Family road trips offer opportunities for parents and kids to spend uninterrupted time together, making memories that will last a lifetime. That’s the plus side. The other side of the coin is that your entire family will be together, every single moment, for extended periods of time, which can get a bit unnerving. Proper planning is essential if you hope to look back on your road trip with fondness.
Getting Ready to Go
Before loading up the family and heading down the road, be sure that your vehicle is in sound condition. Schedule an oil change and have the car looked over to be sure that the brakes and tires are in good shape, all exterior lights are functioning, and all systems are working properly. Not only is this important to ensure the safety of your family, it may just save you from spending an entire day (or longer) with a broken-down car and a very grouchy family.
When packing your bags, allow each child to bring a favorite toy or two. If your kids have a security blanket or other comfort object, be absolutely certain that it comes along for the trip. You will surely regret leaving “Bumpy the dinosaur” back at home once you are well down the road and your child begins whining that she wants to go home because Bumpy will be lonely all by himself. Check and double check that you have all of the essentials before leaving. You can always pick up new toothbrushes if you forget to pack them, but Bumpy is irreplaceable.
Keep them Busy
Bored kids will soon turn into grumpy kids, especially when they are confined in the car. Try to head off the boredom by packing a variety of travel-sized games, books, magazines, books on tape, hand held video games, headsets and some favorite CDs. Additionally, keep everyone entertained by playing some traditional road trip games. Here are a few ideas:
- Begin a story and then ask other members to take turns adding a line or two to complete the tale. Whenever it is your turn, try to give the story a silly twist to keep everyone giggling and in good spirits.
- License plates can offer simple entertainment. Take turns making up silly nicknames for the other cars based on the letters on the license plates.
- Sing-alongs can be fun, choose familiar tunes and ask everyone to join in.
Games and small toys should help to keep them occupied for a while, but sooner or later, their patience will run thin. Take regular breaks to allow everyone to use the bathroom and get some exercise. You’ll keep the entire group happy by giving them a chance to stretch out and burn off some energy.
Get them Involved
Although you have probably plotted out your entire agenda, make room for and encourage suggestions from your children regarding holiday activities. They are more likely to be enthusiastic and cooperative if they’ve had some say in the planning. Also, be as flexible as possible once you are on the road. If you see something interesting, take the time to stop and explore. Unless you absolutely have to be at your destination at a certain time, be spontaneous. You’ll all enjoy the trip more that way.
Relax the Rules
One of the joys of going on holiday is letting go of your regular routine and leaving stress behind. This is the perfect time to bend the rules a bit and your kids will love you for it. Bedtimes don’t need to be enforced and although you don’t want to feed everyone a steady diet of fast food, it is okay to ease up a bit on the nutritional guidelines that you follow at home. Pack some healthy snacks such as fresh fruit and whole grain crackers, but be sure that the week’s menu also includes an ice cream or other family favorites. There will plenty of broccoli once you are back home; for now, let them indulge a bit.
Are We There Yet?
If you have more than one child in the back seat, you will undoubtedly be forced to settle a small argument or two along the way. Sooner or later, one child will begin to irritate another and in turn, will probably irritate you, as well. When you are hearing cries of, “he touched me” or “she looked at me,” maybe it’s time to take a break. Pull off the road for a while, get some snacks, or maybe even call it a day. The goal isn’t getting there in record time or packing every minute with activities — the most important thing about a family road trip is fun. Make sure you have some.