Are you hitting the road with the kids in tow this summer? If so, here are 10 tips to make the trip more pleasant. We’ve based these ideas on prior mistakes we’ve made … er, I mean, adventures we’ve had along the way. Not surprisingly, most are about keeping the backseat occupants entertained.
- “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail”
I’m not trying to freak anyone out, but it’s true. You can make or break the time spent in the car based on how prepared you are. Need some suggestions for what to take along when you have youngsters in the rear of the car? See this post I wrote after our two-week road trip through Spain and Portugal.
- Stop often.
No one enjoys being in the car for hours on end. Make getting from point A to point B part of the fun by shortening times in the car with exciting stops, like wacky roadside attractions.
- Snacks are your friend.
Pack snacks but also pick some up along the way. This is a great opportunity to try local fare. And what kid can’t be convinced to behave in the car with the promise of a treat from a regional bakery upon arrival?
- Choose roadside towns and chain hotels over rest stops.
Plan for breaks to stretch legs and refuel (literally and figuratively) in roadside towns. Google earth before you arrive to know where local playgrounds or parks are so the kids can play before hopping back in the car. If you need a bathroom stop but want a quick in and out look for chain hotels just off the highway. They usually have easily accessible restrooms that tend to be cleaner than those at rest areas and gas stations.
- Toss in a geography lesson.
Older kids can trace your route on a map while the whole family can play the license plate game. Give them a map of the US (or Europe or wherever you are traveling) and have them color in the states or countries as they see the corresponding license plates.
- Plan car-friendly activities.
Pass time with fun in-car activities. Movies, music and activity books are the usual suspects. For a unique new idea, we love this window cling project from Hither & Thither.
- Pack smart.
Pack a separate bag for each place you are staying and keep the things you’ll use each time in a second smaller tote or duffel that’s brought in at each stopover.
- Burn some energy during pit stops.
Plan in advance activities to help kids burn off their excess energy during pit stops. Bring along a jump rope, an inflatable ball, and sidewalk chalk (for hopscotch). If you don’t have space for this, consider setting up races using the timer/stopwatch function on your phone or watch.
- Find the right incentives (aka “bribes”).
Give each passenger several “vouchers” that they can trade in for something throughout the day. These can include: picking the radio station for thirty minutes, selecting the next game to play, receiving a little gift, choosing a treat at the next stop, playing a video/electronic game, deciding which movie to watch, etc.
- Go with the flow.
Most importantly, go with the flow. Things won’t be smooth the entire trip but relaxing the usual rules a bit can help everyone have a bit more fun and enjoy the time together.
Want more road trip tips? Check out the Blog Hop and enter to win one of two prize packages!
Our Grand prize includes a GoPro HERO (camera only, $129 value), a selfie stick ($25 value) and three Lonely Planet Road Trip Guides ($30 value).
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