Road trip! Depending on where you are in life, these words can excite you or instill fear in you. Taking a road trip in college might have been a lot of fun, but taking a road trip with children is a different experience. Instead of throwing a few things in a bag and throwing caution to the wind, traveling with children requires a bit of forethought to be successful.
It is important to have an idea of how long you will be traveling so that you can make sure to pack enough clothing for your children to have multiple outfits each day. Kids can be messy and you should make sure that you can keep them in fresh clothing during your travels. They will be more comfortable and so will you!
Note: Pack a set of clothing for each child in a bag that can be kept at easy reach.
When you are on the road, it is important to try and maintain a schedule that is as close to normal as possible. This will help everyone to maintain normal biorhythms. Eat meals at normal times and try to keep your diet close to normal while on the road. Sleeping during the night is especially important for children. Even if you decide to drive through the night, let the children sleep at their normal times. All of this will help to keep everyone feeling well while traveling.
Note: Keeping pillows and blankets in the car will make for more comfortable sleeping. Make sure that everyone remains properly buckled!
Boredom can set in easily for children while traveling. As interesting as the surroundings may be, they will eventually tire of looking out the window at the sights passing by. There are many ways to keep kids occupied in the car. Before you leave on your trip, you might want to let each child choose a few of their toys to bring with them. Toys that make sound or have lots of pieces should be avoided for everyone's sanity. Coloring books and crayons are great for small children and drawing paper and colored pencils are a big hit with older kids. If you have any magnets laying around the house, you can collect them together and let the kids play with them on the back of a cookie sheet. It is fun to make up stories to go along with the pictures they create.
Note: Books and video games can also be great for keeping kids entertained in the car. However, be aware that having your nose in a book during a car ride can induce motion-sickness in some people. Remind kids to look out the front window of the car every once in a while.
Surprises are a great way to keep things fresh after a days on the road. Shop the dollar store (or other inexpensive toy store) and pick out a few new toys for each child. Gift wrap them before you leave home. Hand them out half way through the trip to help stave off boredom. Remember rules about small pieces and anything that makes noises! Having something different to play with will renew their interest in their other toys as well.
Packing snacks before you leave will help you to spend less money on the road. Try to pack food items that are not too crumby to keep the mess to a minimum. Finger foods like trail mix, raisins, nuts and crackers are great. Candy that won't melt in a hot car like M&Ms, Reese's Pieces, Twizzlers, and Starburst are a nice treat as well. Make sure you pack plenty of water and replenish each day. It is less expensive to stop at a grocery store than a convenience store if you need to replenish your stores.
When packing the car, think of everything that you use on a daily basis and make sure that all needs will be covered. A fully stocked diaper bag is an important thing to have near at hand when traveling with young children. Make sure to keep a few plastic bags on hand in case anyone gets car sick. You will be glad that you did!
Assigned seating arrangements might be very important during a road trip with a lot of people. Everyone can have a seat that they know they will return to and a place to keep their things near them as well. People that tend to feel motion sick when on the road should sit where they can easily see out the front of the vehicle. Those who appreciate watching the scenery go by will want a window seat. And it is also important to make sure that people who don't get along the best are not forced to sit close together. However, it is not always possible to please everyone, so it might be necessary to rotate the seating arrangement halfway through the trip or so to keep everyone happy.
Finally, make sure to take breaks during the drive. This is important for the passengers as well as the driver. Stopping at rest areas along major highways is a good idea so that you are not required to make a purchase to use the restroom. Everyone should use the rest room when you stop - whether they "need" to or not. This will reduce the number of stops you have to take as well as (hopefully) eliminating any accidents along the way. Don't forget to let everyone get out and stretch their legs as well! Kids will especially need to run around a bit to expel some of that pent up energy. If you drive by a playground during your travels, take 15 minutes to stop and let the kids explore. They will feel better and sleep better when it is time.
Surviving a long road trip with children can be easy if you are prepared! Keep your wits about you and remember that road trips should be fun! Being in a confined space with your fellow travelers can become tiresome, but keeping everyone in good spirits will help foster fun times and happy memories.