Road trips have always been a way of life for some families. For others, lots of time in the car is their version of Hell. But day trips and staycations are the only way for families to get away these days. Whether you’re road tripping for three hours or 10, I have some tips and tricks guaranteed to make your car rides more enjoyable for everyone involved.
My family does a road trip every summer, which often involves a 15-22 hour drive each way. The following ideas have been tested time and time again on kids ranging in age from 2 to 14.
- Take at least one long road trip with your family before your children leave home.
- A two-hour drive doesn’t count as a road trip.
- Whatever electronic rules are in place at home go out the window the minute you step into the car.
- Seasons of TV shows are far better bang-for-your-buck than movies. In other words, you get 572 minutes of entertainment versus 90 minutes for almost the same price.
- If you don’t have a built-in entertainment system in your car (we don’t) a laptop or iPad works just as well, and the screen is actually bigger.
- A dual charger keeps everyone happy and powered up when travelling by car.
- Road maps are essential, even if you have a GPS.
- Program all potential stops and destinations into your GPS before leaving home.
- It’s crucial to have a good selection of music available for the car. Inevitably, you will run into stretches of highway where not a single radio station tunes in properly.
- Make family road trip playlists. Ask each person to choose five songs of their liking and download them to your device so no streaming fees. Label the playlists with the destination and year of your vacation (‘South Carolina, 2014’) and keep it as a memento of your travels.
- Play games! Road trip bingo, travel versions of popular board games, Would You Rather, Rock, Paper, Scissors, etc.
- Read, read, and read. Comic books are ideal and sometimes easier than something huge like Harry Potter. Our Calvin and Hobbs books have been everywhere with us.
- Keep a pack of wet wipes in the car, no matter how old your kids are.
- The same goes for napkins and garbage bags.
- For young kids, fill small bins with toys, books, activities, games, etc. Swap them out every two hours and replace with a new bin to keep things interesting.
- Pack plenty of snacks. More than you think you will need. And treats! After all, you are on vacation.
- Another note about snacks: no food on sticks or skewers allowed. You don’t want to give the kids tools to use for poking each other, and you know just as well as I do that when you’re packing for a big trip you don’t have time to make the food look cutesy.
- If you have the space, fill a cooler with ice and drinks. It’s so much better/easier than buying them on the road.
- However, do buy some snacks or a meal on the road. That’s part of the fun.
- Keep your camera/phone handy.
- Insist the kids wear sandals. They will always want to take their shoes off and the smell of sweaty sneakers isn’t conducive to spending 15 hours in the car. Plus, when you stop it’s easier to slip them back on the feet.
- Plan at least one surprise. It could be an unexpected movie/TV show to watch, snack, or pit stop.
- Ten hours is pretty much the longest amount of time anyone should spend in a car. If your trek is longer than that, break it up in to two smaller drives.
- However, when faced with the choice of stopping overnight on the drive home, or pushing through to get it over and done with, opt for the latter. You’ll thank yourself for the extra day at home before you have to get back to reality.
Are you road-tripping veterans? If so, we’d love to hear about where you’re heading. Also, do you have any secrets for success to add to the list?