Road trips can be a great way to travel the country and see some of the amazing things it has to offer. It’s also infinitely cheaper than flying in most cases, so if you and the kids have somewhere to be this summer, why not consider planning a road trip instead of flying?
If you’re worried about being trapped in the car with your kids for hours on end, don’t fret—here are some tips and tricks you can use to make the road trip fun for the entire family.
Keep entertainment in mind
Kids, especially younger ones, can be difficult to entertain if you’re in an enclosed space for an extended length of time. Before you take off on your road trip, plan to keep your kids entertained. A few good items are:
- A kid bag: Pack their favorite toys, books, and other sources of entertainment in a bag that’s kept within arm’s reach of them. Not only does that allow them to keep themselves entertained, but it also starts to foster independence and imagination.
- A new toy: Nothing keeps kids entertained like something new and shiny. Just make sure you pick something that doesn’t make a lot of noise, or you might find yourself wanting to throw it out the window an hour into your trip.
- Audiobooks: You might not be able to read to your kids if you’re behind the wheel—or if, like me, you get motion sickness from reading in the car—but you can easily plug in an audiobook. What better time to get them interested in the classics, or modern classics like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, than when you’ve got hours to kill between destinations?
- Playlists: Don’t make your kids listen to your music all the time—let them pick some of the songs on the communal road trip playlist so that they don’t feel left out. You can’t plan a road trip without a good playlist, but everyone in the car should get a say in the tunes.
These are just a few suggestions—you’ll know what your kids are best entertained with. Some prefer reading on long trips while others like playing on a cellphone or tablet. Customize your entertainment selection to cater to everyone in the car.
Plan better bathroom breaks
Let’s be frank here—highway rest stops sucks. They’re always smelly, no matter how frequently they’ve been cleaned, and no one likes to stop there. Plus, the only food that many of them offer comes in the form of expired candy bars out of a vending machine. Eww.
You may need to stop at a rest stop for a bathroom emergency, but in general, try to plan better bathroom breaks. This strategy could involve a unique gas station like the Florida Citrus Center in Wildwood, Florida, or a local attraction, restaurant or museum. This step requires a little bit of planning ahead—and some cooperation from small bladders—but it can add a bit of variety to your trip.
If Google isn’t giving you enough information on upcoming rest stops, it might be worth it to download a road trip app. These apps are useful for everything from finding the best gas prices to letting you know what’s available at upcoming exits using GPS. At the very least, they’re good to have at your disposal for unexpected stops.
Stock up on snacks
You’re going to be doing a lot of dining out while on your road trip. It goes with the territory—you don’t have anywhere to store much food or cook it while you’re on the road, so you partake in local fare. You don’t have to stop every time someone says they’re hungry though, not if you did your homework and stocked up on snack foods.
Unmessy snack foods like fruit snacks, nuts, fruit, and even hard-boiled eggs and string cheese can keep your little bottomless pit full between meal stops. Keep stuff like fruit, cheese and eggs in a small cooler with an ice pack you can re-freeze at your destination.
Be prepared for emergencies
This concept should be a given any time you get behind the wheel, but it’s important enough that it bears repeating. Make sure you have everything you need in case of an emergency—whether that emergency is a cut from a seatbelt, a car accident, or anything in between. Fully stock your first aid kit before you leave, and ensure it’s easily accessible—don’t bury it at the bottom of your luggage. Make sure you include children’s versions of any over-the-counter medication for the little ones on your trip.
Your road trip doesn’t have to be all about the destination—the car ride itself can be fun too. Take some time to see the sights on your way, and skip the highway rest stops wherever you can in favor of unique destinations that double as bathroom breaks. Use these tips, and make sure the entire vacation is one to be remembered fondly for years to come.