HIT THE ROAD, JACK
DON’T GET TRIPPED UP WHEN HITTING THE HIGHWAY ON A FAMILY ROAD ADVENTURE
Ah, the great American road trip—it’s a handy way to get from here to there, and it’s practically guaranteed to create the kind of stories your family will tell again and again. But if the thought of being trapped in a metal box for long periods of time with restless kids makes you rethink road-trippin’ it, you’re not alone. Thankfully, plenty have crisscrossed the highways and byways before you and are willing to share their secrets, so read on for some top tips from parents on making your next road trip successful.
Be prepared. “Have these items on hand at all times: Tissue (for nose blowing and wiping), antibacterial wipes (for cleaning hands and faces), disposable plastic bags (for wet items, soiled items or diaper disposal), an umbrella (for rain or to provide shade on extra-sunny days), a sweater or jacket (appropriate for the season), plastic rain ponchos (in case of an unexpected shower), a first-aid kit (Band-Aids, cotton swabs, cotton balls, antibacterial ointment, etc.), treatments for common ailments (headache, upset stomach, car sickness, etc.), a flashlight (with fresh batteries), age-appropriate drinks (in an insulated bag or cooler), nonperishable or properly stored snacks, and a change of clothes for babies and smaller children (including extra socks and shoes).” —Tangela Walker-Craft, Tampa Bay/Lakeland Parenting Examiner
Pack smart. “If you’ll be doing a multi-day/night trip, pack one overnight bag with the basics everyone needs for the night—pajamas, toothbrushes and the all-important bathing suits (because you have to stay in a hotel with a pool—it’s the least you owe kids who have been stuck in a car seat/seat belt for hours). That way you only have to take one suitcase into the hotel each night—no need to unpack the entire car, carry in three-plus suitcases, clutter up the room, and then repack and carry everything out again the next morning.” —Cindy Richards, TravelingMom.com
Consider nap times. “If possible, always schedule your departure when it’s almost a baby’s nap time. If you leave, say, one to two hours before they normally sleep, you can get a little bit of chill time with them, when they first adjust to the road. [You’ll have] a little playtime, and then the feeding. Next thing you know, they are asleep and you just got a good three to four hours of driving in.” —Marina K. Villatoro, Travel Experta
Make it a game. “Want to know how to get your kids to stop asking ‘Are we there yet?’? Get them involved with the trip itinerary. Print the fidgety little ones a copy of the MapQuest directions with the miles, time estimates and map included. Also carry along a clipboard and colored pencils for each kid. Last but not least, carry along an analog clock. Before you pull out of your driveway, give each little one a set of driving directions and note the estimated total trip time. Have them predict if they will arrive at their destination earlier, later or just as predicted. During the trip, kids watch the passage of time on the analog clock while they get data at set intervals (parent decided) about where they are along the route. It turns ‘Are we there yet?’ into a fun activity. Whose prediction of the arrival time will be the closest?!” —Kristi Meyer, Mess with Us
Let the music play. “Music makes the (kids’) world go round. Prompt your kids to come up with a playlist of their favorite songs in advance of hitting the road. Then, create your own road trip radio station that will broadcast ‘live’ over the course of your travels. Next, let each kid take turns in the role of ‘guest DJ’ for a 30-minute block of time. Let them introduce and comment
on each of their tunes as the on-air host of their own radio show.” —Jeff Siegel, RelationTrips
Think outside of the (letter) box. “When my son was about 6, we discovered letterboxing. This is a treasure hunt that kids, including mine, tend to love. When we go on road trips, we search the website at Letterboxing.org to find letterboxes along the way to break up the monotony of the driving. On the site, there are clues to locations of letterboxes, typically Tupperware boxes that carry a book, a stamp pad and a pen. Once you follow the clues (which vary wildly in the degree of difficulty and the time required), you find the box, in the nook of a tree, a prairie, a library, virtually anywhere. You can stamp your own letterboxing book with the stamp included, and leave a note for those who planted the box. We’ve had endless fun with this activity, and we’ve seen places we never would have even noticed otherwise.” —John Duffy, The Available Parent
Listen up. “My best tip is to bring audio books for the whole family. It is both a shared experience, entertainment, and my kids are less likely to get carsick than if watching a DVD. Depending on the age of your kids, we like to bring a book the whole family can listen to together and talk about. We listened to a Harry Potter book as a family for a 10-hour drive. It made for great conversation, both explaining parts the kids didn’t understand and trading turns giving our opinions on the characters, their motivations and actions.” —Jennifer Pennell, Elementary Jetsetters
Don’t forget to take care of yourself! “To stay alert, I would snack on (boring as it sounds) healthy foods. Carrots and almonds were my favorite. I also had water all the time. This was good and bad. Drinking made us have to stop for the bathroom all the time, but that was also a good thing—gave us a chance to stretch our legs. We kept our pace manageable by not over-scheduling. This also allowed us to make spontaneous stops along the way. Flexibility is key.” —Gretchen Breuner, The RoadScholarz
Haley Shapley is a freelance writer based in Seattle, but you never know where she might turn up next. She maintains a travel blog, “Girl About the World,” chronicling her journey to visit all 50 U.S. states and 25 percent of the world. Good music and a GPS are all she requires when hitting the road.
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