You've dreamed up and planned a fantastic vacation with your family and plan to go on a road trip! As the trip gets closer and closer you realize that you must have been insane to think it was a good idea to take your children on a road trip!! Let's face it, kids are not all that patient. They need to be entertained and they need to be able to run free. Confinement in a car for long periods of time is not exactly their idea of a good time.
Motion Sickness, Anyone?
The first thing you need to do is assess the risk of any of your kids being car sick. A sudden bout of car sickness can ruin a car trip. I still remember the first time I realized that my youngest got car sick. It was right after she threw up all over herself and her car seat. Not a good time. If you have a little one with a tendency to get motion sickness, talk to your doctor about what medications they would suggest. Kids Dramamine and Bonine for Kids are both great options. Both are very different and have different ages that they are recommended for, so you'll definitely want to talk to your doctor or pharmacist before deciding which one is right for you.
Food and Drink
Think about how long you plan to be in the car and plan to bring enough food and drink to keep everyone happy. There is nothing worse than having to make unnecessary stops for food because you don't have what you need with you. Bring a small cooler with drinks and snacks for everyone. Don't forget a few garbage bags for clean up.
As difficult as it might seem, try to have everyone use the bathroom right before you leave. This will, hopefully, avoid restroom breaks early in your trip. Kids always need to use the bathroom at the most inopportune times, so I just plan that we will need to make more stops than I would have wanted.
- If you're lucky like I am, you have a rear entertainment system in your vehicle. SCORE! Bring movies!!! If you don't have a built in entertainment system, you have the option to bring a portable system or use an iPad or iPhone for a movie. It is always a good idea to buy a few new movies that will really hold their attention. If you select movies they've already seen, they will lose interest and that is 2 hours of peace you wasted!
- iPods, iTouch, iPads, iPhones, Kindle Fires and the many other tablets that are available these days are always a good choice. Many people can't get away with reading in the car, but there are plenty of apps that can keep kids occupied for long periods of time.
- For young children it's always a good idea to bring a coloring book and crayons.
- Travel games! Many of your kids favorite games come in the travel variety. Grab a small selection of travel games and don't tell them ahead of time. Surprises along the way will keep them excited and happy!
- Play ridiculous games while you drive. It might seem silly, but make up games as you go. Let the kids help make up the rules. You can play license plate games, looking for a specific car or car color. I like to make it even more fun and as people pass you in the car, have the kids make up a story about what you think the people in the other car are talking about or where they're going. The crazier the game, the better.
- Music! Plan ahead and have everyone pick their favorite music and make a playlist. Alternate between everyone's favorite songs so everyone is happy with what's being played.
Plan Something Fun
If your schedule permits, plan a stop along the way somewhere the kids can run and stretch their legs. Look for parks or visitor centers where there might be something to do. This will break up the trip a little bit and let them release some of their built up energy. You can try to kill two birds with one stone and use this as a restroom and food break as well.
If all else fails...
I am not above bribery. Pick a special toy, game or treat for each child and don't tell them you have it! If you are getting toward the end of your trip and they start getting antsy, whip out your toy as a little surprise sneak attack and it should get you through the last leg of your trip.
The trick to handling any difficult situation as a parent is to have as many tricks up your sleeve as possible. Always be two steps ahead! If you've tried all of the above and you are still going crazy, you might need to invest in some ear plugs! :)
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