We a road-trippin’ family. We’ve done a lot of train trips, flights, and even a cruise, tours, and other types of travel – but there’s something special about hitting the road. My kids aren’t always super gung-ho about being in the car for hours at a time (though, they seem to prefer longer trips over 2-3 hour quick trips), but overall they do like a road trip. So why not start our Family Road Trip month with family road trip tips.
1. Let them get bored.
I think this is the key to our successful family trips. We let them get bored. It’s ok for them to not like being on the road and want to be entertained every moment of their trip. It’s ok for them to whine a bit. When we give them the opportunity to get past that boredom, that’s when the fun begins.
(Tip: Practice boredom wherever you can.)
2. Limit electronics.
This goes with the whole “let them get bored” bit. We don’t have televisions in our cars and they’re fine. We don’t get them ipads or phones and they’re fine. The only electronics they have all access to is whatever we’re listening to together as a family (music, podcasts, books on tape) and the GPS.
(Tip: Create a road-trip playlist for the trip that you can use afterward as a trip memory.)
3. Have a FEW things for them to do.
Depending on the length of our road trip or activities for them to do in the car could be as small as a stuffed animal, or as complete as a stuffed animal + a small toy + a notebook and pen + a book + another activity. We try not to overwhelm them.
(Tip: Come back later this week to download a free Road Trip Bingo printable.)
4. Obviously: Snacks
What’s a road trip without snacks? We make snacks available so that we don’t have to stop too often and spend a lot of money, and because kids get hungry. But, we also try to limit snacking time. We have one who gets carsick if she eats too much in the car and the other who will eat all of the candy – so we limit it.
(Tip: Come back in a few days to see an EXTENSIVE list of travel blogger’s favorite road trip snacks.)
5. Just drink water
We have a strong only water rule during the road trip because it’s easy to refill, ok if it spills, and is the best drink for everyone. If your family needs other drinks for other reasons, that’s ok, too. But we find water SO EASY!
(Tip: If you’re not already doing it, make sure you have reusable bottles – and bring reusable straws for the restaurant stops, too.)
6. Be present
Road trip times, in our family, is all about family time together. It has to be. Without our electronics to distract us, it’s time for us to talk, play road games, or sing together. We don’t spend the whole time doing activity after activity, but we don’t keep our heads buried in our phones either.
(Tip: The more you can do this during a trip, the more you can get kids excited for future trips.)
7. Allow for downtime
When things are getting rowdy, because they will, we encourage downtime. Quieter music on the radio, pointing things out the window, and just giving everyone a chance to be quiet. This is also big for the “let them be bored thing.”
(Tip: Embrace the ebb and flow of the road trip, but try to plan downtime to happen after bathroom or food breaks!)
8. Make big promises AND follow-through
We try to have something fun to do at the end of EACH day’s travel. Whether this is a stop at a local fun activity, or swimming at the hotel pool – they know that there’s a small reward at the end of every day of the road trip.
(Tip: Let them pick out what the fun activity will be sometimes.)
9. Embrace it
Kids aren’t going to learn to love a road trip if their parents don’t. I love road trips. I love the togetherness of it, I love talking about where we are, checking into different hotels every other night, and trying local restaurants. I love asking the kids how they feel about it and hearing them talk about it afterward.
(Tip: Have family road-trip traditions that make it clear that this is something you love to do.)
10. Let it go
At the end of the day, these suggestions are just suggestions. I don’t give them electronics because I think our road trips are more successful when we don’t have them, but sometimes we need them. I don’t overload them on sweets or non-water drinks until I’ve run out of patience and go into my bag of tricks. I’m present until I’m tired and want to just think and then I’m throwing all the iPhone youtube videos and games I can throw at them to keep them quiet. I try to keep these all as a very last resort. Sometimes that happens during the last 45 minutes of a three-day drive. Sometimes it’s within the first 30 minutes of a 2-hour drive. You do you!
(Tip: Remember, every family’s different. Pick and choose what you think works best for your family. You got this.)
Any tips you want to add? Add them in the comments.