Summer's 'round the bend — time to get your adventurous spirit in gear.
Proper planning makes all the difference between a stressful, unhappy time on the road with kids or a worry-free vacation filled with memories. Upwards of 89 percent of families take a road trip each summer, according to a 2014 Trip Advisor survey, but plenty of parents dread the idea of being cooped up in the car with kids for an extended period of time. Take heart! With the right attitude (spirit of adventure) and with a little preplanning, you can turn road trips into some of the most happy memories of your family life. Follow along!
FIRST THINGS FIRST: SAFETY
Make sure your car is in good working condition by getting the green light at a check up. If you don’t have AAA, download EmergenSee, a free app that turns your smartphone into a personal security system by allowing users to stream live video, audio and GPS location and tracking to selected contacts should you need. Make sure all of your car seats are strapped in correctly (refer to seatcheck.org if you’re not certain).
Put together a car first-aid kid:
• Anti-septic ointment
• Pain medication
• Allergy medication
• Hydrogen Peroxide
• Any medications or needs your family has
Make sure your car is equipped with:
• A good spare tire & jack
• Working flash light
• Flares in the event of emergency
• Road Atlas (in case your GPS goes out)
• Baby wipes, tissues, paper towels• Small blanket & pillow for each child
• Small activity bag for each child
• Entertainment: iPods with favorite music & recorded books, DVD players, smartphones
• Road trip music CDs you’ve premade
• Small cooler with beverages, ice.
• Bag with small, healthy snacks
• A portable potty for the little one
• Parents with fun ideas for car games & adventures
WHERE ARE YOU GOING?
Take a look at your trip before heading out and plan accordingly. Will you be going across country, camping along the way as you head toward Grandmas? Will you be just one night on the road so you need to book a hotel? How much time do you have in order to reach your destination? Can you plot out some fun along the way? Sit down with the kids (who are old enough to be interested!) and look at your atlas. Use the Internet to locate fun along your route.
Leave in the Dark
Kids get really excited when there’s a break in routine, so make the most of that little tidbit. Plan on leaving at bedtime with the kids in comfy clothes, or have them go to bed in comfy clothes and wake them when it’s still dark, suggests Jennifer Durbin in her book, Baby Traveling Tips for the Clueless Chick. Let your kids pre set pillows, blankets and activity bags the night before (because it’s fun for them to do so!) Leaving in the dark ensures that your little ones will still sleep and you can get a good two to three hours of driving in before stopping for breakfast.
Stop Often for Meals, Breaks
Sure you may want to make time and just drive, drive, drive, but your kids need to stretch their legs (you do, too!) and they will behave better in the car if they know there will be breaks to look forward to. Kids LOVE stopping at convenience stores while you gas up the car, too. Let them use the restrooms then help them purchase a treat. Dole out cold water from your cooler. Ingenious parents pack picnics, but if your trip covers several nights on the road, you will need to stop for lunch and dinner.
Plot Out Fun Along the Way
Have a few fun things up your sleeve along the way during your travel. Some parents love having a small bag of new activities at the ready for when the going gets tough — but the going’s not going to get tough, remember? You’re on the road and loving it because you were ready from the get-go!
FOUR GREAT TRAVEL APPS
Along the Way
Great app for planning day trips in unfamiliar territory. Find landmarks, shops, parks and more.
This app turns your smartphone into a personal security system by allowing users to stream live video, audio and GPS location and tracking to selected contacts should you need.
A mobile app that helps users track down cheap gas wherever they are.
A navigation app that offers multiple routes, real-time traffic updates, notification about speed trips and more, this community-based app lets drivers help each other out.
TOP ROAD TRIP GAMES WITH KIDS
“I spy with my little eye … something … green!” And everyone starts talking at once: “The grass outside!,” “That car over there!” “The ‘exit’ sign!” … and so on. Make up your own rules and let everyone take turns.
Accepting only “Yes” or “No” answers to questions from participants trying to discover who or what one of the players is. First question is “Animal or person?”
“Collect” license plates from different states. Person who gets the most wins. Only one license per person, i.e. if one person sees “Wisconsin” for instance, another player cannot have that Wisconsin.
Say “Go!” and everyone who has agreed to play begins using road signs, billboards and other signage to find all of the letters to the alphabet and be the first to finish. “A” in “Holiday!”, “B” in “barbeque!” A letter can only be claimed once. Slow it down for slower readers.
In Grandfather’s Trunk
A round robin game. One person starts by saying, “In Grandfather’s trunk, there is a map.” The next player says, “In Grandfather’s trunk there is a map and a … water bottle (or whatever!). Next player must name both things then add to it as the play goes around and around until people are stumped. Best memory wins!
Name that Tune
Figure out the name of the mystery song first. Choose a theme, as in Disney songs or Broadway or pop music. Find out how many notes someone can guess the song in.