The beach and the pool, theme parks and camp grounds — summer is awesome! Yet the best-planned vacation can be ruined before you buckle up and leave the driveway. Road trips in the car can be a torture chamber of bickering, barfing, and “Are we there yet?!” Can driving with kids be fun instead of frustrating? Is our only hope found in headphones and tablets for all? Some of the best memories can actually come from togetherness in the car. Avoid these five speed bumps, and you can buckle up for the best family road trip ever.
Speed bump #1: Failure to Plan
Packing for any trip with kids is a big job. I’m amazed at how much our family jams into the minivan for just a week away from home. Filling the trunk is a twisted game of Tetris — every time I turn around there’s more to fit in. The problem is that in planning for the destination, we forget to pack for the drive.
Put together a stash of snacks, games, and toys. Include some conversation starters to get the family talking, like, “If you were headed for a deserted island, what three things would you bring?” Prep some music for a cheesy (and loud!) sing-along. Download an audio book, and stop for gas right at the most suspenseful parts! Give everybody a small pillow and lap blanket so they can cozy up and maybe even nap. Laugh it up with a Laugh-Out-Loud joke book so it never gets boring.
Speed bump #2: Sick and Sloppy
There’s nothing like a carsick kid to wreck the fun of a road trip. Help out everybody’s tummy by limiting sugary snacks and screen time. Keep the temp a little low, and crack windows even if it puts a dent in the gas mileage. Pass on the bacon burger with onions to keep food odors away. Let your most sensitive kiddo buckle up by a window with a view of the road outside.
Keep motion-sickness medication, plastic bags, water bottles, and an icy-cold washcloth in the cooler for the worst-case scenario. A trashy car isn’t a happy place to be, either. A supply of disposable wipes, paper towels, and trash bags lets you freshen up your space every time you stop.
Speed bump #3: Rushing and Rigid
As fine-tuned as our vacation plans may be, stuff happens. Tires go flat. Kids have to pee. Drinks spill, and toys get lost. The GPS sends you in circles. No matter how off-schedule your trip is going, don’t stress over what you can’t control. Focus on each other in the moment instead of wrecking your mood over a disrupted agenda. Whatever issue is raising your blood pressure will probably fade away a few miles down the road.
Veer off course for a scenic view or a playground. Freak out the kids by stopping for ice cream at 10 a.m. Play a quick game of tag on the lawn at a rest stop. Put energy into making memories instead of trying to get there NOW.
Speed bump #4: Road Rage
As much as kids will bicker and push each other’s buttons, most fighting starts in the front seat. Mom and Dad can start off cranky from the stressful effort of loading up and getting out the door. Take a moment to breathe and remember you’re on the same team before backing out of the driveway. Plant a kiss on each other too — it’s a great way to gross out the kids.
If griping and tattling start killing the mood, try some kindness. Start a conversation of “what I like best about you is….” Create a tally sheet to mark every please, thank you, and compliment you hear. When you get to 25, pass out a treat. Have the kids swap seats from time to time for a new view and “neighbor.” If all else fails, turn the music up louder to drown them out!
Speed bump #5: Leaving Them Out
Kids are a lot more enthusiastic if they know it’s their trip, too. Go old-school and put a paper map in their hands to mark your route along the way. Let them take turns choosing where to stop for meals. Assign each child a job, like trash collector, DJ, or snack manager.
Reward your kids for being great travelers–get rolls of quarters before you leave. Let them know that every argument, complaint, or How much farther?! will cost them a quarter. Any money left at the end of the drive is theirs to keep. Create a secret stash of surprises — crafts, trinkets, or dollar-store items — to pass out every 100 miles. Toss them a gummy bear when you catch them being nice to their sibs.
Find ways to let your kids know you’re excited to be together. Thank them for their patience when the day gets long. Express how you’re thrilled to share the trip because they’re your favorite people ever. Let a little planning and a lot of laughter make this your best summer yet as a family. Buckle up and drive safe!
Originally posted by Harper Collins Children’s Books
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