So you’re leaving home this 4th of July weekend. If you’re taking the kids with you, make the experience a little more enjoyable with a few of these essential tips.
Talk Travel: Are you taking a road trip this summer?
Let them navigate. Equip each kid with a road map to your destination. It’s a great way to school them in geography; older kids might even get a kick out of estimating distances. Add stickers from each stop (preferably those that represent the area) and you’ve got the makings of a great keepsake of the trip.
Schedule well. Toddlers do best when their sleep schedule is factored in. Leaving at naptime guarantees at least a few hours of snoozing. It’s tempting to depart at bedtime, but you may end up with wide-eyed kids upon arrival at your destination, and you risk becoming drowsy yourself during the late-night ride.
Install car seats correctly. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) estimates that four out of five car seats are improperly installed. Contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (www.nhtsa.dot.gov), a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation, or your state’s department of traffic safety for locations of child safety-seat inspection stations.
Anchor luggage. Heavy bags and equipment become lethal projectiles in an accident. Strap in DVD players. Put luggage in the trunk. If you’re driving a wagon, invest in a barrier between the cargo and passenger areas.
Bring pillows. The comfy accessory creates prime nap conditions, and can be used as a barrier between two quarreling kids.
Limit junk food. Treats are great, but too many can lead to car sickness. Too much caffeine can wire up the kids and make you crazy. Lean toward healthy snacks (fruit, veggies, peanut-butter crackers) and moderation.
Take turns choosing the entertainment. Make sure everyone (including mom and dad) gets a shot at deciding what goes into the CD player. It’s a perfect opportunity to share preferences in music. Often one person’s turn will end hours before another is to begin—during a car trip with an overnight layover somewhere, for example. That’s way too long for anyone to remember who’s up. Do yourself a favor and keep a list.
Plan to make stops. Gone are the days when you were kid free and could drive straight through from Syracuse to Daytona. Enjoy it; stop and smell the roses. Throw a ball. Toss a Frisbee. Better yet: make getting there half the fun. Stop at quirky museums or landmarks. Plan an overnight at a hotel with a pool—or, even better, one of those new resorts with an indoor waterpark. No matter your timetable, avoid the “I gotta go now” emergency by offering frequent bathroom breaks, especially for potty-training toddlers.
Our recently published book of 1,001 Smart Travel Tips, in which Fodor’s editors, writers, and members of our community share their hard-earned travel knowledge, is another great resource.