Perhaps, in your younger days, your image of a road trip involved a convertible, a mix tape, spontaneity and the open road. And, sure, that was a good time. But if you’ve got a spouse and a couple of kids, chances are that’s not quite what your road trips look like any more.
Whether you want to save money on airfare or give your children a glimpse of the countryside, road trips can be a blast with the whole family. That is, assuming you’ve planned it out thoroughly.
Here are a few tips to make sure your family vacation is safe and fun:
Plan, plan, plan
Gone are the days that you can drive until you find a campsite or hotel that suits your fancy. When kids are involved, it’s much more important to make a plan and stick to it. First and foremost, make sure your kids understand what they’re getting into – especially the younger ones. Tell them how long you’ll be driving each day, when you’ll be stopping for lunch and what your expectations are for them.
As for your trip, make sure you know where your nightly stops are going to be. The last thing you want is to be stuck on a stretch of road with a carful of wailing kids searching for a place to stay that doesn’t resemble the Bates Motel.
You can’t be over prepared when it comes to traveling with children. Snacks, books, paper towels, water and toys are all necessities if you’re going to be traveling for long distances. Consider bringing along extra pillows – they not only make the backseat more comfortable, but they are a great make-shift wall to give each kid his or her own space.
And, on top of keeping the little ones safe, make sure your belongs are secure as well. Your roof cargo needs to be locked down to ward off break-ins while your family is having lunch or asleep in a hotel room. Smaller items should be kept secure to – a portable safe or laptop locks are both good ways to keep those with sticky fingers from getting their hands on your valuables.
Travel around their schedule
It’s much easier to drive with a couple sleeping kids than those who need to be constantly entertained. So, if you have kids that are still napping, plan your trip around their schedule. If you leave a little bit before lunch time, they can eat in the car – which should occupy them for a little while – and then be snoozing in no time. Do your best to get as many miles in as possible while they sleep.
Consider seating arrangements
Depending on the age and number of kids you have, it’s not a bad idea to shuffle the seating arrangements around throughout the trip. Letting Junior – assuming he’s old enough – ride shotgun is a great way to shake things up and ward off arguments that can devolve into full-on meltdowns.
Plan family activities
There is no shortage of car games the whole family can play and make the hours zip by. Old standbys like I Spy or 20 Questions are great for kids of all ages. That being said, eight-straight hours of just about anything can get tiresome, so consider some individual activities as well. Audio books are a great way to quietly pass the time, and there are plenty of options that are enjoyable for both kids and adults. Hand-held video games and portable DVD players are another handy way to occupy the little ones while the parents get some much-needed quiet time.