If you’ve ever traveled with children, then you know that it can sometimes be a very trying situation. This is especially true if you’re driving, as there’s almost nothing more distracting than a backseat heckler: “Are we there yet?! Why is this taking so long?! I’m bored!!” Save your sanity (and avoid an accident) with these tips for how to prepare for a long car ride with children.
Sleep schedule. If possible, plan your departure and arrival times with the kids’ sleep schedules in mind. If you know that you must be on the road for a majority of the day, then it is a good time to get up at the crack of dawn and pack those little ones in the car, along with pillows and blankets, so that that they can sleep through several hours of the ride.
Snacks. If stopping for food and drink just sounds like a way of further dragging out an undesirably long car trip, then you can save a lot of time just by packing some easy snacks. Avoid messes by packing things like fruit snacks and granola bars, and have disposable juice boxes on hand for when the children get thirsty. Keep a small plastic bag somewhere near to keep all the garbage contained. Also, remember to bring some handi-wipes for easy clean-up of dirty hands and faces.
Pit stops. You’ll want to stop every two to three hours to let the children stretch their legs, use the bathroom, and get some energy out. Plan these pit stops before you leave the house, or it may be hard to know where to stop along the way. It’s a good idea to choose parks, roadside markets, restaurants with a play area, or small tourist attractions to stop at, so as to stimulate (and exhaust) the kids enough to hold them over through the next leg of the trip.
Entertainment. There are a number of things you can bring along on your trip to entertain the kids. Consider purchasing an inexpensive portable DVD player for movies, or invest in a few travel versions of popular board games. Crossword puzzles, reading books, and Mad Libs are a great idea for older children.
You don’t have to approach the next family road trip with a feeling of dread. It’s possible to get through such a trip and come out on the other side all in one piece. Simply take a few preparatory steps and you can make a long car ride with children into a fun and exciting (or at least tolerable) trip.
Fatimah Palmeter has 4 children and knows what it is like to be in a car with unhappy kids. When she’s not keeping them calm, she’s usually searching IT staff augmentation services for her next big job opportunity.