How To Survive a Road Trip with Kids
By Dejan B.. Published on April 17, 2017
Programming a family road trip without involving the whole family in the planning can be the recipe for disaster. On the other hand, allowing children to actively participate in the process can bring the family together and ensure a more pleasurable travel experience.
The Power of the Five E's
The traditional way to plan a road trip was to plot coordinates on a map, measuring out the distance you could travel in a day and getting there as efficiently as possible. A new generation of parents is learning to appreciate "slow travel", sharing the power of road travel to:
Excite. A vacation is a time to involve the family and share the potential for discovery. The planning and anticipation of the journey can be as fulfilling as the trip itself.
Exercise. Kids create energy – both positive and negative! Planning trips that help kids release pent-up energy create more relaxed road trips and opportunities to enjoy the outdoors along the way.
Educate. Exercise is mental, too. A road trip provides the chance for kids to learn about geography, history and other topics in a very natural way. Touching, tasting or hearing stories about things they had previously only seen on the Internet or in a book add dimension and meaning that can last a lifetime.
Experience. Evoking a sense of wonder and awe is a way to cultivate mindfulness, curiosity, gratefulness, and hopefulness in adults and children. Anticipating and then experiencing new places and activities provides opportunities for awe-inspiring discoveries.
Enjoy. Most of all, a healthy and engaging family trip makes everyone happier, both in and outside of the car.
As more adults – and children for that matter – are discovering the benefits of mindfulness, slow travel becomes a way for everyone to take the time to savor where they are and what they are doing, whether that is overlooking a mountain valley on a clear fall day or licking a dripping ice cream cone at an old-fashioned confectionery on Main Street in Smalltown, USA.
Practical Tips for Successful Road Trips
Write the Five E's on a sticky note and place it on your monitor or travel notebook and refer to this list often. If the majority of the activities you plan excite, exercise, educate, enhance experience or make the journey more enjoyable for the whole family, you're well on your way to a successful road trip.
Whether a weekend jaunt or a weeks-long epic adventure, there are many other simple things you can do to make the time your family spends together even more enriching. You'll be spending a lot of time together in the car or van, so you'll also want to plan for comfort, convenience, bonding and quiet time. For example, certain supplies should be kept close at hand in easy-to-access tote bags rather than stored in the suitcases stowed away to be used at your ultimate destination. Here are other ideas for keeping the kids happy and well-occupied before and during your vacation:
- If your children are old enough, give them a small budget and a map, and let them choose some of your destinations along the way, such as attractions, restaurants, or hotels. Parents might find that kids choose creative trip options they didn't expect, and it can add a sense of novelty and adventure for adults as well!
- Before and during the trip, share the route with your kids. Discuss interesting facts about places you plan to visit or pass near. In the car, give them maps so they can follow along on the journey.
- Plan plenty of rest stops along the way. Choose parks, attractions or local libraries to keep their interest and let them use up some energy.
- Pre-plan some of your lunch and dinner stops by looking on the Internet for the locations of familiar restaurants along your route. While it's always fun to experience local flavors, keeping your children happy with food choices they know and love will take some stress out of your drive.
- Keep your children occupied during car travel with interactive activities such as "I Spy", alphabet games, word games and storytelling. Offer them books and drawing supplies as quiet-time activities when both parents need to concentrate on driving or when other children are sleeping.
- A portable DVD player (with headphones) can provide entertainment. However, consider a more interactive activity, like having the children record an audio blog of what they see and do and posting it to social media as a daily travel journal.
- Keep healthy, low-sugar snacks and refreshments available for parents and children, including juice, water, fruit, trail mix and peanut butter.
- Make sure to pack supplies you'll need access quickly in the car and/or at rest stops, including diapers, baby wipes, paper towels for cleanup, changes of clothes, garbage bags, blankets, pillows, and portable/ solar rechargers for devices like phones, tablets and portable DVD players.
Don't plan your next road trip with speed and efficiency as your top priority. Rather, embrace the process and engage your children. As soon as you pull out of your driveway, you leave knowing you have miles to go before you sleep. Make each of them as fun and enjoyable as possible, and allow everyone to fully appreciate the unique and ageless freedom offered by the open road!