After spending weeks in the house working from home while assisting your kids with homeschooling, you’re probably tossing around some different family vacation ideas by now. Since air travel is still a bit shaky during these uncertain times, why not consider a getaway by car instead? Not only do you have more flexibility with your itinerary, but you’re also in the position to see and do more because you’re behind the wheel.
Of course, while this may sound delightful to you, your kids may not share your opinion — but that doesn’t mean a car trip won’t have a favorable outcome. With a little planning, you can ensure your kiddos stay entertained, happy, and motivated whether you’re gone three days or three weeks. Here are some helpful tips to help you on the road to success.
Get Your Kids Involved
When considering different family vacation ideas, get your kids involved. Sure, you may all have to make some compromises, but taking a car trip that they’re actually excited about will make it a better experience for them — and you. Get everyone around the table, grab a laptop and a pad of paper and a pen and start brainstorming together. Have everyone contribute their top priorities (e.g., being near the water, camping versus a hotel, etc.) and choose a destination(s) that best suit everyone’s needs. Of course, you also have to consider how long you intend on being away and your budget. It’s possible that you’ll only be looking into “weekend getaways near me” versus a full-blown road trip.
Keep Them Entertained
Sure, Smartphones and movies downloaded on a tablet are a surefire way to get kids’ attention, but technology can definitely backfire. Studies suggest that children who regularly engage in the internet and play video games are more apt to having anxiety and depression issues. They can become moody, irritable, and have difficulty concentrating. Maintain a healthy balance by including more enriching activities into their entertainment schedules such as audiobooks, card games, road bingo, coloring, crossword puzzles, and trivia — you can all do that one together, too.
Address Comfort Issues
Let’s be honest. Car travel isn’t always the most comfortable — but then again, neither is air travel unless you’re up in first class. Make sure your kids have everything they need to stay cozy and comfortable. Items like a neck pillow and a blanket can go a long way. Clothing factors into comfort, too, so have your kids dressed in something loose, soft, and comfy.
Go With the Flow
Don’t be so anal with your itinerary that you miss out on those unexpected surprises that pop up along the way, so make time for a few extra stops. Perhaps you see a sign for a cool monument, state park, petting zoo, kitschy roadside diner, or the perfect photo opportunity. Stop the engine and go explore. You never know; it just may be one of the best memories from your trip.
Pack Road Trip Snacks
Road trip snacks are absolutely essential not only for the kids but for you, too. The key is making sure that the snacks are healthy to avoid sugar crashes (sleepiness), weight gain, and moodiness.
Watermelon and grapes are great options because they hydrate the body, but not in the same way as a liter of water, which in turn requires more bathroom stops. Other healthy options include air-popped popcorn, string cheese, ham and cream cheese pinwheels, hummus and veggies, hard-boiled eggs, beef jerky, peanut butter on whole-grain bread, nuts/trail mix (in a limited quantity), baked chickpeas, sunflower seeds, tuna and crackers (you can find pre-made packs), homemade vegetable chips, Greek yogurt, apple sauce, and low-sugar cereal. Of course, avoid anything messy or that has the potential to melt in a hot car.
Make a Family Playlist
Tell the kids to get the earbuds out of their ears so you can all listen to an upbeat playlist that you put together as a family. Let everyone choose their own selection of tunes to add to the list, but aim for high-energy songs that promote singing and maybe even a little laughter, too.
Keep the Car Tidy and Organized
A dirty and unorganized car only creates a negative and stressful vibe for all of you so keep everything in order at all times — invest in some car organizers if need be. Encourage the kids to put away anything they’re no longer using. Pop in an aromatherapy air freshener to negate any unpleasant odors. When you make pit stops, immediately throw away any trash.
Have Necessary Medications On Hand
Car sickness, an upset stomach, headache, cuts and bruises, bug bites, bee stings, or allergies can pop up out of nowhere so make sure you have all of the necessary medications in case of an emergency. It’s also always a good idea to know where the nearest hospital or emergency clinic is near your final destination. Have the numbers handy on your phone so you’re not scrambling later on.
Between luggage, entertainment, comfort objects like a pillow, a cooler with road trip snacks, and human bodies, there’s not a ton of room left in the car for all of you. Make sure you’re not robbing yourselves of a comfortable road trip by packing smartly. Opt for weekend bags if you’re just going away for a few days — but even if you’re gone for a couple of weeks, don’t go any larger than carry-on luggage size for everyone unless you decide to share a couple of larger pieces of luggage instead.
Take Regular Breaks
Aside from stopping to see something that inspires you, make it a habit to stop every three hours or so to stretch your legs, go to the bathroom, and get some fresh air. This is also a great time to let your kids release any pent-up energy so consider packing a ball, frisbee, or some other outdoor activity that won’t take up too much space in the car.
Accept That Not Everything Will Be Perfect
No matter how carefully you plan, something is bound to go wrong at one time or another. Take a few deep breaths, keep your cool, and recenter yourself. Accept the fact that no trip is 100 percent perfect, so don’t let a proverbial bump in the road get in the way from you and your family having a great time!