It’s not always easy for adults to stay sane on long road trips, so imagine how much harder it is for young children who don’t have much control about the itinerary, deciding what important things to bring and when the next bathroom stop is. Experienced parents and caregivers understand the importance of planning every last detail, from kid-friendly destinations to the right things to pack. Making a list, getting the right supplies and checking everything twice before hitting the road will make the adventure much more pleasant for everyone.
Safety First, Always
You’ll want to have a fully stocked first-aid kit in your car, and this doesn’t mean just having a few Band-Aids. The Red Cross is a good source if you’re not sure what to include; they recommend having adhesive bandages, adhesive cloth tape, absorbent compress dressings, antibiotic ointments, emergency blankets and a host of other supplies. Also include sunscreen, aloe ointment (for sunburn), Tylenol or Advil, anti-itch cream and everyone’s medications. Keep extra water and non-perishable snacks in the car too, and make sure that it’s tuned up and that you have an inflated spare tire before traveling.
Picking the Best Driving Times
The two best times to leave for a road trip with young kids is either before the sun rises or late at night, according to Have Halal Will Travel. This way, they’re much more likely to spend a decent part of the trip asleep. If you’re able to share the driving duties with a partner, you can take turns. But if it’s only you driving and you’re too tired, this isn’t a good option. You can plan to save some sanity by not driving during the busiest times, like rush hours and Friday and Sunday evenings.
Taking Scheduled Breaks
Adults often like to avoid taking rest stops so they can arrive at their destinations sooner, but kids need to burn off energy (and use the potty) more often. Plan to stop every two hours, and keep the stops short. The other option is to incorporate interesting sightseeing stops along your route. And if the kids get to see or do something fun (why not stop at a playground for 30 minutes?), they’ll be less likely to complain as often.
Snacking on Road Trips
Fatty, salty and sugary foods certainly taste good, but can make kids jittery and crabby and also don’t keep them as full for as long. It’s wiser to bring healthier foods that they like, with maybe a few treats snuck in there. Avoid messy things like drippy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and stick with grapes, bananas, turkey and cheese sandwiches cut into small pieces or maybe some chicken nuggets. Portion them into bags or containers, and don’t forget the napkins. You can bring along juice boxes or make a rule that they can only drink water in the car.
Have a Sense of Structure
Live Life Organized likes having structure during road trips, and this kind of plan can follow what you do at home. For example, if your kids are usually in school in the morning, you can bring along some fun workbooks for them to tackle in the early part of the day. When they’re finished, they can be rewarded with a video or their favorite music. Stop for lunch at a kid-friendly restaurant or picnic outside, and try to stick to their regular nap schedule during the trip too.
Older kids who don’t take naps can tend to get bored faster, so make sure that they choose their own things to bring along with them. And if they start fighting in the car, don’t engage with them and start yelling. Instead, slow down and issue a warning that you will pull over until they stop, follow through if they don’t and remain silent until they calm down. This is one of the best parenting tricks in the book; it usually works like a charm!