All of these top family road trip tips will help make your road trip with kids more enjoyable for everyone!
Family road trips are a memorable experience and most of us have had the pleasure of experiencing one at some point in our lives.
Here we have a guest post from Alanna, a blogger at Great Ocean Road Australia who shares all her top tips for road trips with kids.
I have spent many hours in the car with my family, so I certainly have no shortage of suggestions when it comes to making the road trip less stressful and more enjoyable.
Our list of top tips for a smoother road trip will leave you feeling confident, prepared, and excited for your upcoming trip. So read on for 10 ways to turn your family trip into a great adventure.
Table of Contents
Plan Your Breaks
Before you set off on your journey, it’s handy to know roughly when and where you’ll be stopping for a break.
Driving for long periods of time isn’t advised, so having evenly spaced breaks along the journey will keep you alert and give you a chance to grab a much needed coffee or cold drink.
If you have small children, take a frisbee or ball along with you and keep an eye out for recreational areas in a park or by the gas station where your little ones can release some of that built up energy.
If you’re lucky, you may have the option of stopping at a beautiful beach like Apollo Bay in Australia, or at a national forest to let off steam along the route. Not only will this tire the little ones out, it will give you a chance to stretch your legs and enjoy some fresh air.
Finally, after each break try changing the seating arrangement around. Put the passenger in the back seat so an adult can distract the kids for some time, making the journey more exciting for little ones.
Look After The Driver
We generally make sure the kids are content and happy along the journey, and so much can go into their wellbeing that we forget how important the driver is.
If the driver is calm, well rested and organized, the whole ambience of the car will feel more positive, even if the kids are driving you crazy.
And whilst this is a key point for a calmer journey, it’s also vitally important to avoid accidents. As most accidents occur due to tiredness, having a good night’s sleep and being well prepared for your journey will allow the driver to remain alert whilst on the road.
This also ties in with taking regular breaks, as they are a great way to stretch your legs and give your eyes a rest from focussing on the road.
Take The Chance to Connect and Communicate
To some teenagers, a long car trip with the family might seem like a nightmare, but it can be easily turned into a fun experience which may even bring you closer together as a family.
Essentially, you’re all stuck in the same place for a number of hours, so take advantage and find out about your kids.
Alternatively, take the time to share things about yourself that you might not normally have time for, and let the kids do the interrogating for once. This will spike their enthusiasm and curiosity, keeping them engaged as they learn more about their family.
Other options include playing games for road trips that require kids to use their imagination, such as ‘I Spy’ and vocabulary based games where the kids need to use their descriptive skills.
For older kids, have a few discussion topics in mind and casually bring them up throughout the journey. This could be a way to discuss things that they like, or even introduce them to new ideas or topics.
Use Music for Road Trips to Liven The Mood
Music is a great form of entertainment, one which can be enjoyed together and separately.
If you have older kids, no doubt they will have music on their mobile phones or gadgets, but try handing them the aux cord and you might be surprised at what they enjoy listening to.
You could also play a game where you say an emotion, and they respond with a song from their playlist that they would associate with that emotion. It’s a fun way to get to know your kids better and understand their feelings through music.
Furthermore, for young children or those who love a good story, stick on an audiobook and listen together. Just make sure it doesn’t put the driver to sleep!
Plan Your Driving Hours
Planning your hours can really make all the difference. Some enjoy night time drives, whilst others can’t think of anything worse.
Additionally, traffic builds up at different times, especially if your route takes you through or near a busy city. Traffic jams, tiredness and your kids routines can all be taken into consideration when you plan your hours.
The most recommended times to travel are usually early morning or at night, and with accident and peak travel times available online, you can work out which hours suit you best.
Finally, when planning your driving hours, see if you can factor in some rest time for the driver and have the other adult take over for a while if they’re able to.
This avoids exhausting the main driver, and gives them a chance to refresh themselves before taking back the wheel.
Use Strategically Placed Surprises
Although it might be tempting to overload the kids with distractions straight away, hold back and space them out evenly over your journey.
Whether you’ve decided to spoil them with a new game or you’ve packed away some old toys and games from home, introducing them at the right moment should distract the kids and reduce any boredom quarrels.
Have games at hand that can be played together, and some which the kids can enjoy alone. This is important, as it encourages them to entertain themselves and not be reliant on an adult all the time.
Arts and crafts are another great alternative for kids, such as drawing and coloring. Just be aware that if you use glitter or playdough, you’ll be finding remnants hidden in the seats for many months after!
Have Road Trip Snacks and Drinks Ready Before Setting Off
If you’ve ever heard the word ‘hangry’ you’ll know it’s much worse to experience it when you’re trapped in a car with a long road ahead!
The combination of hunger and anger go all too well together, and as much as parents experience it, kids do too.
Depending on the length of your journey, and how many stops you’ll be able to make for a hot snack, having some easy to eat snacks like protein bars in the car will avoid adults and kids alike becoming too hungry and bothered.
It’s worth researching the route you are taking, even the smallest town like Aireys Inlet in Australia, may include a few fantastic eateries on the way, giving you and the family something delicious to look forward to and break up the trip.
Additionally, keeping hydrated is important, so have a few bottles of water at hand. Regular breaks should avoid accidents, but it’s probably best to limit the amount that kids drink to a healthy minimum.
Avoid Relying On Electronics
Technology is a wonderful thing, and we’ve all been tempting at one point or another to direct our child’s attention towards it, in the hope of some peace and quiet.
It may seem tempting to put a screen in front of the kids and keep them quiet for your entire journey, but ultimately it’s not healthy and can actually lead to more irritability and tiredness.
The same can be said for the electronics the adults are using too – GPS and online maps can easily fail when there’s a lack of signal or if a battery dies.
Not only can this put you in a sticky situation, it can increase stress levels. Keep a map at hand and get the kids involved in learning a basic survival skill.
Clean The Car Out Regularly
You might be wondering why having a clean car helps with a long car journey, but as the old saying goes ‘a clean environment makes for a clear mind’.
Spending hours cooped inside a car filled with empty food and drink wrappers can make it seem cluttered, and often leave an unpleasant smell. Take your regularly planned breaks as opportunities to clear out any rubbish and air out the car.
This will increase mental calmness and also means you’ll have less to clean up at the end of your journey.
It’s also worth investing in waterproof seat covers which are easy to remove and clean, in the event that any accidents or spills occur.
Be Prepared For The Unexpected
Our final point for making your family car trip the best that it can be, is to try and plan for the unexpected.
Of course it’s impossible to have thought of everything, but these few pointers might help if you find yourself in an undesirable situation:
- Always keep a stash of sick bags and motion sickness tablets in the glove compartment (not in the boot).
- Have your breakdown and insurance numbers at hand and written down on paper in case your mobile battery dies.
- Ensure the car has been well serviced and is fit for a long road journey (check the tires, water and oil levels).
- Leave with a full tank; there’s nothing worse than the red light coming on and no gas station in sight!
Driving with your family shouldn’t be stressful if you’ve planned ahead and prepared for the unexpected, in fact it can and should be a great experience.
Things can go wrong even for the most organized driver, so set out with a positive mindset and roll with the flow.
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