So, it’s time to travel, and what’s more adventurous than an old-fashioned family road trip? The success of your journey depends on what’s actually the adventure: taking in the fresh scenery or dealing with backseat chaos. Travelling with children is definitely a challenge, but doesn’t have to be a migraine-in-the-making if adequate preparations are made.
Just kidding – your kids are not your enemies. However, it is important to consider known behavioral issues before embarking on that cross-country drive. Identify the incentives for good behavior that normally work, and brainstorm how to expand upon them.
Setting the Scene is Important
Children pick up on the attitude of the adults around them. If you project excitement and positivity for the road trip, it is likely they will as well. Even if you are secretly dreading the experience, do not allow it to become evident.
Protect Your Nerve Bank
Just as it’s important to monitor your kids’ stress, anxiety, and discomfort, you need to keep an eye on yours too. What will help you stay sane in the event that things go awry? Promise yourself a relaxing spa visit upon arrival at your destination or indulge in your favorite drinks and snacks during the drive.
Keep Your Environment Clean
Make a point to remove all trash and tidy up clutter at every rest stop – the clean surroundings will help you keep your cool along the way. If you bring a book, be prepared for the likelihood that you may not be able to read undisturbed. Occupy yourself with activities that can easily be resumed after numerous distractions.
Plan for the Worst
Delays and unexpected breakdowns can create a nightmare above all expectations. What will you do if your air conditioner breaks down in the middle of summer? Do you have a plan to occupy tired toddlers if you get stuck in traffic?
Carry emergency comfort supplies to use in the event of catastrophe. Battery-operated fans and extra water are necessities to keep the peace in a hot environment. Extra blankets will help keep your little ones warm during the winter so you can focus on getting back on the road.
Eliminate “The Question”
There is one question that has caused undisputed aggravation in the history of road
trips: are we there yet? Get creative with your answers, and provide ways for your older kids to keep track of your progress. A GPS is a great way to keep your backseat drivers up-to-date. Kids love seeing the tiny cartoon car coast down the highway, knowing how fast you are driving, and having a live countdown of the time remaining on the trip.
If you do not have a GPS, or are uncomfortable with letting your kids get a hold of anything electronic, create a simple laminate board for them to use. Insert a map in a plastic page protector, highlight mini-destinations along the way, and have them cross off cities as you pass through them.
Road trips are the perfect occasions to let your kids indulge in treats they typically do not get. Be sure to keep a handle on their sugar intake, or you will be in for a nasty surprise. Individual-sized dips are great for chips and veggies, and sugar-free candy or gum will help keep thirst at bay.
With every snack that you bring, assess the potential messiness before packing it. For yogurts and applesauce, try cutting straws in half and poking them through the foil lid. Pack food in small, spill-resistant containers. Bring along wet wipes and paper towels for the possibility that something will spill.
Bring Unique Activities
While packing a child’s favorite toy is a no-brainer, introducing new toys and activities will help foster some serious road trip excitement. Wrapping inexpensive toys to open along the way will help keep poor behavior in check by giving your little ones something to look forward to.
Limit the number of crayons and markers allowed in the backseat – this is not the time to bring along that 200 piece set they received on their birthday. A cookie sheet is a great multi-purpose tool for entertainment. Cover one side with white contact paper to make a DIY dry erase board, or use chalkboard paint for those that can’t be trusted in the car with markers.
Have you ever survived a road trip with children? Share your own hacks below!