As millions of families prepare to hit the open road for the great American road trip, the thought of hearing “Are we there yet?” and “I’m bored!” for hours at a time can make even the calmest parent a little anxious. But this year, you have Live Happy, and we have parent-tested and -approved advice to help you make this year’s family road trip one you’ll write home about. Our first tip?
1. Watch those expectations
It’s fun to dream about and anticipate an upcoming family trip, but be sure to keep one foot grounded in reality. Remember, you’re dealing with unpredictable pint-sized people, so your plan may not go exactly as you’d imagined. Roll with the changes and adapt.
Stress makes traveling a mess, and rushing out the door means you’re starting your trip on a negative note. Make a travel list of to-do’s and items to pack and then keep it on your computer. Update your list every time you take a trip and make necessary changes according to your kids’ ages. Next time, you won’t have to start from scratch.
3. Think carefully about when to leave
After a meal, long before the sun comes up or at bedtime are all possibilities for when to depart. Of course, it depends on your kids and their ages, but here’s the point: If you leave at the right time, you can rack up the miles while your smaller travelers are asleep in dreamland.
4. Keep it simple
Just pack the essentials—your kids don’t need their rooms while on vacation. You’ll have more space in your car, and once you’ve reached your destination, you’ll have less to pack and unpack.
5. Don’t pack your kids’ favorite toys
This might sound counterintuitive, but do you really want to spend your entire trip figuring out where your toddler left her Big Bird stuffed animal? Save tears, time and frustration by only packing the toys, books and clothes that won’t mean the end of the universe if something is misplaced, lost or left behind.
6. One word: snacks
Kids get hungry, too, so pack their favorite snacks as well as ones they don’t have too often. And while you’re at it, pack a few of their favorite drinks as well. Soon the kids will start associating car road trips with fun treats, and we all know well-fed kids are happy kids.
7. Get active
Pull over at rest areas and let your kids run, run and run. And once you get to your destination, make sure they have lots of active time.
8. Prevent boredom
While you can encourage your kids to sight-see as you drive, you can also have a bag of tricks to prevent boredom. Play a game of “I Spy” or see who can spot the most out-of-state license plates. And if your kids are young, have them name an animal for each letter of the alphabet or sing songs. Quelling kid boredom is a lot easier now with tablets and portable DVD players that allow you to turn your car into a traveling movie theater. We also like books on tape and family friendly podcasts, as well as old favorites like trivia games and coloring books.
Let us know about your family’s road trip in the Comments section, below!