Family Road Trips Made Easier
Many families have shied away from the “always adventurous” road trip option of travel with young children. Having heard or experienced one too many family road trip horror story, many are unwilling to even consider going very far by car with their family. Road trips may not be the best way for everyone to travel, but there are things that can be done to help ease the stress of traveling together as a family in a car.
Younger Works Better
The younger the children are when you begin to travel with them, the more accustomed they will become to travel. If, however, you wait until they are ‘bigger’ (i.e., perhaps 5 or 6 years old or older), there is a good chance the children will not enjoy their first few big road trips. A long car ride will not be the norm for them, and they may be more difficult to keep occupied and happy. Start taking road trips, even short ones, while they are still infants and toddlers, to help the children become accustomed to traveling by car.
Something To Do
It's hard for children to be still anywhere, much less being still for long periods of time while strapped into a vehicle with no hope of escape. Bypass boredom in the car by taking some time before the trip to gather activities of all kinds. Books, coloring books, sketch pads, Etcha Sketches or magnetic writing and chalk-boards, toys, hand held video games, car games (travel bingo, alphabet game, license plate game), iPod, digital camera… this list is limited only by your imagination and the volume of items you want to pack. Audiobooks, stories by podcast (many free ones can be found), and even stories for your iPhone are a great way to pass the time.
The key is to keep the children in the car busy. This will hopefully make the travelling part of the trip as much fun as the destination.
Break It Up
When possible, spread the children out in the vehicle. Allow them to have their own space for their own things. Give them room to stretch and move around in their seats, though while still wearing safety belts. Giving them space will help to reduce sibling arguments, though there’s no foolproof way to avoid these spats all together. Breaking up disagreements early or keeping them from happening at all can be a huge stress-reliever.
In addition, break up the trip into smaller segments, giving everyone on the trip plenty of time to get out of the vehicle for fresh air and movement. Frequent stops at rest areas or parks can break up what might seem like never-ending miles, and give everyone chances for getting rid of their extra energy. Have the children, especially, run and jump and play while out of the car, though some movement is good for adults, too. Driving for very long periods of time might get you further down the road, but the trade off will certainly be unhappier passengers. Take the time to stop and give everyone a break.
Easy On You
Do what you can to make the drive easier for the adults in the car, too. Starting early in the morning, when the kids are more likely to fall back asleep once on the road, might get you a few more miles before the need to deal with active children becomes a concern. Remove stress from the situation by avoiding the temptation to text on your cell phone while you’re driving. Consider using a voice to text service. Getting good maps of where you’re travelling, ahead of time, complete with rest area and local park information, for planning those important break stops and avoiding frustrations on the road. Before the trip, have the car inspected and maintained to avoid roadside breakdowns.
Family road trips don't have to be unbearable. They can be very fun and make good memories that last a lifetime. Remember that the journey is as important as the destination. A bit of pre-planning, having things for the children to do in the car, taking stops often along the way, and easing the strain on the adults in the car can all go a long way to making your next road trip a great one!