An on-the-road family vacation doesn’t have to be stressful!
For some, taking kids on a road trip seems like the perfect way to have some quality family time; to others, it seems like the perfect way to create chaos and a longstanding headache. Unlike other family vacations on a cruise or at a resort, a road trip with your kids allows everyone to see more and it fosters a more intentional space of making memories together. Contrary to popular belief, road tripping with kids is possible and even delightful if you follow these 10 tips. That’s right, it doesn’t have to be a recipe for disaster or boredom! Actually, you and the kids may return with happy stories that will last a lifetime.
Visit a Place That Will Make Everyone Happy
Let’s not beat around the bush. Whether you are with family, friends, or strangers, being in a confined space for long stretches has the potential to flare up unwanted conflict or tension. However, this can be alleviated or even completely avoided when you make a stop along the road trip that will please everyone—go somewhere that will reignite joyful and familial memories for you and the kids. Whether it is a spot from vacation’s past or an iconic landmark, it will likely foster positive feelings which then cultivates a positive atmosphere.
Use GPS and Maps
And not always the app(s). You should always have hard-copy, old fashioned maps. It is obvious, but sometimes we forget that technology can be faulty and unreliable. Henceforth, you need a backup plan, especially when traveling with kids. While GPS is a helpful tool, hard-copy maps offer a broader perspective on the ground you are covering. Also, use it as a teachable moment for your kids—it helps them visualize the distance.
It is no secret that kids (and even adults) get restless. Or, perhaps there are kids who are not getting along by sitting next to each other. Circumvent this by doing musical chairs in the vehicle. It is a simple strategy, but switching seats will give everyone a fresh perspective, a change of scenery and a new person to sit beside. On the other hand, getting out of the vehicle periodically throughout the day for a stretch, picnic, or washroom break can also alleviate the physical and emotional lethargy that results from sitting in the same place for a long time.
Have Games, Music, and Movies Prepared
While you may have an elaborate plan to take advantage of scenic driving routes, most of the time, kids do not notice and they are likely not interested. The default “Just look out the window” is a nice thought, but will leave your kids groaning and probably rolling their eyes. Preparation ahead of the road trip will save you from this headache. Make special road trip packs full of portable games, toys, and movies for each kid depending on their tastes. If you have an iPad or a vehicle with built-in screens, this will be essential to keeping the kids occupied during long stretches. Other great things to pack for kids include picture books, coloring books, Mad Libs on the Road, crossword puzzle books, a pack of cards, Bananagrams, a lap desk, and/or handheld video games.
Stop to Take Photos
It would not be a proper road trip with kids if you did not stop to take photos to document important moments. I think we can all agree: road trips are an ideal time to capture embarrassing but adorable photos of your kids. Whether you are stopping through historical landmarks, national parks or amusement parks, take photos of everything (not just the posed ones)—capture those pure, candid moments and you will have scrapbooks to cherish forever. Think about the nostalgia the kids will feel when they’re all grown up and dust off the collections of images!
Assign Individual Tasks
Teamwork makes the dream work, especially on a road trip. Road tripping with kids gives you more helping hands and teaches them invaluable lessons regarding ownership and responsibility. If you are camping, assign roles to set up the tent, blow up air mattresses, and unpack the vehicle. If you are staying in hotels, decide who unpacks what and who retrieves the ice. By assigning roles and responsibilities, everybody gets into a well-established routine resulting in an emotionally-smoother vacation. Furthermore, it grants kids a sense of duty and achievement.
Take Advantage of Roadblocks
You do as much as you can to avoid roadblocks, however, they are inevitable on a road trip. But when you road trip with kids, this creates another layer of panic and frustration, for you and the kids. The best thing to do is to take advantage of these moments and foster more connections. That’s the whole reason you decided to take a road trip with kids anyways, right? Have a karaoke, or play a game that will offer a chance to learn more about one another, such as, “Would you rather?” If you are feeling adventurous, take a detour with the kids through another town and window shop! Laugh and surrender to circumstances that are outside of your control—often the fondest memories are from unplanned situations.
Go on a Family Tour
This seems obvious, but once you are in a road-trip mindset, it is easy to forget that you and the kids are tourists of the various places along your route. Take the extra time to enjoy the sites you are passing through. Book a family-friendly tour with the kids; this will undoubtedly create memories and will get the kids excited. If you are near an ocean, try to search for whale-watching tours. When you are in a big city, look up local walking tours, which are often free (or cost very little). Many museums are also typically free-of-charge at least one evening in the week, so look into museums that either offer kid-friendly activities or ones that the kids would be interested in. Find a happy balance to satisfy your interests and the kids’ attention span.
Buy Food From the Grocery Store
Road-tripping with kids does not have to be synonymous with eating poorly or breaking the bank. You have more mouths to feed and you feel hesitant at the thought of the McDonald’s drive-thru being your main source of nourishment. For this reason, pack a cooler or portable fridge on your road trip. Make frequent stops to the local grocery store and buy as many things in bulk as you can: cold cuts, bread, granola bars, crackers, cheese, and cereal. When you spot a fresh fruit stand at the side of the road, make a turn and buy your fresh fruit to share in the car. Then at night, once the kids are asleep, you can make some sandwiches for lunch the next day. You will be saving money and will feel less guilty when you take the kids for an ice cream treat.
Visit Family and Friends Along Your Journey
Have a distant relative that you want to reconnect with? How about an old friend that you have not seen in forever? Think about the people you may know who you can visit while you are on the road. It’s worth it to make contact as you never know when you will be out their way again. Who knows, you may even be invited to stay with your pal(s) for a night or two and after consistently sleeping in a hotel bed or sleeping bag, this is a welcome change. Additionally, it will expose the kids to other people and personalities and breaks up the trip. You and the family will feel refreshed and ready to take on the next part of your journey.