Are you thinking about taking the family on a road trip this summer? With air travel so expensive these days, many of us will be taking the fun on the road. Travel with kids can provide you with great family memories or it can leave mom and dad desperately needing a vacation away from the kids. A little advanced preparation can help to make your next road trip the adventure of a lifetime.
1. Vehicle maintenance. There’s nothing worse than being stranded on the roadside, in the middle of God knows where, with screaming and crying kids, waiting on a tow truck. A bit of routine vehicle maintenance can prevent this scenario. Get your oil changed and have your fluids checked, before you leave. Check your tires for air and make sure they still have some tread on them. You may want to consider purchasing a portable air compressor, the kind that plugs into your car’s lighter. Mine has saved me a lot of headache on a couple of occasions, plus they are great for filling rafts and flotation devices at the beach. Fill up on windshield wiper fluid and make sure your license, registration, maps, GPS, sunglasses, and proof of insurance are in the car. Be sure that your auto club membership is current.
2. Safety First. Before you take your next road trip, make sure that your child’s car seat is properly installed and secured. Did you know that up to 70% of car seats are not installed properly?
Make sure you’ve packed a flash light, plenty of water, and a first aide kit. Check that your cell phone is fully charged and bring a car charger with you, so your phone will be fully juiced in case you need to call for help.
Get some rest. It’s important to get a good night of sleep the night before your road trip. A groggy driver is a danger to themselves and everyone else on the road. Take turns driving if you can and if you find yourself nodding off, find a safe place to pull off the road and take a cat nap.
3. Pack plenty of snacks. Create a special treat bag for each child and don’t let them see what’s in it, until you’re on the road. Look for unusual treats and snacks that the kids don’t normally eat at home. If necessary, these treat bags can always be used as bribery. Be sure to bring a roll of paper towels and plenty of wipes.
4. Keep them comfy. Kids get tired and uncomfortable when cramped up in the car all day. Giving each child a travel pillow and soft blanket will help to keep them comfy and happy. Maybe you’ll get lucky and they will take a nap.
5. Be prepared for potty breaks. There’s something about taking a road trip that makes your child need to go potty twice as often. If you’re traveling on a schedule, add some extra time to your trip for lots of potty breaks. Know where the exits are. I suggest familiarizing yourself with the distance between towns that have places for a potty break. There’s nothing worse than hearing the words “I need to go potty” just after you’ve passed the last exit for the next 60 miles. Also, plan to stop at regular intervals. Just because they say they don’t need to go, doesn’t mean they don’t need to go.
6. Games, games and more games. Be prepared with some fun road trip games like counting cows or license plate lingo. Tell stories and sing silly songs. Do you remember playing Mad Libs on road trips as a child? Your kids will like them too. Purchase each child a disposable camera. They can take pictures on the road and make a vacation scrap book when you return home. Bring some fun travel books such as National Geographic Ultimate US Road Trip Atlas. When all else fails, there’s always the hand held games and portable DVD player option available to you. If you can though, try to do your next trip the old fashioned way with more interaction and less electronics.
Finally, simply relax and enjoy your road trip. In the end, it’s all about family time. If you plan and prepare ahead of time, your next road trip will be more fun for the whole family.