Surviving a Car Trip with Kids
By Amy Ziff,
Car travel and kids aren't always a great combination. It's something like Molotov and cocktail: Put those together and something is going to explode, probably your stress level.
But making it through a car trip with your children doesn't have to be all stress and no play. It just requires a little planning, some creative thinking, and loads of patience.
Before You Go
- Check car seats. Make sure each child's car seat is correctly installed and that the straps are properly buckled.
- Time your departure. If you are driving at night, the kids will sleep in the car. But if you leave mid-afternoon, you will have some restless bodies when you arrive at your destination in the evening.
- Avoid traffic. You get enough commuter traffic on the way to and from work. Lower your stress level by staying off the roads during rush hours.
- Plan your stops. Estimate how long the trip will take before you leave, but remember to be flexible and allow for lots of bathroom breaks, meals, and playtime stops.
First aid. Bring a basic first aid kit to deal with minor illnesses, along with any prescription medications. Ask your pediatrician about over-the-counter motion sickness medication if you will be traveling on windy roads.
- Pack snacks. Food and drinks brought on board will help avoid unnecessary "I'm hungry" stops. Bring juice and water in a cooler, along with plenty of travel-ready snacks like nuts, pretzels, cheese sticks, fruit, or fruit roll-ups in resealable plastic bags.
- Toys. Pack a treat bag with coloring books, small toys (your kids will appreciate the chance to choose their favorites), books, stickers, paper, markers, pencils, and electronic games or portable tape players for older kids.
- Clean up. Remember to take some plastic or paper bags for trash, and bring wipes and paper towels to clean up the inevitable spill.
- Quick change. Whether or not you are spending the night at your destination, bring a spare change of clothes for each child in case of spills or late-to-the-bathroom accidents.
On the Road
- Play stops. Whether it's at a roadside rest stop or a park in a small town, allow the kids to expend some pent up energy. The longer the trip, the more the energy. Your kids--and your sanity--will thank you for it.
- Road games. Alphabet, Simon Says, Counting Cows (or cars or cornstalks), 20 Questions, I Spy, and License Plate Pick are just a few of the car games you can play with your kids.
- Travel journal. Show the kids where you are going, tell them what they are driving past (a good guide will offer lots of information). Get them a scrapbook, or buy them a postcard, and let them write all about it. Besides being educational, a written record is something they will keep and share with friends and classmates.
- Get wired. The combination travel TV/VCR is ideal for those long trips, but books on tape or favorite music CDs will do the trick, as well. This is a great way to entertain the kids when you are all game-played out.
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