Family Road Trip Tips

Family Road Trip Tips

 Family Road Trip Tips. Even if your mommy-tolerance levels are on par with those of Mother Theresa, chances are your endurance will be put to the test on a road trip. Luckily, creating a calm and happy drive can be as simple as adhering to a few simple rules. First, make sure you've covered the basics – snacks, water and bathroom breaks – and then move onto the more “advanced” needs, like toys, DVDs, Game Boys, etc. Having lived through many traveling excursions with four young children, I've found that being prepared makes for a (relatively) smooth ride. Make like the Boy Scouts and use these tips to get ready for your road journey.
Choose the right time to travel
When deciding on departure times, consider leaving early to avoid traffic and extra time in the car. “Rather than wait for my hubby, who gets stuck in rush hour, I go ahead to the cottage with my two- and five-year-old,” says Nadine Hughes, a mom of two from Oakville, Ontario. “On Monday, I'm usually on the road by 6 a.m., which means the kids are so tired they sleep half the way, anyway.”

And what of night travels? While the idea might seem appealing (you've got the road to yourself, and the kids aren't likely to stay awake for long), keep your passengers' ages in mind. School-age kids may deal better with late-night trips since they'll likely just nod off, but toddlers and pre-schoolers may need help falling asleep or getting comfortable. You need to stay safe, too. Research suggests that staying awake for 18 hours or more produces performance deterioration equivalent to driving while drunk (specifically, a 0.05 blood-alcohol concentration). If you're yawning frequently or having difficulty staying in your own lane, roll down the window, sing along to the radio or stop for a coffee and a stretch.

Let's face it: Hungry kids don't make great travel companions. Keep them stuffed with these tips:

  • Plan to leave just before a meal, and pack that meal to go. Otherwise, when you eat before you leave, bathroom breaks are sure to follow shortly into the trip. Plus, having a meal to use as a “bribe” for good behavior works well.

  • Pack a backpack of treats for each child that includes a mixture of healthy snacks. They'll love cinnamon raisin soft pretzels, apple ladybugs and trail-mix cookies, for instance! Every hour or so, pass the backpack back and let kids pick one or two snacks to munch on.

  • If your kids like to try new foods, look for treats they don't see every day. Visit ethnic grocery stores and load up on boxes of exotic looking snacks to keep them entertained and full.

  • Don't shun fast-food. The addition of salads, veggies and wraps to many fast-food restaurant menus mean choosing a nutritious meal is possible. (Choose green-light foods noted in our healthy eating guide.) Plus, the added bonus of playrooms and bathrooms, toys in kids' meals and being able to leave the mess behind, make them worth visiting.

When it comes to entertaining kids, parents fall into one of two categories – those that supply their kids with props (i.e. puzzles, coloring books, toys, DVDs, Game Boys, etc.) and those that don't. Whatever your style, we've got parent-tested activities for you!

With props:

  • Head to your local library to rent books on tape. Robert Munsch stories, Enid Blyton's timeless classics, and “ Where the Sidewalk Ends ” by Shel Silverstein are great stories to start.

  • If your vehicle doesn't come equipped with a built-in DVD player, consider investing in (or borrowing!) a portable one.

  • Hit the dollar store before your trip and load up on four or five small trinkets per child. Wrap them and reward kids for good behavior throughout the trip.

  • Look for CDs that quiz kids on general knowledge – Quizzology is a great one.

  • Buy a roll of scotch tape. “My daughter spends hours unraveling the roll, getting it stuck all over herself,” says Suzanne Wilcox, mother of two girls, 1 and 4, in Toronto, Ontario. “It's tons of fun for her and there's no mess to clean up!”

You're twenty minutes away from your campsite/parents' house/hotel and your five-year-old has to go. Really has to go. Well, slam on those brakes, Mom, because if there's one thing you don't mess with, it's bodily functions. “We endured countless messes until my eldest learned to give us notice when she had to use the bathroom,” says Ingrid Kasaks-Moyer, mother of three kids, 6, 8 and 11, from King City, Ontario. “Let's just say a roll of paper towels and a small towel for her to sit on afterward comes very highly recommended.” To avoid a similar scenario, keep fluids to a minimum and consider stopping every hour or two, based on your children's ages and how often they go at home.

It isn't too anal to plan your trip from beginning to end. Think about the ages of the kids, their temperaments (and yours), and make up a guide that will suit your family, from start to finish.

Source: kaboose