Planning a road trip can be stressful no matter what, and even more so if you’re taking kids along for the ride. Even so, the great American road trip is an iconic way to see parts of the country you might otherwise never experience, and taking an extended trip as a family can also be a ton of fun. Whether you’re making an adventure out of an extended drive or moving your family across states, traveling with kids doesn’t have to be stressful. Check out our tips for family road trips, and learn how to effectively prepare for your travels so that both you and your kids can have a good time!
Safety first: If you have small children still in need of car seats, make sure that the seat you have is still properly-sized and in good shape. Even kids who have outgrown car seats may still be slightly too small for seatbelts to work effectively. If this is the case with your children, consider seatbelt strap adjusters. Our friends at Robert’s Chrysler tell us that these adjusters can reposition a seatbelt to better protect smaller children and more adequately secure them. Many are also lightly padded, which may make seatbelts more comfortable over extended rides.
Plan together: Even if you already have a set destination, take some time to talk over your route with your kids. You can research attractions along the way together, and let them help decide where you might want to get out of the car and explore for a while. Being a part of the planning process will make your children feel more like they’re choosing to go on the trip, which can go a long way if you have fussy travelers who are hard to sell on trips outside of their comfort zone. It will also help fight boredom if you have destinations along the route that the kids can look forward to and get excited for.
Take bedtime with you: Even if you’re planning on stopping at hotels or other lodgings along the way for overnight stays, chances are your kids will end up sleeping in the car for at least a little while. You can make this easier on them by bringing along comforts like their favorite blanket or stuffed animal, as well as some pillows. If you’re driving through the night and having your child sleep in the back seat, try to recreate the bedtime routine as much as possible. Whoever is in the passenger seat can read a bedtime story, or you could play peaceful music or white noise to cancel out some of the unfamiliar road sounds.
Don’t rush: Make sure you take plenty of time to pull over and get out of the car. Rushing to your destination can be stressful for everyone, and spending too long in the car without breaks to stretch your legs and get some fresh air is a recipe for grumpy passengers and a cranky driver. Even if you have planned rest stops along your route, sometimes your passengers will get antsy off schedule, and you’ll need to call an audible and find somewhere to pull over. Instead of just ushering your family out of the car and having them end up sitting right back down at a picnic table or on a bench, bring along a frisbee or ball and get everyone moving. Some light exercise will get your blood pumping and help brighten everyone up. It might also wear out the kids a little, and long stretches of drive go by faster for them if they can take a nap!
Don’t forget snacks: While you’ll want to plan plenty of pit stops along your drive, you don’t want to have to pull over every time somebody get a little hungry. Keep a cooler stocked with water, juice boxes, and east to eat snacks. Beware of potentially messy foods like pudding or apple sauce (the last thing you want on a road trip is a back seat splattered with sugary goop), and opt for things you can pre-portion into plastic baggies, such as carrot sticks, goldfish crackers, or cheerios. No matter how much you prepare, chances are you’ll still end up with a bit of a mess in the back seat, so bring along baby wipes and paper towels for quick clean ups on the go.
Traveling with kids can be a big undertaking, but it can also be a fun and rewarding experience. Instead of worrying about what could go wrong, take some proactive steps to make sure that your family road trip will be comfortable and enjoyable for both you and you kids!