Summer is in full swing and for most of us, there’s probably a good chance we’ll be taking a road trip at some point. Whether it’s an hour down the road or a 12 hour trip down the coast, when it comes to traveling with young kids, anything over 20 minutes can feel like an eternity (or at least it does for our family) but hitting the road for the weekend or a week’s getaway doesn’t have to be dreaded.
You may throw in a DVD to keep everyone entertained, but once the movie is over, there’s no need to worry. We’ve got a few quick tips and tricks to help you out so you reach your destination safely and sanely.
Nothing helps pass the time — or the miles — like playing a game. If you have young ones in the car, a couple of rounds of I Spy can distract them from the monotony of the drive. We also like the alphabet game in my family: starting with the letter “A” you go through the alphabet and everyone in the car has to come up with a word with the letter you’re on. Of course there’s also simple ones like counting red or blue cars, tallying the number of big rigs you see or getting points for being the first to spot a yellow car. As kids get bigger, you can play the License Plate game and try to find license plates from all 50 states.
Bring a basket of books
Even if your children can’t read, they probably still enjoy flipping through the pages of books to look at pictures. Prepare a basket of books to stash between seats and pull it out when everyone needs a break from the games…or mom and dad just need some peace and quiet. Be sure to offer a variety of options, including a favorite book or two for each child, a lift-the-flap book for preschoolers and a couple of books that your child has never seen before to keep them interested.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to create a quick activity pack for your kids. Hit up the dollar store or Target’s infamous dollar bins to get some new coloring books, flash cards, word searches, doodle pads and washable crayons. Share these at any point during the drive when all passengers are restless, but you just don’t want to stop for a break. Having something to keep hands busy and minds focused can be a true lifesaver.
Stop and smell the roses
We’re often so rushed these days, even when traveling, that we are focused only on our destination. But road trips can be the perfect time to relax a bit, and stop to smell the roses along the way. We’re not saying pull over at the sight of beautiful flowers, but don’t be afraid to check out something that piques your interest: a one-of-a-kind diner, a roadside stand teeming with colorful fruit, a unique coffee shop. Not only do stops like this allow travelers to get out, stretch their legs and take a quick bathroom break, but these are the moments that make a road trip even more memorable. You’ll look back later and be thankful you stopped and enjoyed a cup of coffee, talked to a local and detoured from your schedule just a bit.
Don’t forget the snacks
In our house, road trips are a time for those “special” snacks and treats we don’t get everyday. Think fruit snacks, gummy worms, BBQ Pringles, Chex Mix and bakery treats. If your house has a favorite cookie from Ashley’s, why not pick up a few to surprise everyone with on the drive? Don’t forget to throw in some paper towels, hand sanitizer and baby wipes, too, to keep hands clean and wipe up any spills.
Enjoy the adventure
Finally, the best tip we’ve got is to just enjoy the adventure. Sure road trips can be long and something is bound to happen that you didn’t plan for (traffic jams, pouring rain, a delayed departure time), but if you keep a positive attitude and can roll with any minor setback, your family will follow your lead. And trust us when we say these are the good times, the moments your kids will look back on and remember fondly. You’re spending time with ones you hold near and dear and lasting memories are being created. Isn’t that what summer is all about?