Road tripping is a truly wonderful way to see the country.
Unlike any other form of traveling, road tripping gives you the sense of being in control of your own destiny. You have complete control over every element of your trip, from the time you leave to how long you spend at each specific stop along your route.
As a parent, you may find that your passion for road tripping begins to falter. Admittedly, road tripping with your children can be difficult and challenging, but it’s not impossible. If you want to take the road trip this summer to explore the sights and sounds of the USA, then these tips should help you make the most of the experience…
8 Essential Tips For Road Tripping With Kids
#1 – Ask their opinion
When planning a family vacation, many parents primarily focus on their personal preferences. The choice to do this is not inherently selfish; it’s actually a good thing, because as an adult, you likely have a better idea of what your vacation should be like.
However, a road trip vacation is a different matter, and it’s one that you should discuss with your children. As they will have to spend large portions of time in a vehicle, you need to ensure they are at least comfortable with the idea of giving it a go. So ask your kids how they feel about road tripping.
If the response is positive, great, you’re onto a winning idea. If the response is negative, try and ascertain the reasons behind their concerns, and see if there is anything you can do to calm them.
#2 – Carefully plan your route
Take an afternoon to sit down with your whole family and talk about the route you want to explore together.
Obviously, the US is full of incredible attractions that you might want to include in your plans. However, it’s worth remembering that the key to a good road trip isn’t just about the attractions or sites of significance; you also need to focus on components such as…
- Try to think about food as much as you do about landmarks. If you’re going to travel through the country, then the last thing you want is to be relying on generic fast food as an easy option when you’re in need of sustenance. There are culinary delights all over the USA, from delicious Asian cuisine in St Louis to incredible seafood in Maine, so ensure your route includes the ability to try different foods throughout your trip.
- It’s also preferable if your route has some variety to it. If you’re going to spend a few days enjoying the sights and sounds of St Louis, then your next stop should be somewhere more quiet and rural. The same applies in the opposite direction; if you’re intending to explore the wilds of the Smoky Mountains national park, your next destination should be a metropolis like Nashville. This variety helps to ensure that no one gets bored and all preferences are catered to.
- Set a clear end point; the point at which you point the car in the direction of your home. However, the end point doesn’t mean the trip is over— you have the entire journey in the opposite direction to enjoy. Take a different route and explore new areas to ensure you make the most of both legs of your trip.
#3 – Safety first
Health and safety matters are always going to be important while road tripping, which is why you’ll want to pack a special bag for the journey. This should include:
- Baby wipes (you could even make your own)
- Hand sanitizer
- Aids for relieving car sickness
- Sick bags (just in case the above doesn’t work)
- Basic child-friendly medication
- A range of Band-Aids and bandages
- Eye wash
It’s important to store the bag containing these goods somewhere it can easily be accessed, so be careful not to leave it in the trunk with all of your other luggage.
#4 – Look into methods of keeping your kids entertained while on the road
From high-tech options such as a portable Blu-Ray player to old-fashioned favorites like the license plate game, there’s plenty of different options for keeping your children entertained on the road. Talk with your kids prior to the trip and see what they like the idea of and do what you can to meet their requirements. If your kids become bored, all the excitement and wonder of road tripping will quickly drain away, so a little preparation will ensure everyone enjoys themselves as much as possible.
#5 – Make a provision for trash
Keeping the car cleaning and tidy for the duration of your road trip is something you should prioritize. Top of the list in this regard is the need for trash maintenance.
- Use a single receptacle as a trash can. If you use multiple items or bags, it can be impossible to track which are full and which need disposing of.
- If you’re going to use a bag as a trash can, then use elastic bands to secure the bag when not in use. The last thing you need is for the bag to open and spill its contents back into the car!
- Many people find that using an empty plastic cereal box is a useful way of keeping track of trash during a car ride. This is particularly useful for liquids, which have the potential to spill if just stored in a bag.
- Empty your trash receptacle every time you stop for gas or a rest break.
#6 – Remember that rest is more important than the itinerary
Road trips are meant to be fun, but they can also be surprisingly tiring. The idea of sitting in a car for hours on end doesn’t seem like it should be exhausting… but it is.
If everyone in the family is tiring, then pushing onwards just so you can keep up with your itinerary is unlikely to be a good idea. Instead, prioritize rest first and foremost; if that means you have to alter your route to stay another night somewhere, then so be it. It may seem like a shame to set out a meticulously planned route and then not follow it to the letter, but it’s better to actually enjoy the things you do see rather than exhausting everyone trying to tick items off a list.
#7 – Encourage your kids to record memories
As wonderful as road trips can be, they do have a tendency to contain long stretches of doing not a lot. That, of course, is the point; you’re on the road, so there’s less opportunity to take memorable photographs. Who’s going to want to look back on endless shots of blurred scenery whizzing past the car window?
However, there’s plenty of different ways you can encourage your kids to record memories of your trip. Scrapbooking is the natural solution; receipts from the gas station, wild flowers from a rest stop, an extra packet of salt from a diner. Items like these can all be collected and used to create a memorable impression of the most mundane parts of your trip, helping to make every moment feel special.
When you do reach a landmark you have wanted to visit, the more photos you take, the better. If you’re not comfortable letting your kids handle expensive smartphones while out in public, then disposable cameras are still available, and kids can have a lot of fun taking photos of whatever they want.
#8 – Try not to let your kids sleep in the car
While there’s certain benefits to your kids sleeping in the car while you’re traveling — there’s less need to keep them entertained, and they can catch up on any rest they may have missed overnight — the downsides outweigh these benefits.
One of the most important aspects of a road trip is that everyone sleeps well when you pause for the night. If your kids are napping during the day, then there’s every chance they won’t sleep that night. It’s very easy to get trapped into a cycle of sleeping poorly at night and then catching up during the day, which may seem harmless… except for the fact that this pattern will impact you as well.
If you or your partner have disturbed sleep, driving becomes decidedly risky. It’s therefore far safer to stick to standard sleeping patterns, so you can be sure that the two people responsible for driving the car are always as rested as possible.
If you do notice your kids nodding off, simply pull over at the next rest stop and encourage everyone to stretch their legs and take a few deep breaths. When you get back into the car, introduce a new game or play some music to keep everyone feeling alert.
Road tripping with your kids might not be the easiest task, but it can be one of the most rewarding. If you keep the above points in mind when planning your next trip, you can be sure that your entire family will have a truly wonderful time. Enjoy!