Family Road Trip Tips

Family Road Trip Tips

There's a reason why so many families tell and retell the stories of long-ago road trips in the family car. The truth is, being in such close quarters with the ones we love most can create some hilarious situations and wonderful memories, but it can also be stressful.

Plan Ahead
Before you hit the road, be honest with yourself about what you and your children can handle in the way of a road trip. While older children might be capable of dealing with 10+ hours in the family van, chances are your 4-year-old isn't. Generally speaking, young children should not be subjected to confinement in a car for more than six hours a day. This is just as much for your sanity as it is for theirs.

Set a reasonable schedule, and accept the fact that it will probably change. Everything won't go according to plan -- there will be extra bathroom stops, accidents (not major ones, with any luck!), traffic delays, and things you just didn't plan for. It's inevitable.

Start packing, at least mentally, a few days before you leave. Let the kids help pack their own bags if they are old enough, and discuss the trip with them; like grown-ups, kids like to know what to expect. Packed bags mean less confusion, less standing around and less frustration on departure day. This translates into a pleasant start to your road trip.

A great way to avoid the inevitable question (are we there yet?) is to give kids a map, or, even more fun, help them create their own.

What to Bring
Safety: If you decide to rent a car, bring your own car seats. Chances are they are of a higher quality than those provided by rental car companies and more comfortable for the kids too. Bring along a first-aid kit to treat minor mishaps.

Just this once, goes against your parenting books and let the television baby-sit your kids. In-car and portable DVD players can be the key to your sanity on a long trip; you may even want to go as far as to get (or borrow) one for each child. No arguments about whether to watch "Dora the Explorer" or "Spiderman" means peace and quiet for you.

Whatever you were planning to bring in the way of snacks, double it. Absolutely, pack their favorite healthy snacks, but keep aside some bribing goodies for when you get desperate.

Some other items to consider: a Nintendo DS, books on CD, their favorite music CD's, tablets, e-readers (Kindles, Nooks, etc.) and anything else technological gizmo capable of keeping them entertained for a few hours. We also recommend blankets, pillows and favorite small toys. Coloring books and crayons will also keep the young ones occupied -- surprise them with a new one when the car gets moving.

Avoiding and Treating Motion Sickness
Over-the-counter drugs are available for treating motion sickness in kids; many must be taken before the trip starts. Consult your doctor before giving your kids any new medications. If your child complains of dizziness or nausea, chances are it is just motion sickness and can be cured temporarily by getting out of the car for fresh air.

Keep the Peace
Take advantage of sights along the way, even if it's just at a neighborhood park or a McDonald's with a playground. Although it might add time to the trip, stopping often will keep the journey interesting for young travelers. Sometimes a quick stop to burn off energy is all they need to get back in the car happily. 

Plan your road trip with your child's sleeping schedule in mind. Many parents choose to leave late in the evening and let the children sleep while they divide the driving. Other parents will try their best to adhere to nap times in the car -- after all, few things are more unpleasant than a child who's missed his or her nap.

Lastly, if you are traveling with a spouse, consider designating roles: driver and entertainer. The driver will concentrate on the road while the other keeps the peace -- keeping your whole family happy and, most importantly, safe.