Going on a road trip with kids can be an exciting adventure filled with family fun, or a daunting chore that ends in frustration without proper planning. It’s an excellent way to enjoy beautiful scenery, engage children’s curiosity about new places, and explore new cultures and lifestyles.
A successful road trip will be much smoother with a planned out guideline that outlines the details of what to expect. Ideally, this guideline should have the basics covered, such as a list of destinations, all essential items to be packed, and different types of snacks for the kids, including how much to bring for each child. If you have a newborn, be sure to know when it’s safe to bring the infant in a trip.
Listed below is an outline of practical tips to ensure your family getaway is fun and successful.
Here are Simple Tips to Ensure A Smooth & Exciting Road Trip With Kids
1. Have a family budget meeting before leaving.
Traveling expenses can add up quickly, and not budgeting accordingly may leave your entire family disappointed and unfulfilled. Map out which kid-friendly destinations you’d like to visit, and ration out the amount of money you can afford to spend at each one. It’s also advisable to set aside an emergency fund for unexpected problems, such as car issues or a sudden illness. Then, you can budget other expenses such as food, gas, and lodging for each day.
2. Get out a map
A paper map and GPS navigation tool should be available at all times. To get an accurate idea of how much time you have, it’s essential to figure out how many miles you will need to travel between destinations. This is especially helpful if you have children that become restless when sitting for prolonged periods of time. Keeping children relaxed is easily manageable if you plan a route with plenty of rest stops so they can enjoy the scenery or play outside as needed.
3. Choose a Plan B destination
Every travel plan should have a fallback option in case you can’t get to your destination. You may discover that a particular place is too crowded for your family to enjoy, or has unexpectedly closed early. Choosing a nearby destination that’s of similar interest will ease the disappointment of children, and helps the family become more adaptable in unexpected situations. You may even discover the Plan B location is more suitable and fun for children as well.
4. Check local requirements
The Covid-19 pandemic started many new regulations and policies for traveling and business affairs. When you’ve chosen your travel destinations, find out what they require beforehand, such as masks, proof of vaccination, or limitations on the number of guests at once. Children should also be up to date on secondary vaccines as well. Bring copies of important documents for verification in populated areas that are high risk.
5. Ensure comfort in your car for the journey
For children on the road, sitting in uncomfortable car seats for extended periods of time is sure to be stressful. Purchasing the recommended travel car seats is recommended to keep children from growing restless, and ensure ease of transportation for babies and toddlers. Read more about this at our article: traveling with toddlers. Meanwhile adults should consider purchasing seat cushions with back support and built-in heating pads to ease muscle stiffness.
6. Pack high-quality, nutritious snacks
Traveling on the road can quickly tire children out, making them temperamental or fall asleep for long periods of time. The best road trip snacks are ideally low in fat, sodium, sugar, and meet the daily nutritional value for a child’s diet. Packing a variety of snacks with fun colors and shapes also helps keep children entertained on a road trip. A sufficient amount of snacks will limit the need to dine out as well.
7. Leave early in the morning for a smooth trip
Maintaining a regular circadian rhythm before, and during a road trip is essential to prevent the onset of illness or exhaustion. A family with children should be on the road as soon as possible – ideally 5:00 a.m after a proper night of rest. This is also time efficient for a day-long trip to avoid being rushed to every destination.
8. Plan breaks ahead of time and take turns driving
It’s easy to become too ambitious on a road trip and forget to make pit stops as needed, especially bathroom breaks. Therefore, it’s a good idea to plan a route along attractions everyone will look forward to, such as historic sites, eye-catching restaurants, and parks. The family can also do stretches and go for walks during down time. In between breaks is also ideal to switch drivers to avoid mental fatigue and muscle stiffness on the road.
9. Limit the use of electronics
Putting away cell phones and hand-held gaming consoles will teach children to be present in the moment, and enjoy the opportunity of seeing new sights. Unsupervised electronic use discourages parent and child bonding time, which can spoil a road trip. The family should schedule electronics use during breaks, then put them away while on the road. In regards to safety, the only exception should be GPS navigation as needed while driving.
10. Make sure your car’s maintenance is up to date
Before a road trip, every car should have new oil changes, tire rotations, and tune-ups. This is Included with copies of important documents should be a list of roadside assistance phone numbers and emergency contacts. Make sure your car’s tires are in good condition, along with an intact spare tire. It’s also practical to bring a roadside emergency kit with booster cables, road flares, flashlights, non-perishable food, and extra water. Check here for the printable full list of must haves for road trips.
Becoming familiar with planning is necessary for a smoother transition through parenthood. Experiencing life’s pleasures with children is a reward in itself, and utilizing common sense from a practical mindset strengthens our capabilities as adults. Traveling is also a fun way to understand the world from a broader perspective and keep us curious about what life has to offer. Sharing new experiences with children is also the building block to creating memories that last a lifetime.