So how do you take a family road trip without losing your marbles before you even arrive at your destination? Here are 5 tips for planning a fun and memorable trip that is as stress-free as possible:
1. Plan your route
If you will be driving somewhere new, Google Maps is a great tool for planning the best way to get there. It allows you to enter your journey start and end points, and then drag the route onto different roads and highways and instantly see how long the drive will take. It’s also handy for planning rest stops – a quick break every two hours or so will make the journey much more enjoyable for the whole family, so factor this into your travel time, and try not to rush.
If your kids are old enough, print out a copy of the map to give them in the car so they can track the journey. They’ll have fun marking off the various towns along your route and it will hopefully reduce the number of times the “Are we there yet?” question is asked.
2. Prepare the car
Giving your car a thorough clean out before the trip can make being confined in the small space a lot more bearable. Grab two containers; one for rubbish and one for gear that needs to go back in the house, and remove everything from the car. Kids’ jumpers, shoes, stale Macca’s fries that have been lurking in the car’s interior crevices for who knows how long – they’ve all gotta go, then give the interior a thorough clean.
If you don’t have a cover on the back seat, before you head off on your trip consider putting a beach towel down on the seat (under the kids’ carseats).Having a towel protecting the upholstery makes me feel slightly less worried about the sheer volume of food and drinks that the kids will inevitably spill during the trip.
In the lead up to your trip check your car’s fluids and tires. I speak from experience when I say having a bald tire start to shred while you’re driving down the highway is not a fun way to start your holiday. Evidently my other half didn’t understand that checking tires to ensure they were not balding involved actually getting down on the ground, and checking the inner edges of the tires, instead of just glancing from a standing position.
It’s also a good idea to check the shoulder strap positioning of the kids’ car seats to make sure they will be comfy, and if their seat has a recline function, tip that baby back into a recline position to help expedite the sleepy vibes.
3. Get techie
Electronic entertainment can be a real sanity saver on a long road trip, so my advice is it to milk it for all it’s worth. iPads are great for older kids, while a DVD player that attaches to the back of the adult’s seat may be a better option for toddlers. Obviously you’ll want to make sure all of your electronic devices are fully charged before heading off on your trip, but also consider buying a USB charging adapter that plugs into the car’s cigarette lighter. You can pick these up from a discount store for a few dollars and they are totally worth the investment to ensure your entertainment devices and phones stay juiced up during your road trip.
4. Keep the kids busy
In addition to electronics, it’s important to have a range of other goodies on hand to keep the kids busy. If you have a
spare seat in the back, use a basket to keep everything together and within kids’ reach. I found a basket that fit nicely between the kids’ seats and could be held in place by threading the middle seat belt through the handle to stop it sliding around.
Our activity basket is stocked with board books, a clipboard with blank paper for drawing,colouring books,an old digital camera for the kids to take photos with, as well as CD read-along books. It’s a good idea to have a mix of ‘old favourite’ books and toys, as well as some new stuff that the kids haven’t seen before.
I also kept a stash of ‘surprise’ toys in a bag in the front seat with me that I could dish out as a last resort, if the other activities lost their novelty factor.
5. Pack food, food and more food
My best tip regarding food for a family road trip is to estimate how much you think you’ll need, and bring more! Our kids usually don’t have big appetites, but that soon changes when we hit the road and they are stuck in the car for long periods. Pack healthy snacks like sandwiches and fruit, but also bring some special treats. Thanks to Pinterest, I came across the idea of using a tackle box to put snacks in before our last road trip, and it was a big hit with the kids, as well as my hubby. I filled each section with nuts, dried fruit, yoghurt drops, biscuits and a few chocolates and lollies.
With a little extra planning, a family road trip doesn’t have to be a stressful experience that tests your sanity.
Are you heading off on a road trip this Christmas holidays? What’s your best tip for helping parents keep their cool in the car with kids?
Rebecca is an Aussie mum of two living in Adelaide. A part-time Graphic Designer and fulltime travel dreamer, she runs the family travel website www.happytravelwithkids.com in her spare time. Rebecca is always planning the next trip and loves connecting with other wanderlusting parents to talk about all things family travel.