Hmm Road Trips with kids! Most people would describe this experience as hell on wheels, but with proper planning, it doesn’t have to be. The most important thing is keeping stress levels down so your vacation can be an enjoyable experience for everyone.
I don’t have children, so in order to give you the absolute best advice, I recruited 300 of my amazing friends, and asked them what they do when taking road trips with their children, plus I added a few gems of wisdom from my own childhood.
So here you are, some tips on taking a road trip with your kids, from amazing parents in Australia, USA, South Africa and Europe.
The Red Neck Au Pair Program
I grew up with a single mother on welfare and there was never any money for vacations. I started babysitting at 12 to pay for my school lunches. One of the benefits of this, is that some of the families I babysat for DID go on vacation, and they were more then happy to take me along to help with the kids. This was perfect for me. I got a small amount of pocket money, I loved being around and helping with the children, and I really loved going on vacations and eating at restaurants, which was a huge luxury. The parents got to relax and have ‘date nights’ and enjoy their time off. It was a win-win for everyone, and some of my fondest childhood memories. If you have access to this situation you should definitely look into it.
Plan Before You Leave
It really does make the difference between an enjoyable trip, and one that’s filled with stress and uncertainty. When traveling with children, your vacation does have to be planned more than when you travel alone or with adults. Kids like to stay in a routine and are generally not as flexible. They also need more breaks and scheduled meals. Pack for all scenarios. This should include a change of clothes and hygiene needs, blankets, water, food and toys/games, all within easy reach. Remember safety is most important, so check your child’s car seats and seat belts before embarking.
The general consensus amongst my friends is that the younger the child, the more stops you need to make. They get restless and bored easy, and they don’t quite understand whats happening, so it’s important to get them out and refreshed often. Stopping by a playground is a great idea to get them excited and burn off energy so they will be more relaxed on the next leg of the Journey. It’s also fun to stop at scenic look outs and local attractions and make them aware of where they are and their surroundings.
Back when I was young we never had tablets or car DVD players and I don’t know what to make of it all to be honest. We used to always make fun of
my friends parents who were old fashioned and didn’t keep up with the times, and now that person is me! I really value interacting with my loved ones, and enjoying personal relationships on vacations. I refuse to turn the radio on in the car, I don’t like the TV on in the hotel room, and I’m too cheap to pay for WiFi, so what’s left? Talking and games! Yea! Eye spy is fun, waving at trucks is fun, counting cars is fun, but yea, I understand parents wanting to go postal after 3 hours of that. Portable electronics are a good idea when you want some peace and quiet for a couple of hours and some time off to concentrate on the road. Everyone has their limits. If fights break out, try to distract them with games or a treat, and if they doesn’t work, stop the car, get out and walk them.
Depending on your child’s age, they might also enjoy taking part in the navigation and planning. Give them a map and keep them up to date of where you are and when your next stop will be. This will help cure boredom and restlessness and keep the trip moving forward. Giving them media (such as a cheap camera. a journal or a travel pack with paper and color pencils is also a great way to allow your child to be creative and record their experiences.
As most of you know, I am a huge supporter of eating healthy, but on vacations and road trips, I relax a little bit. This is a time to enjoy life, and there is nothing better than indulging in a few of your favorite treats. Pack a mix of healthy and not so healthy snacks, and keep plenty of water handy. A great idea from my friends in South Africa, is to pack each child their own cooler full of meals, snacks and drinks. This offers something personalized and exciting, and prevents conflict. Where to stop and eat also depends on your location. Lunch picnics are fun for rural areas, and a restaurant meal for the whole family is a great idea for dinner. Enjoy your holidays….Having a balance is important, and there is plenty of time for regimes and diets in your everyday life. Relax and have fun.
Bribes, Negotiations and Rewards
Some parents are divided on this issue, as they feel teaches and rewards children’s poor behavior and endorses bad life skills, but in the right context, it’s an extremely powerful tool. If someone said to me “Ok Sarah, I want you to sit there and be a good girl for 4 hours, then I’ll take you to the cheesecake factory, and you can have an Ultimate Margarita, Pasta Da Vinci and Peanut Butter Cups cheesecake, you better believe that I’d be a good good girl! Now, I don’t what that says about me, but humans love cheap thrills. We love good food and good times and will behave accordingly in order to feed our pleasure centers. Give your children something to look forward to and reward good behavior.
Work with what your child really loves and desires, act accordingly and within your child’s age and maturity level, don’t promise something you can’t deliver and make the travel experience fun and exciting.
Remember that taking a vacation should be fun and all about quality time with your family and friends. Remember safety first, keep these travel tips in mind and you should have an amazing trip for kids of all ages!