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Preparing Children For a Road Trip

Taking a road trip can be a stressful situation, especially if you are taking along children. Whether you are traveling across country to New York City, or staying semi-local visiting Los Angeles. At any rate, children need to be entertained and occupied to provide for a successful trip. Otherwise, all you’ll hear is fighting among siblings, “I’m bored”, “Are we there yet?”, etc… To counteract this problem, it is extremely important to plan well in advance activities to occupy your children while in the car.

What Should I Drive?

One of the most popular vehicles that many family’s take along with them on a road trip is a minivan or an SUV. These two vehicles provide the space needed for all of the stuff that may go along with your family trip. The extra space also provides for less fighting and phrases like, “Mom, Suzy kicked me.”

Most likely your children will not behave like the perfect angels that you want them to be, but you can get pretty close by following the tips that I outline for you. Afterall, isn’t peace and quiet, with a little bit of laughter here and there the ideal for a perfect family road trip? Arguing, complaining, and whining don’t have to be the case for your trip. By planning ahead of time activities to keep your children occupied, you will find that peace and quiet so desperately needed.

My Own Space

Even though you may have a minivan or an SUV to haul your famiy around in, space is still a hot commodity. It is important to limit the extra stuff around the feet so as not to aggravate each member of your family. One thing is for sure, when it comes to space, each child should definitely have their own backpack, bag, or a plastic bin that sits right next to them. This tote should contain some of your children’s favorite small items to play with. For example, handheld video games, books, and action figures. These items are great for older children, but if you have younger kids, lap size magnetic writing boards, dry erase boards, or coloring books and crayons are also great companions. Before your trip take some time to let each child pick out a certain number of items to place in their tote. One note of advice: Do NOT let children pack things that don’t travel well, like the family pet, jars of bubble stuff, or ice cream sandwiches.

Anticipating the Boredom Plateau

You can prepare months in advance for this special family trip, but one thing is for sure, your children will get bored at some point along the way. They may have every toy and distraction available to them, but they still will get sick of sitting in the car for long periods of time. When this comes about, it is important to have a secret stash of toys that are new to the children. These will prove to be exciting for the kids and you will be glad that they are occupied once again. A trip to the local dollar store can take care of this issue. Most likely these toys will only last throughout this one trip, so it is important not to spend too much money on these new and exciting toys. You may choose to pick a few items for each child and periodically hand them out throughout the trip when those expected plateaus of boredom hit.

As mentioned above, your children will get tired of sitting in their seat for too long, especially if they are younger children. Before your trip, take some time to map out rest stops along the way, preferably stops that have a playground or a park to get out excess energy. There’s something about riding in a car for long periods of time that evoke sleepiness in each traveler, so getting out this excess energy, even though it may seem like a waste of time to stop, will prove to be a huge benefit to the two from seat travelers (mom and dad).

What To Eat

When it comes to the food that you are packing for the road trip, think invidual packages. This is not the time to bring an entire bag of chips to pass around the car. This will ultimately end in fighting and crumbs all over the vehicle. Individually packed snacks will give some independence to your kids and they will think it is pretty cool to get their own treat.

It seems that every time without fail, boredom always precedes hunger, so a little treat can also prevent excessive boredom plateus and may save time having to stop for food along the way.

One of the most frustrating things about a road trip is that by the end of the trip, the vehicle is usually a mess with wrappers strewn about and toys hidden in every nook and cranny, so to prevent this along the way, make sure your children have a small trash bag of their own right beside them, so that they can take care of their own garbage.

Involvement Is Key

A successful family road trip is one where every member of the family feels like he/she is involved. One way to accomplish this is to make sure each member helps to plan the trip and has a say in what the family does and sees. Children will feel truly like this is a “family trip” if they get to map out some of the stops, help pack, and help prepare for the trip. Also talking to the children about stops along the way will help educate them about the world around them. For example, if there is a national park along the way and you plan on stopping at it, make sure the children are educated about the park and what is there, so that they are excited to visit the landmark.

At the end of the trip, take some time to sit down together as a family, and talk about what worked and what didn’t work. Next time you’ll experience an even greater outing if you evaluate the positives and negatives. This is also a time to brainstorm ideas for the next family trip, whether it be a road trip or an airline trip.

Enjoy the Journey

All along the way, even though nerves may be frazzled and stressful situations may arise, it is important to remember one saying to keep sanity in the atmosphere, “Getting there is half the fun!” Memories that are formed on your family trip will last a lifetime, and will be what your children remember when they are older. What a great gift to give your children, a lifetime full of fun memories.