“Are we there yet?” was a term coined by the family road trip. While new technology and toys may have silenced backseat conversations, spending time together in the car can still be a great opportunity for family bonding and learning. Even if you plan on bringing the latest gadget to pass the time, try saving them for the end of your trip when everyone is tired and cranky.
Deciding on a family road trip can be a daunting challenge, not to mention an exercise in patience. However if you prepare ahead of time, the trip can be one of the most memorable experiences of your family’s life.
Here are some quick and easy tips for making your family road trip a fun and safe one.
- Prepare a checklist of items you will need. This will include first aid kit, food, snacks, drinks, and lots of toys, coloring books, paper and crayons, a portable DVD player so your kids can watch their favorite movies; and a cooler. A good idea is to ask the kids what games they would like to take, within limits of course.
- Ensure that the snacks are healthy in nature. Too many sugar snacks can have the kids bouncing off the car seats. Remember, this is a relaxing family vacation and you want to avoid the kids getting bored or repeatedly asking you when you are going to arrive.
- Check online to print out games for the road that you and the kids can play along the way. There are an assortment of puzzles and riddles as well.
- In addition, if you have very young children you will need to take the diaper bag and wipes for the occasional spills, blankets and pillows if applicable and a favorite item or stuffed animal for the young ones is a good idea as well.
- Decide on the destination and then contact AAA for a trip ticket. Ask for the scenic route, one that is much more calming and pleasing to the eye, especially the driver!
- As you check out the planned route you may want to check online to find gas stations along the way that offer the cheapest gas. Also if there are any points of interest along the route mark them on the map and plan to stop at these sites.
- While on the road ensure that you make pit stops regularly. This will allow the kids to run around and let off some steam, while allowing the adults to stretch and re-energize. Bring along a football or soccer ball so that the entire family can have some fun while exercising at the same time.
- It is very important that safety concerns are met. This includes having the car checked at your local mechanic or gas station. Ensure that the oil and filter are changed; the tires are well inflated (don’t forget the spare tire, too); the windshield wipers are replaced (if needed); and the car is in great condition before you head out.
In addition, you may want to place the following items in your trunk: a lawn chair, extra blanket, emergency road kit, umbrellas, water, flashlight and batteries, a battery-powered radio, and windshield wiper cleaner. In the glove compartment include a first aid kit and cell phone charger. Keep all medications in a Ziploc bag in the glove compartment as well.
Another good idea is to take a list of telephone numbers including the hotel or motel where you are staying as well as those of family and friends you may need to contact.
If you enjoy scrapbooking, this road trip may be a perfect opportunity to add new treasures to the book. As you make stops at some scenic sites, ask the kids to find an item they would like to include in the scrapbook. Or if the kids point out something along the way that they find fascinating, take a picture of it to include in the scrapbook as well.
Engage the kids in the decision making, age appropriate, and allow them to decide what they would like to bring. Have them pack their clothes (check the suitcases afterwards) so they feel part of the overall experience. Planning ahead of time for a family road trip will save you time, stress, and money. And the kids will enjoy this adventure, too!
Here are some additional ideas from one of our favorite teachers in Travel, Little Passports, that are sure to make the time fly by (or at least go by a little faster):
- If you are signed up with Little Passports, save your most recent delivery from Sam and Sofia for your road trip so your kids learn and explore during the car ride.
- Say goodbye to your trusted GPS! Bring back the memory of car trips as a kid and use a map! The night before your trip bring out an actual map to show your intended route to your child. Even better, copy the map and pull out a highlighter so your child can follow along – and let you know when you missed a turn.
- Build in time for pit stops – and if time allows, make short stops that incorporate fun activities along the way. Everyone will need a bathroom break and a meal, but if that happens at a place right off the highway and near playground it can be better for everyone! The kids will get fed – and burn off some energy.
- Hit up a dollar store before you leave and stock up on small toys and activities to give to your kids along the way. Every hour let your child choose a surprise – a great incentive for good behavior! You can even wrap the toys for an added element of excitement.