10 Secrets to Have a Successful Road Trip with Young Children
Nothing like the idea of a fussy kid on an eleven hour drive to have you reconsidering whether or not it’s worth taking that family vacation. I get it, I’ve been there!
If you haven’t made a long drive before you can bet there is potential for a nightmare. That many hours on the road cooped up in a car doesn’t sound much fun for us adults; imagine the frustration for the kiddos.
Every year we take off on a twelve hour drive and now that I’ve been through it enough times, I’ve got it down pat how to make the drive a more pleasant experience for all of us. To prepare you for the long haul I’m sharing my best secrets for having a successful road trip even with young children:
Head out late at night. This small adjustment in our traveling plans made a world of difference in the overall trip. I found that if you let the little ones stay up a little later than usual and then head out late night, they’ll sleep early on in the trip through a nice chunk of the drive. Of course, you’ll have to make some adjustment to your sleep schedule for that night but it’s much easier for the adults than the kids. There’s another perk to driving at night, no traffic! It’s a nice start to a long drive; kids sleeping, little traffic and making great time.
Keep snacks within reach. I always pack a car bag to keep up front with me. In it I keep snacks, chargers, medications and water. It’s a great plan for keeping those necessities nearby. Kids have a tendency to want to munch on long trips and it’s important to have easy access to a variety of snacks. I’d shy away from offering a lot of candy, the sugar will just make them hyper and too much isn’t good for them. Fruit, cheese and crackers, dry cereal or gummies are popular choices for us. Avoid a backseat wrestling match by bagging in separate containers so that each child can have their own.
Choose your music wisely. Believe it or not, music can set the tone for your entire trip. Music can incite emotion that can make the ride more comfortable or more difficult for your child. For the nighttime drive when they will be sleeping, keep the volume low and choose easy listening. During the day to complement their good mood, go with fun, playful tunes. Invest in a children’s CD and treat them to their kind of music for an hour, engage with them in song, be goofy and have fun with them. Keep in mind, loud music can be over stimulating for children and could make it difficult for them to enjoy the ride.
Break out the DVD’s. Usually, I don’t like to use TV as a babysitter and prefer to limit screen time but hey; sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do! Treating them to a movie could be a nice break for both of you, especially if your child is struggling. Keep it kid friendly and choose something you know they love. It won’t hurt to have them entertained for an hour or two and might even get you through that last leg of the drive.
Plan to stop. Build time in your schedule to make multiple stops and take a break from the car. Give the kids an opportunity to move around and burn up some restless energy. Don’t make it a chore; plan on visiting some unique sights in the area, a park or even rest areas will do. We always plan a picnic lunch so we aren’t in a rush and can give the little ones that extra time they need to reboot.
Spend time in the backseat. Have mom or dad spend a little time in the backseat hanging out. This gives them one on one attention; play games, read a book or even point out cool sights to see. Do this when they are already in a fun, playful mood. If they see you heading to the backseat when they are fussy they’ll use it to get your attention and you’ll regret it. It’s not a bad idea to keep a small box with a couple of new toys in the backseat. They’ll have plenty of time to check them all out.
Switch places with your convoy. If you’re traveling with extended family and have more than one vehicle let them ride with grandma and grandpa for a bit. This will give you both a much needed break while offering a change of scenery for them. They’ll love getting that one on one time with the grandparents and it gives them new faces to interact and play with. You’ll love the peace and quiet and maybe a few minutes of shut-eye.
Keep supplies nearby. Avoid the frustration of digging through the trunk by keeping necessity items close at hand. From personal experience, I can tell you there is nothing worse than having to unload half of what you’ve packed to dig through luggage to find that one thing you need. Trust me; it’s a hassle you don’t want! Consider keeping diapers, wipes, a change of clothes and water nearby. It’s so much better to be over prepared rather than trying to come up with something in the heat of the moment when you already have a frustrated child.
Act goofy. Your mood can influence the mood for everyone in your family, including the young ones. Embrace the good time spirit and be willing to act a little silly. Sing, dance, make goofy faces, tell jokes, play car games. Step outside your comfort zone and get a little crazy; you want your child to have a successful road trip and have a good time, so let ‘em!
Be flexible. The best laid plans can go awry. No matter what happens remember to keep yourself in check; if you get frustrated so will your child. Plan for things to change, with children they often do. Allow for changes in the schedule; if your child is sleeping maybe drive a little further instead of stopping as planned. You might have to stop earlier if they are really fussy and having a hard time. Consider staying overnight at a hotel or even taken a break for a few hours to enjoy the indoor pool. If you go into the trip willing to be flexible the odds of you have a great road trip is much better.
Whether it’s family vacation, attending a family event or a spur of the moment drive; it’s important to leave at the right time, pack necessities and start out with a flexible and positive attitude.
It took me a couple years in a row to get it all figured out but I assure you with a few adjustments your child will surprise you and you’ll see that a successful road trip is possible with young children.