As a family of six, we always try to travel the most cost-effective way. This typically means embarking on road trips, rather than flying to our destination. A road trip, with or without children, may seem like a daunting start to a much-needed relaxing vacation. However, with a few tips from me, a self-appointed road-trip master mom, it can be a wonderful way to start your vacation.
Over the past 15 years, my family and I have tackled numerous road trips. We have driven to our destinations with toddlers, grade-schoolers, and teenagers. Although it is important to adapt to each age group, there are a few constants. For the smoothest road trip adventure, the following six tips have proven very useful:
1. FAVORITE FOODS
While packing a cooler is a perfect option for drinks, yogurts, cheese, and fruit, it also helps to have snack-packs made up for each child with their favorite treats. With teenagers, we use shower baskets with suction cups that adhere to the window of their seat for self-service.
Make certain all electronics are charged. Store extra power banks in the glove compartment for emergencies. Upload movies to devices or rent along the way. There are so many streaming services that provide endless hours of entertainment.
3. COMFORT ITEMS
Blankets, small neck pillows, noise-canceling headphones, and eye masks should all be within easy reach for all passengers. For little ones, don’t forget their favorite stuffed animal. I’ve found that my kids have difficulty sleeping in the car once the sun starts shining through the windows, so I purchased lightweight eye masks so they can sleep without being bothered. These are also helpful at nighttime to block distractions from their sibling’s device lights.
Noise-canceling headphones are perfect when someone wants to sleep and others are still talking or listening to music. They are also helpful when kids have their own devices, and each wants to listen/play something individually.
4. BUSY BAG
Busy bags are great when kids need a break from technology. For younger children, new crayons and coloring books, stickers, matching games, and threading crafts are a great option. For older children, I suggest Rubik’s cubes, Sudoku, Word Searches, and puzzles. Make sure each child’s busy bag is within their own reach so that they can independently grab an activity when they become bored.
5. STOP OFTEN
Stretch the legs, use the bathroom, and grab more snacks with every stop. If you have younger children, plan to eat at a restaurant with a play zone inside so they can expend some energy. Chick-Fil-A is one of my family’s favorites.
6. PLAY GAMES
Get creative and interact with the kids. Our family favorites are “Race from A-Z” and “I-Spy.” For “Race from A-Z,” all the passengers in the car must pay attention to the road signs and find signage in alphabetical order. The first one to reach “Z” is the winner. “I-Spy” is especially fun for younger children. One person will “spy” an item outside and give a hint about what they see. It’s up to the other passengers to look outside and figure out what it is.
These tips will absolutely help when traveling with your family. But of course, parents have a few extra steps to take before the perfect trip begins. Once the road trip destination has been determined, map the course. We use the Waze app for directions, in conjunction with a hard copy of a AAA TripTik routing. Be sure to search the best times to travel to avoid major city peak travel times. Make certain the oil has been changed and the gas tank is full.
You are now set to hit the road. Realize that no trip will be perfect no matter how you travel, but the more prepared you are, the more everyone in your family will enjoy the drive.