Even if they’re looking forward to a vacation destination, traveling with young children can sometimes be an exercise in both patience and exasperation. Once the initial excitement of the road trip wears off, children can easily become fidgety, frustrated and bored. However, there are a few measures you can take to preserve your own sanity and stop those incessant cries of “Are we there yet?”
Whether you’re taking a three-hour road trip to Grandma’s or a 10-hour ride to the beach, the most important factor is to plan ahead. Map your route and try to determine where the best rest stops might be. Based on your children’s temperaments and sleep schedules, decide when the best time to get on the road would be so that they sleep at least part of the way. Decide before you leave whether you’ll eat meals in the car or at a rest stop — and be sure to take along drinks and snacks that are appropriate for munching in the car, like cut-up pieces of fruit and small boxes of cereal.
Activities Are Essential
Before you embark on your road trip, create gift bags of surprises to give your kids. Include items such as activity books and new crayons, storybooks, sing-along CDs, portable travel games or other small toys. Use bags that will hold up for the entire trip. For instance, if you’re heading to the beach, you might give each child a kid-sized beach bag filled with fun items for the car.
Make Frequent Stops
Plan to stop about every two to three hours to let the kids “stretch their legs;” this is especially important for young children who are still riding in a car seat or booster. Try to stop at an area where they can run and play — even if it’s just for 10 to 15 minutes. Preschoolers or school-age children might enjoy collecting a small souvenir from each stop to add to an on-the-go scrapbook. If you’re going to be traveling back roads for an extended period of time, you might want to invest in a travel potty for those “gotta-go” moments.
To keep anxious kids quiet and content, it’s tempting to just pop in a DVD or hand them an electronic gadget. However, if you want your kids to appreciate the actual journey and not just the destination, engage them in the scenery. Plan activities based around what you see outside the windows. Younger children will enjoy counting cars of a certain color or the license plate game, where they try to find license plates from as many states as possible. You could also create a special map for your little ones, using pictures instead of words, so they can get an idea of where they are and how much further they have to go on the journey.