Hundreds of thousands of families load up the car and set off on a road trip to visit family or head for the beaches of Southwest Florida. However, taking a long journey by car with children can be stressful, making the next vacation something to dread rather than look forward to. Here are some helpful survival tips for traveling by car with children so that your road trips will be happy for everyone.
Choosing the Right Vehicle
Road trips with children need careful planning to keep stress levels low and aggravation to a minimum. If you are renting a car, the first thing to consider is upgrading. Skimping on size can be a recipe for disaster. By keeping children apart, it minimizes the possibility of them touching, teasing, and generally irritating each other. Comfortable seats, plenty of legroom, and an engine powerful enough to gobble up the miles can turn a driving chore into a real pleasure for both driver and passengers.
Timing the Trip
If you have children who do not travel well, consider starting the trip in the early evening when they will most likely fall asleep. Travel sickness medication must be taken at least an hour before setting off for it to be effective. If in doubt, give your children a dose – in this case it is definitely better to be safe than sorry. If nausea does set in, stop the car and give the sufferer a short walk in the fresh air. Travel with the window down for a time, or let the patient ride in the front seat for a while. Nibbling dry crackers may help, but avoid sweet snacks and drinks.
Schedule Plenty of Stops
Plan regular short stops along the way, as youngsters frequently need bathroom breaks, meals, and exercise. A stop every couple of hours for a leg stretch or an ice cream keeps children from becoming bored and wiggly. Try to stop for a meal where there is a play area for running off some energy, beside a lake for skimming stones, or near a public park. If the weather is bad, look for a shopping mall where you will find toilets, a food court and somewhere to enjoy a walk in a dry environment. After a meal, encourage young children to nap as you continue on your journey.
Entertainment all the Way
Seat back organizers are an excellent way to carry a selection of books, puzzles, and small toys in multiple pockets within reach. Portable DVD players are invaluable for passing the time and can be used in cars, on flights, and at your vacation destination. Plan on one unit per child so there are no arguments, and use headphones to preserve your sanity! Your local library is a good source of music CDs and DVDs, or borrow from family and friends so that there will be something fresh and new to entertain without spending a fortune buying or downloading videos and music.
Games for Road Trips
Fun games make the miles go faster. So try:
For youngsters, pick a color. They have to point out as many things as possible of that color. For older kids, the first one to spot 10 vehicles of that color wins!
Prepare a list of things children must spot and tick off during the journey.
License Plate Scrabble
Look at the letters on the license plate of an oncoming car. The first person to use the letters as an acronym wins. For example, SFIC could be “scream for ice cream”. FWF could be “flowers with flavor”.
Choose a word and take it in turn to say a word that relates to the previous word without repeating. For example, the first person may say “car”, the second person “wheel”, the next person “bicycle”, the next person “bell” and so on.
Road Trip Bingo
Give out handmade bingo cards with 20 different numbers on each, ranging from 1-60. Call out numbers at random and see who crosses off all their numbers first.
Final Tips for Road Trips with Kids
Finally, make sure you have all the essentials on hand including wet wipes, a bag for rubbish, small drinks, and non-chocolate snacks. Refillable drink containers are a good idea and small containers of raisins, savory crackers, dried cereal such as cheerios, and dried or fresh fruit provide a good distraction.
By planning ahead and keeping interest levels high, the road trip will seem a lot shorter for all concerned, and hopefully you will all want to do it again next year!
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