A cross-country road trip with your children in the back seat might sound like a daunting prospect – and one that only the bravest of parents would have the nerve to undertake. Screaming and crying on the motorway, endless distractions from the road, and that near constant query: “Are we there yet?” It might seem easier just to stay at home.
But a vacation with kids needn’t be so stressful. Travel is a wonderful experience for children and its benefits far outweigh any of the aforementioned pitfalls. It makes them more curious and interested in the world around them and helps to lift them out of their comfort zones. It will shape them into more adventurous adults, and they will become much more tolerant and respectful of other people and cultures as a result. As a family, traveling together will help you strengthen bonds and get to know each other better. Bottom line: You’ll create fantastic memories that will last a lifetime and you’ll fondly remember for decades to come.
If you have the opportunity to travel with your kids then you should snap up the chance whenever you can. And don’t let it fill you with anxiety. As long as you plan ahead and adopt the right strategies, you and your children will have a brilliant time on your stress-free holiday.
Here are eight practical tips for planning a successful – and less stressful – road trip with children.
Get the kids involved in the planning
Once you have children, holidays are not just for you. They’re for the benefit of the whole family. If you spend two weeks dragging your children around museums and historical monuments, they’re going to become difficult. For this reason, it’s a good idea to get your kids involved in the planning process from the very start. This will help them to get more excited about their upcoming holiday and will be less likely to kick off in the backseat. Ask for their input on activities they’d like to do while traveling. You could even ask them to help you choose between two different hotels or campsites.
Start a savings account
Money is often the most stressful part of any holiday. You need to keep to a budget but you always end up overspending. You don’t need your finances to add to your already-extensive list of worries, so try starting up a holiday savings fund well in advance. This way you will have more money at your disposal when you start making reservations, and a clearer idea of how far your money will take you.
Keep them busy
Road trips can be boring at the best of times, but especially for children. Your little ones will probably have little interest in looking out the window and marveling at the beautiful landscapes passing them by. Therefore it’s a good idea to keep them busy through other methods to prevent them from complaining throughout the whole journey. You don’t want to rot their brains by letting them stare at phones and iPads for the duration, so try and think up some more wholesome activities. Load up the car with plenty of books and puzzles to keep their minds busy, and come up with a list of car games you can all play together as a family. This should make the miles fly by, and everyone will arrive at their destination a lot happier.
Get your car checked
The last thing you want is for your car to break down in the middle of nowhere with your children in the back. This will ruin all your plans, and immediately give your kids a negative impression of the trip. For this reason, you should make sure your vehicle is in good condition before setting off. Take it in for a full service to make sure there are no glaring issues that need fixing. If there’s anything that’s been bothering you about your car, now is the time to get it sorted. Consider replacing worn wheels and tyres or getting that long-overdue oil change.
Schedule stops on the way
If you have a long drive to your destination, it’s wise to schedule some interesting stops along the way. Rather than taking the most direct route, consider planning a more scenic journey with some interesting landmarks and attractions on the way. Beautiful natural landscapes, interesting buildings, and delicious restaurants are all good options. You could even consider creating a map of your journey to give to your kids so they can have fun tracking your progress along the route.
Get them moving
Sitting for hours on end in the back seat of a car can be incredibly uncomfortable, and your children will inevitably start complaining before long. Make sure you have plenty of stops to allow them to let off some steam. If there are some parks or rest areas along the way, try stopping to let them run around and play some games for a few minutes. You could even pack a frisbee or a football to help you out.
Pack plenty of snacks
One surefire way to stop children from getting bored is to give them something to eat. By packing plenty of snacks, you’ll keep them occupied for longer and will have a way of keeping them quiet when they start getting on your nerves. You don’t want snacks that will make a mess in your car like chocolate, so pack things like fresh fruit, chips, candy, and carrot sticks.
Consider stopping en route
Driving for 12 hours nonstop might be the quickest way to get to your destination, but it guarantees everyone will arrive, tired and irritable, including yourself. For long journeys, consider breaking them up with an overnight stop en route. This might be a more expensive solution, but it will prevent your kids from getting frustrated and you can continue on your journey the next morning feeling refreshed and recharged.
In conclusion, a road trip with your kids in tow can be a fantastic way to explore the world and make memories with your family. And as long as you take steps to keep them interested and engaged, you can be sure that you and your children will have a brilliant time.