Are you dreading your upcoming family road trip?
Road trips offer a lot of time for bonding, but if you don’t plan ahead, things can go awry fast.
There are a few tricks to pulling off a successful family car trip, but it all comes down to planning. Don’t think you’re just going to hop into the car and the kids will magically stay out of trouble for the next four hours. It just won’t happen.
So instead of crossing your fingers and hoping for the best, plan for it. This is a case where you almost can’t prepare enough. So even if your trip is a month away, it’s not too early to start thinking about ways to make it go more smoothly.
If you’re ready, here are 7 tips for surviving a family car trip.
1. Know where you’re going
You may have a general idea of your route, but that’s not going to be enough. You should map it out in advance of your trip, so you’ll always know whether you’re on the right track.
It’s also a good idea to print out directions (90s style) just in case you enter an area where your GPS doesn’t work. You’re more likely to enter dead zones in rural areas, which you’ll undoubtedly encounter on cross-country trips, so keep this in mind.
At the very least, bring a physical map along for the ride. And if you don’t remember how to read one of those relics, take a crash course before you embark on your trip. It’s too easy to make a wrong turn if you’re looking at the map upside down. Just saying. And, this is more common than you think.
2. Load up on the snacks
Snacks offer so much more than sustenance on road trips. Think about how much you look forward to snacks on a flight. The act of eating breaks up the monotony of the trip. And as silly as it sounds, it gives everyone something to do, if even for a short time. Also, it gets even better when that snack is something yummy.
Bring a variety of snacks to keep everyone’s interest and dispel their hunger during the trip. No one wants a car full of hangry kids. No one.
3. Maintain your vehicle
If you’re going on a trip that spans more than an hour in duration, get your car serviced beforehand. Take care of the oil change, check your AC filter, and check your tire pressure. For the love of all that’s good in the world, you want to avoid breaking down on the side of the road with kids.
If you have an older vehicle, you may also want to consider a roadside assistance plan. You can get one from AAA or your insurance company.
4. Skip traffic whenever possible
On a family car trip, you’ll want to get from point A to point B in the shortest possible time. This means avoiding all traffic.
Make sure you’re not traveling during rush hour, especially in highly-populated areas and use an app like Waze to help you avoid traffic. Google Maps is making strides in the traffic avoidance category, but it has a ways to go (pun intended).
5. Play road trip games
If you took any road trips when you were a kid, you probably remember playing goofy games like eye-spy or punch buggy. And while you can laugh at their cheesiness now, one thing is for certain: you remember them.
Road trip games offer more than just a few laughs. They help direct everyone’s attention to a common goal. And when you have everyone’s attention, the kids aren’t fighting or asking whether you’re there yet. You have some peace in a situation that can otherwise be unpredictable.
6. Agree on screen time in advance
If you have older kids (5 and above), you should agree on screen time before you get into the car. If you’re okay with the kids being glued to their devices the entire time, that’s okay too. But if you want to limit things, make sure they know the expectations going in. They may want to ration their time, so they can use the device if they get bored.
When kids know expectations in advance, they’re less likely to throw a fit when it’s time to power down. This is a win for everyone in the car.
7. Let the kids help plan pitstops
Car trips can be tough on kids because let’s face it, kids are not built for sitting still for long. But if you get them involved in planning the pitstops, they’ll have something to look forward to. You can even do a fun countdown to the pitstops along the way. This will help keep the kids engaged and (hopefully) well-behaved.
The family car trip can be a fun and memorable experience. Just be sure to plan in advance, so everyone is having fun along the way. We all know that if the kids aren’t having fun, no one is enjoying the ride.
Trevor McDonald is a freelance content writer who has a passion for writing. He’s written a variety of education, travel, health, and lifestyle articles for many different companies. In his free time, you can find him running with his dog, playing with his son, playing his guitar, or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.
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