Traveling with your entire family is a great way to get away from the usual hustle and bustle of life, have some fun together, strengthen your bond, and create some unforgettable memories together. Road trips provide children and families with invaluable life skills, and the opportunity to learn more about the world, the kind of things that may interest them, and encourage children to explore and become more independent.
Road trips enable families to get to know each other, as you spend a lot of time in a small space for lengthy periods, as you drive to different locations. As fun as they can be, they inevitably come with their challenges, regardless of the length of the trip, or the age of your children.
One of the challenges you may face is the boredom, and lack of entertainment in the car. Long car journeys are known to spark arguments, conflict, and often tears. But this shouldn’t be a reason to miss your next trip or miss out on traveling around the world with your family. The setup and organization of your car are paramount to a smooth (and quiet) ride.
Here are some top tips for improving your next long car journey with your kids.
It is important before setting off on your car journey, to consider sleep, and whether you would prefer your children to sleep in the car, or not. If you would like them to sleep, then extra planning is required to coordinate the timing you set off for your journey. If you have young children who take regular naps, then you must coordinate with their usual nap times, for a quiet set off. If your children are older, then perhaps plan to travel through the night where it will be dark, and they will be more tired, which makes it easier to sleep, and a quiet trip for your parents. Alternatively, set off really early in the morning (you even carry them into the car asleep, so they wake on the road!)
If you don’t want them to sleep on the journey, then make sure they get sufficient sleep the night before you set off. Lack of sleep usually leads to short patience and grumpy children, which will mean the car journey will be less pleasant.
Everyone has their entertainment preferences, and although this may take a little more time and preparation in advance, it is important for a smoother car journey. Take some time to speak to your children to find out what kind of activities, toys, and games they would prefer. If you make a decision for them or pick one to please everyone, there will likely be someone who will not enjoy it and be left bored. Bored children on a long journey can be a challenge.
You can also come up with a few games and activities that everyone can get involved in, to keep it light-hearted and fun (and as a backup in case the children get a little restless). There are plenty of games you can play, that range from fun, to educational. For example, you could learn some interesting and fun facts about the towns you will be passing through, and role-play a tour guide so your children can learn on route (and perhaps even make up a little quiz for them to get involved in too). You also have many car game classics that you can play, such as letter, number, and color games with road signs, cars, and registration plates, would you rather, radio roulette, eye spy, and many more.
Plan regular stops
Regular stops are important for children to use the toilet (as it is guaranteed this will be asked frequently if they are awake during the journey) but to also get out of the car, stretch their legs and let out any pent-up energy. If you can, spend a little time at each stop, because being in a car for a long period can build up a lot of energy, and lead to unfavorable behavior and attitude for the rest of the journey. Taking some time to enjoy some fresh air, food, and a little change in the environment can help the rest of the journey go a lot smoother. You can use this time to play games, to get involved in physical activities such as dancing, running around, jumping or skipping, or just to sit, stretch and talk face to face.
To best avoid challenges, or tears, make sure you pack the essentials. Consider items such as
- Stainless steel cups to keep your drinks warmer, or colder for longer
- Sealed drinks to reduce spills and mess
- Pack a wide variety of snacks to suit everyone and different times
- Wipes for dirty hands after eating and for any spills
- A trash bag to collect everything you as go along
- Sick bucket, towels, tissues, sick bands, and any other precautions
- A car bag for each person, to store food, drink, and entertainment (to save rustling around trying to find it on the road)
Comfort is key for a long journey. Without comfort, everyone on the journey will likely suffer. There will be fidgeting children in the back, neck, and back pains, and a lot of moaning. This can make the car journey a lot harder for everyone to enjoy, and seem longer than it needs to. First, make sure you have the right equipment you need, for example, car seats, and ensure that they fit the car, and your children. You may be dusting them off from the attic, or purchased brand new ones that haven’t been used, so it is important to do a trial run before you set off on the road. Next, consider what clothes everyone will wear. Jeans may look nicer, but they may not be the most comfortable for a long trip. Make sure you pack lots of pillows and blankets for extra comfort. This is also handy if there are any conflicts with the car temperature.
Another important aspect of the environment is the smell. With the combination of kids, food, and even hot weather if your trip is in the summer, this can leave the car smelling unpleasant which is not good for long journeys. You may consider custom car air fresheners to keep the car smelling good, and can even be picked out by the kids for fun.
Tips for the adults
The wellbeing of you adults on the car journey is just as important. If you are prepared, calm, and relaxed, then you are going to model the right behavior and create a positive environment for the journey. Remember that children are sponges, and will try to copy your behavior (or push your limits if they know they are winding you up!). Now you have the essentials prepared for your road trip, you will inevitably have more time on your hands, as you no longer need to spend the entire trip trying to entertain the kids and keep them quiet. This means that you must prepare the car for yourselves, too.
Take some time to think about what would make the car journey more enjoyable for you. Could this be a long playlist with all your favorite songs? A good film on the iPad while your partner drives? A book, sudoku, or crossword puzzles? Some games you and your partner can play while on the route? Or would you prefer to sleep, so perhaps a car neck pillow where you can take a nap comfortably would suffice.
Planning for everyone in mind will ensure the car journey goes smoothly, and you can get to your destination will less conflict, and more fun.