A family road trip is like a rite of passage for most families. The kids will complain about it, you and hubby will argue over directions at some point, there will be one too many “are we there yet” and too many pottie breaks on the way that will throw the entire time schedule off. This is what great family stories are made of. The road trip you are leaving on this weekend might be a little crazier than you had planned, but it is bound to be talked about 5 years from now at some family gathering with smiles on everyone’s face as details are fondly remembered. Packing any family for a road trip can be challenging. There are several things you can do to minimize the drama on your family road trip.
Each kid gets one carry on
Similar to being on a plane, your kids are going to be cramped in a car for hours on end. Let them pack their most wanted items in a small carry on that they can keep by them in the car. This will not only help you stay sane, but they can’t claim they are bored as they packed their own entertainment. Some items my kids pack in their carry-on’s: Nintendo ds, iPod or MP3 player, books, travel games, Barbie dolls, coloring books/crayons, and card games. By allowing your child to pack their own bag, they feel more empowered and they actually look forward to packing their own bag of goodies.
Having healthy snacks can seem impossible to pack when you are in a car. I look for things that don’t have to go in a cooler and things that pack easily with little to no maintenance that I can hand out in single serving sizes. Trying to pass a bag of chips around a car just doesn’t work. The kids fight over who gets to hold the bag, who ate them all and well you get the picture. I pack granola bars, nuts, dried fruit, rice cakes in Ziploc bags, peanut butter crackers, and fruit snacks to keep the keeps happy in between meals. I pack the snacks up front by me so I can distribute them easily as we travel.
Forget juice, pack water
Juice can have a lot of added sugars and creating a sugar rush is the last thing you want to do when traveling in a car for hours. I buy mini bottles (8 oz) of water to provide for the kids when they need a drink. The bottles have their own cap so kids can take a drink as needed and if it spills, it is not a big deal since it is just water.
On Board Entertainment
Having a DVD player in the car saves us when the kids start to get a little restless. We do not pull out the DVD upon take off, we wait a few hours until the kids seem to lose interest in what they brought with them and are getting tired of sitting. Prior to leaving in the car, we vote on 2-3 movies that the kids agree on and pack them to go. We have a dual screen dvd player so that the kids can see the movie from various locations in the car. Red Box locations are everywhere now and if you need an extra movie or know the kids want to see a newer release, pick up it before you leave and return while out on your road trip. Most gas stations have a red box.
Plan a few strategic stops
I know you want to get to your vacation destination stop, but sometimes planning a few strategic stops on the road trip can really make it interesting for the kids and keep mom and dad sane, too. The trick here is to find stops that won’t take a lot of time to visit, but that provide the opportunity to make kids feel like they are doing more than sitting in the car for a couple of days. We have stopped at state parks before and visited some of nature’s prettiest sites. We were able to get great pics, too.
Buy the kids their own disposable camera or if they already have their own make sure it is packed. Give everyone the fun assignment to do a photo journal to remember their trip. It has always been fun to get the pics developed and look at things through the kids eyes. The kids sometimes take great shots that my husband and I may have missed.
We don’t have a lot of room in our car so packing simple is key to success. Two kids share one suitcase. Make sure to pack layers for the kids so as they get hot or cold, it is easy to adjust their wardrobe. We typically let the kids pack their stuff and then we do a onceover and remove or replace any items we think are questionable. Empowering your kids as much as possible to feel like they are part of the planning will make them a lot happier about going.
Following these very simple rules of the road can make all the difference in car. It does not have to be like a scene out of National Lampoon’s Vacation.