If you have children, then it is likely that at one time or another, you have had the joy of taking a road trip with them. Depending on their age and distance traveled, it is safe to assume that much of that trip included some whining and a challenge to keep them entertained.
If your kids were younger, you may have even contemplated taking them out of their car seat to soothe their complaints, but states have strict laws in place, like Mississippi car seat laws. Keeping your kids safe in the event of a car accident is a parent’s first priority. So, feeding them candy and chips was your only option.
You may have tried everything in your arsenal to keep them still and quiet for the duration of the car ride, but failed miserably. Maybe you even packed their favorite toy and favorite movie hoping it would keep them occupied. But without fail, the car seat was just too uncomfortable and their bladders just too small to ride it out.
Keep in mind when planning your road trip that no one likes to travel in a tin can. The size of your vehicle does matter, as does the number of passengers and how much luggage you are taking. This is important to consider when you have small children.
If you have to pack everything, but the kitchen sink for your children, then traveling in a two-door car is not going to be a pleasant experience for anyone. Here are a few tips for making the next road trip with your kids a little easier for the whole family:
Download Mobile Apps And Games
If your family likes to listen to music as they travel, make sure you have apps like Pandora or Spotify that will allow you to listen to kid-friendly music. Besides, it will keep you from having to shuffle through channels of static when driving in rural areas. Let your children help you pick out the playlist in advance.
YouTube videos are also a way to keep your children entertained. Download stories to your iPad before your trip, and let the children listen to stories. Let the kids watch cartoons on your cell phone or play games. Get creative. Technology today provides the ability to entertain kids for hours.
Buy New Travel Toys
Well in advance of the trip, ask your children to help you find some road trip toys that they want to save for the car ride. Let them know that you will be packing those toys for now, then go ahead and put them away somewhere. They will get more enjoyment out of playing with toys that they have not seen in a while then toys they may play with daily.
You can also consider purchasing toys and keeping them hidden until the trip. This is a fun way to kick off a road trip and get your children excited about what is ahead.
Make sure you pack toys that are not a choking hazard to avoid an emergency. The fewer pieces you pack, the better. Make sure the toys are not messy such as markers or playdoh. Try card games, coloring books, dolls, or toy cars.
Games like Mad Libs or Travel Bingo are also popular choices. When all else fails, you can pull out classic car games like “I Spy” or the License Plate Game.
Pack Travel Snacks And Schedule Food Stops
Even though you are on vacation, you still want to keep it as healthy as possible. While a couple of meals at a fast-food restaurant may be in the plan, there are ways to eat and be healthy while traveling.
Plan for your meals in advance, and pack a cooler. Be sure to include fun snacks for the ride. This will also save you money and help you to be a little more frugal on your vacation.
Taking a vacation does not have to break the bank, but if you eat every meal out at a restaurant it just might.
Make sandwiches and cut them into shapes for the kids. You could even use cookie cutters for a variety of shapes. Bring crackers, fruit, and veggies like carrots, cucumber slices, and celery sticks. Pretzels are also a great travel snack, and so are cheese sticks.
Trail mix is fun and can be made in advance using dehydrated fruits, nuts, pretzels, and chocolate morsels. It is versatile, because you can add anything your children love.
The great thing about packing provisions for the road is that you have control over what goes in the food you pack if you make and take. There are so many possibilities to pack easy, nutritious snacks to help you avoid the fast-food drive-thru when traveling.
Let your children help plan the snacks and meals, so they can get excited about it.
Travel During Naps Or Nighttime
A travel trick that my family learned early on was to travel during times when the kids would normally be sleeping. Sometimes that meant traveling at night, but it was so much calmer and stress-free than when they were awake and bored. So, plan your trip according to their nap or bedtime sleep schedule.
Try not to travel during rush hour. Getting caught in traffic is unpleasant enough without small children, but it is definitely worse with them. Check out road conditions in advance, so that you know of any potential hazards such as construction or road closures that may impact your travel. It is a good idea to check the weather forecast as well, in case you are caught unawares by bad storms.
Build Up The Excitement For The Trip
Make sure you are building up to the trip beforehand. Explain where you plan to go and create a countdown calendar to create excitement. Each day allow the kids to check off one more day closer to the trip.
Include your children in the planning stages. Get input on places they would want to visit and the things they want to experience. Talk about plans for the road letting them know what to expect as far as being in the car. Discuss ways to save money and take a frugal vacation.
If your children are fully informed about the trip and are allowed to take some ownership in planning, they may enjoy the journey to the destination a little bit more.
Robyn Flint writes and researches for the auto insurance comparison site, AutoInsurance.org. She is a licensed realtor, freelance travel writer, published author, and entrepreneur. Robyn is the mother of three and grandmother of three.