reading the Boxcar Children to our kids whenever it was my husband’s turn to drive. Those stories became a wonderful part of our trip as we explored the country. One of the highlights of the vacation was sitting by the beach eating blueberries in cream like Benny did at his birthday. We save that series for vacations because it is part of our family’s tradition. The little rituals that you design now will help create memories that your kids will cherish for years and are part of what makes a family road trip so special.
(Bonus tip) Know your limits.
Even with the best planning and perfect children, assuming those actually exist, there is a limit to how many hours you can handle the car or what you can take. Figure out how many hours of driving you can realistically handle and don’t push yourself past that. When everyone starts to get frazzled, find a local park and get out of the car for a little while. Even if you arrive at your destination a little later than planned, that short reset can make a world of difference in your traveling experience.
Enjoy the ride
If your family is like mine, you are over-scheduled and overtired. We try to have family dinners or connect between appointments but maintaining a connection can be hard no matter how much you love the people around you. The best thing about a family road trip is that you are given hours of uninterrupted time to talk and just be together. Do what you can to set your kids up for success and then embrace the adventure. You may actually find that you enjoyed the journey as much if not more than the destination.
I would love to hear your tricks for road-tripping and how you put these to use on your own adventures. You can comment below or we can continue the conversation on Facebook. Happy driving!
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