5 Tips for Road Tripping With Kids
For some people the idea of getting on a plane for any length of time with small children is worrying, but the thought of traveling hundreds of miles by car with them is outright terrifying. However, in the days of heightened terror alerts and rising costs, the option of driving is fast becoming less a choice and more a necessity. So how do you survive the many miles and close confines of the car when you have small people on board?
Change your approach to travel
First of all, change your approach to travel. If there is somewhere you have to be by a certain time, a road trip is probably going to be stressful and a poor use of your precious vacation. Getting places fast is what airlines are for. However, if your vacation time is yours to plan, a road trip unfolds all sorts of possibilities.
Make the drive part of the vacation
Instead of trying to make great time, commit to having a great time and the road trip becomes part of the vacation, instead of the way to or from it. Then consider the ‘where’ of your trip. Keep the journey, not just the destination in mind. Depending on the age of your children, you may manage two, three or four hours in the car on any given day, so make sure there are places to stop overnight within reasonable distances along the route. If there has to be a longer day in the car, plan a two or three day stop at the other end to keep everyone fresh. If the children are younger, they may still sleep in the car. If that isn’t going to make bedtime too difficult, organize your traveling time to coincide with their nap. To avoid daytime sleeps might take some managing, perhaps a series of stops, or a trip divided by some time out of the car.
Don’t stuff them with sugar
Another approach is to have some snacks to keep everyone alert and awake. Consider packing healthy foods over sugary processed snacks. Lots of junk food may not mix well with long periods in the car, particularly for the more sensitive stomach and it may also lead to sugar highs and lows which make everyone harder to deal with. Fruit, crackers and natural cereal bars are easy choices that won’t make much mess and will keep little tummies happy. If you plan to travel through the middle of the day, a cooler with some food, a small paring knife and a set of cups makes for a cheap picnic option wherever you find a spot to pause.
I spy and other favorites
While on the road, the easy option is on-board DVDs and hand-held games, but half the point of traveling is the experience. Kids today spend a lot of time in front of screens, and you may want a DVD to fall back on while you settle in to the night’s accommodation, so don’t resort to them for the trip as well. Instead, find activities that engage the children in the trip you are on.
Old standards like I spy can be played with even young children. If they don’t know their alphabet, use colors or shapes to describe what you have spotted out the window. Another easy game is to make a list of three or four things you will likely see over the next few miles, and everyone has to spot his or her own example of each item. The first one to finish his or her ‘list’ gets to decide a new list and the game goes on. Educational toy retailers and book stores often stock more involved games and resources for traveling as a family, and a quick internet search will give you plenty of cheap alternatives.
Have kids do the planning
With older children, encourage them to take part in the planning. Get them to find out something about one of the destinations, and let them be the tour guide on that stop. Perhaps give them a budget to plan meals for one day, or dinner in a certain town. Challenge them to learn something historical, scientific or quirky about each town or region you stop in.
Traveling by car with a family doesn’t have to be something you endure miserably. With just a little planning and a new mindset, it can actually be something you enjoy. What is more, it will give you an opportunity to explore parts of the country you might otherwise miss, and can create great memories for years to come.