6 Tips for Surviving a Road Trip With Your Kids

Family Travel on 06.30.11
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Summer vacation often means road trips, and long ones at that. How can you keep your kids from driving you - and each other - crazy in the backseat of the car this summer? Here are 6 tips for making those long hours in the car go by a little faster.




1. Games, Games, Games!

Photo Credit: WorldLicensePlates.com

Geography, 20 Questions, and the license plate game are old standbys for a reason - they are fun! I also like to play "What's your favorite?, which consists of me interviewing the kids about their favorite whatever (food, teacher, movie, book, etc.). It is especially entertaining when we turn the tables and they interview me! Don't bring games with small pieces that can fall between cracks or under seats, as they will inevitably do exactly that. Here's another twist on the license plate game: before you leave, make a list of things the kids might see on the road (a boat being towed, an orange car, a farm stand, etc.) and see who can spot the most.

2. Invest in some technology.

ipad car

Photo Credit: BMW Blog

If your car doesn't have a built-in entertainment system, then buy a portable DVD player (or a double one so that multiple kids can watch) or an iPad mount for the backseat.  Portable DVD players can be powered by the car's outlet, and some of them double as DVD players that you can use in hotels or houses using A/C power. If you're all about the iPad, there are several mounting devices on the market that attach to the driver or passenger headrest and can be adjusted for viewing by several locations in the backseat. Once you've got your player of choice, then load up the iPad with downloaded movies or your kids' favorite TV shows, or buy some DVDs for the trip. Be sure to check out your public library for kids' DVDs - most can be borrowed for a week or more - or try garage sales for used DVDs at low prices. Keep these away from your kids until it's time to leave!

3. Don't fight about food.

Photo Credit: waferboard

Relax your nutritional rules while on the road. If a vanilla shake and some fries from the Burger King at the rest stop will make your kids happy, then indulge them (after offering the carrots, cheese sticks, and pretzels that you brought with you, of course). You can go back to healthier fare once you get to your destination. Also consider some candy or treats that take a long time to eat - lollipops, gum, licorice - so that they can draw out the pleasure of eating. I find that there are enough battles to fight while on a long road trip, and have chosen to forego fighting about food.

4. Listen to audiobooks.

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

This is an obvious one, but audiobooks are a great way to pass the time as a family. Even the driver can enjoy them! My public library has some kids' books that are available as free downloads, which you can play via an MP3 player or burn onto CDs. Mysteries are especially good for car rides, as they are suspenseful and require kids to pay attention. (Of course, old fashioned paper books are good too, especially if you have a range of reading levels and interests in the car.)

5. Keep necessary items nearby.

Photo Credit: Kleenex.com

Make sure that necessary items are within reach of a parent. Snacks, DVDs, paper towels, trash bags, straws, Kleenex - these should all be somewhere close by so that you aren't digging around for them when you need them (or worse, trying to maneuver yourself to the way back of the car). This sounds weird, but pack a pair of scissors too, especially if you have bought new DVDs that need to be liberated from their 3 layers of plastic shrink wrap. Markers, crayons and paper are also often good time-killers, unless your kids are prone to carsickness.

6. Don't be in a rush to get there.

Photo Credit: Justin Cozart

Don't plan anything important for the day you arrive. If you're trying to reach a destination by a particular time, then unexpected roadblocks (traffic, accidents, and even bathroom breaks) become a source of stress. Try to be zen about the trip - you'll get there when you get there - even as you're watching the ETA on the GPS get later and later with each crawling mile. If there are no additional pressures for an on-time arrival, then you'll be much less bothered by a delay and more likely to enjoy the view.

Good luck and safe travels!

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