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Traveling With Kids: How to Survive Road Trips
It seems every season there's a reason for a road trip. Vacation, visiting friends and family, or just checking out the latest amusement will send families packing up the old Wally Wagon and hitting the highway. Here are a few ideas to make this year's adventures more pleasant and less adventurous!
By far the potty is the most important aspect of a decent car trip. Make sure you know where you're going. Major highways in most states offer fairly clean rest stops, but there are stretches of Oklahoma I can tell you - you do not want to stop.
Plan for all contingencies. Yes, this means you tuck a roll of tissue into your box of goodies in case you need to make a roadside stop. Bring the potty chair for small children. You can pull over anywhere and set the child to business. If you have a particular aversion to stopping, you may want to bring a big coffee container. I know it sounds awful, but you know your family best. Don't take chances. In a pinch, boys can go in a plastic water bottle.
Bring plenty of hand sanitizer!
Great Road Trip Snacks
- Cheese & crackers
- Raw vegetables
- Granola bars
- Candy (a few!)
- Cold drinks
Food is the other major area you want to pay attention to for a great car trip. Bring plenty of snacks instead of relying on roadside junk. It's much easier on your budget to bring sandwiches than to stop for fast food.
You think the golden arches are pretty cheap until you try feeding a family of four. I've come away wondering why I didn't just stop at a real restaurant. But of course, it's because when you're road trippin', you don't want to spare the time to spend an hour in some less-than-lovely-diner or even a nice and clean chain.
Snacks in the car save you time and money, but they also make you feel so much better. It's amazing how different you'll feel after eight hours in the car when you've been snacking on cheese and fruit versus that same duration spent munching down double cheeseburgers.
Awesome Road Trip Entertainment
- Personal electronics (don't forget the headphones and batteries!)
- A metal baking sheet to use as a surface and tray for small-parts toys
- Magnetic letters to spell on the baking sheet
- Activity books and stickers
- Journal - encourage your child to record the road trip experience
One simple way to break things up is to stop every couple of hours. If you share driving duties this is a good time to switch. Even if one person drives the entire trip, two hours is a good target to shoot for. Nothing (except potties!) can't wait for two hours.
Let each child pack a small bag or backpack with toys of their choice. You might suggest books, crayons, games, etc. Make sure they don't forget the favorite stuffed animal if they've got one. A pillow is great too if you've got the room.
Books on tape are wonderful, especially when read in a lovely English accent. You can usually find these for free at your local library. While you're there, pick up some movies if you have DVD players. If you haven't broken down and bought the Mack Daddy Minivan with all the bells and whistles, remember that most laptops these days will play movies and the personal models have come way down in price.
With just a little planning, you can create a wonderful family memory - or at least save a few bucks on airfare!