As parents we sometimes dread the long road trip with young children. The constant questioning “Are we there yet?”, the backseat bickering “He’s touching me!”, and long hours of boredom.
We’re tempted to just stick an electronic tablet or game console in their faces or play DVDs repeatedly to appease them. Here are some simple ideas to make the road trip more relaxing, spend some family time together, and be electronics free.
Rotate their seating often
Every day before the next leg of the trip, or even after a rest stop, rotate the seating plan. Most booster seats are easily movable to a different seat, and even children of similar ages can just switch car seats and leave the seats intact. This gives them a new window to look out of as well as a change in monotony.
Goodie Bags for each child
Buy a large gift bag or backpack for each child and fill it with age-appropriate toys and goodies from the dollar store, their toy box, or other stores. Goodies such as coloring books and crayons, dolls, cars, puzzle books, travel sized games, etc.
At the start of the road trip each child gets to pick one goodie out of the bag and gets to play with it for one hour. Each hour they return the first toy to the bag and pick another one for the next hour. They may even trade with a sibling for an hour.
Make plenty of stops
Do allow for plenty of stops, not just for bathroom breaks but for running around and burning up energy. You should plan stops at rest stops, picnic areas, hiking trails, roadside attractions, free exhibits and other family friendly attractions to alleviate the boredom and immobility.
Drive when they’re asleep
Go early in the mornings, pack them into the car still in their PJs and drive as far as you can before they wake up fully and then stop to change into day clothes and have breakfast.
Also drive at night when it’s their bedtime for as long as you safely can.
Have a punishment and reward system
Have a small bucket or jar of candy or a favorite snack for each child plus one for the parents in the front seat, preferably in the kids’ view. Each time a child misbehaves, take a piece of candy or snack out of their bucket and put it in the parents’ bucket. Also if the child is helpful in the car or in public, take a piece out of the parents’ bucket and back into their bucket. At the end of the day each child gets their bucket to enjoy.
Make good use of the Radio and Music CDs
Have several CDs for each kid and the parents. Play a random CD thoroughly then put it in the bottom of the pile. This way each kid and the parents get to enjoy their own music for an hour or so throughout the trip. Also use the radio to listen to News, Traffic and new genres of music for everyone to sample and learn.
These 6 tips will help ease the children’s frustration of a long cooped up road trip and make it more memorable for them and parents alike.