Traveling with kids is a lot of work. You realize this especially when it comes to traveling with kids in a car, on long road trips. Traveling together as a family builds strong bonds, and is an opportunity to create tons of memories. But, before you can reminisce about the trip, you need to survive it first with your sanity intact.
Being cooped up in a small place is what kids cannot stand at all, and moreover, it is definitely not healthy for them, especially in case of younger children. Things like “He is in my place”, “She is making faces at me”, “He is hitting me”, and the favorite question of the whole road trip “Are we there yet?” can quickly turn into tantrums amongst the kids.
So, to keep them under control and happy, and to enjoy the journey itself, here are some tips for traveling with kids:
Tips for traveling with children
1. Plan in advance
Like every trip, it is necessary to plan ahead for long tours, whether for holidays or just a friendly visit to grandparents. First thing to do before starting a road trip is to check if your car comfortably fits everyone or not.
Does it have enough moving space? Rather than fighting for tight space in the car, it is best that you book a minivan in advance. There are many taxi service companies near your area who will let you rent a van.
If driving and looking after them is too much to handle, you can ask if they also provide child-friendly driver, who will accompany you in the trip. This way you will have more time to spend with your kids and don’t have to worry about parking and keeping the van safe.
2. Pack ahead
One of the important tips for traveling with kids in a car is to pack ahead. Decide what to take on the road, for your children, to keep them fed, quiet and entertained. Make a ‘traveling with kids’ checklist and see if you have packed all things as required.
Divide and pack things separately so you won’t have to go on a treasure hunt in your trunk. Pack the basic supplies like sunscreens, hats, sunglasses and tissues in one bag, so it can be easily taken out.
You can let older kids pack their stuff with your supervision, that way they don’t end up packing their entire room for the road. See that the toys they pack are small and doesn’t make a lot of noise. These toys can be small cars & planes, board games, coloring books, or anything they like; the ones that will keep them occupied most of the time.
When you let them pack their own stuff, they will learn about taking care of their things. They will also develop a sense of responsibility towards their belongings.
Start packing for the family trip a week before the trip day. Don’t just wait for the D-day to come. It will make packing more time consuming and stressful. This will substantially throw the enthusiasm out of the window.
3. Be safe
When you are traveling with children, get them and yourself to have a good night’s sleep. Cranky pants do not make good passengers or good drivers.
Make sure that the car seat is installed safe and secure. If you have a rental van for the trip, you can also install your own car seat, so that the kids can have a comfortable ride. You can even ask them to switch the seats along the way.
Always keep a first-aid kit ready at hand. Don’t forget to take allergy medication and other specific meds if needed. Your next stop might be a long way in the trip, so, bring plenty of water and fluids to keep the kids dehydrated.
At times when your car/van breaks down or the kids have to pee in the middle of nowhere, in the dark, bringing a flashlight would be a good idea.
Another important thing to do is to have a back-up transportation service. You don’t want to get stuck on the road with a broken down car and agitated kids, while trying to hitch a ride for the whole family. Have a friend ready at hand or have the contact details of a reliable and safe taxi service near the area.
When it’s time to call your friend or the taxi service, you don’t want your cell to give up on you. So, keep it fully charged before you head out, and for safe measure, bring an extra charger just in case.
4. A full child is a happy child
Long journeys in a car bring boredom and frustration; it is the same for kids as well. On top of it, if the kids are hungry, they are more easily irritated, and then the trouble ensues.
To avoid this, bring along different foods and snacks to give them in the car. From fruits to savory and sugary snacks, having light meals in the car will give them enough energy, prevent them from getting grouchy and make them refreshed.
You can even pack a picnic set and have meals at scenic stops. That way, kids are happier to eat, food tastes great, and they get a bit of exercise by running around.
You can also stop at towns, and find a restaurant to have good hearty meals, after which kids are sure to fall asleep. This way you can drive for miles in peace.
5. Match the routine
Now, most parents drive while the kids are asleep and this is a great strategy to adopt. It will help you cover quiet a lot of distance. This works depending on the child’s nature, some fall asleep easily when the drive starts while others stir wide awake.
If children don’t get enough sleep, this makes them very unhappy, which in turn might make your day bad. To solve this, you can give them meals in the car that will make them fall asleep in no time. You can also bring their favorite stuffed animal or blanket that they can snuggle up to and fall asleep easily. One advice for traveling with kids is, try not to stop the car while they are sleeping, it will wake them up.
And then, there is the problem of oversleeping. To avoid this, keep the kids engaged with game, snacks and treats, and sceneries you pass by.
To keep kids from oversleeping, take many rest stops, as you need to give your kids a time to relax, breathe in the fresh air and stretch their muscles a bit. You can give them cameras so that they can enjoy taking pictures of scenic stops.
6. Take your sweet time
You cannot make a rigid schedule while traveling with kids in a car and expect them to follow. This applies for both older kids and the young ones, who cannot sit still for a minute or two in one place, let alone inside a closed car.
So, take as many pit stops as possible to give them bathroom breaks and time to freshen up. You can plan these stops before the trips, with the help of friends who have visited the place, or a little research on the net goes a long way.
You can choose fun places to stop by for kids like amusement parks, restaurants, playgrounds and road-side attractions, to give them regular intervals along the journey. Playing games with your kids in the car and at these stops helps you learn more about each other.
And, this way you will be able to see a lot more on your family trip, which otherwise you would have missed, if you were in a hurry to get to the next town or your destination.
7. Motion Sickness
If you have a kid who suffers from motion sickness, ask your doctor if it’s ok to give him/her over-the-counter drugs for treating motion sickness. This only works if the medicine is taken half an hour before starting the road trip.
But, if you happen to find out that your kid has motion sickness during the journey, stop the car and let him/her get some fresh air, and rest a little before resuming the drive. Letting your child out of the car and rest, till he/she feels good about moving on, is the best thing you can do for motion sickness.
And if you cannot stop the car for some reason, then seat him/her at the centre of the car, and ask your child to focus on the road ahead, or at the horizon up front. This will cause motion sickness to reduce.
Getting sleepy while suffering from motion sickness can only worsen the condition, so keep him/her engaged. Also, avoid giving the kid heavy food. Keep light crackers at hand, and give them to the kid if he/she starts to feel sick.
Sometimes we make more memories in the journeys we take to get to our destination. And traveling with kids in car creates wonderful family bonding moments. Road trip with your kids is one of those travels which have their own ups and downs, but mostly ups. So, plan your next travel adventure with your kids and have a blast!
Do you have any sweet and funny memories of road trips with your kids? It can be things you learned about your kids, or perhaps things that didn’t go so well, whatever they are, share your stories with us. We would love to hear them.