The staycation trend is still a popular choice and many families are embarking on road trips together to explore local hidden gems. If you’re planning on traveling by car for your next vacation, you first need to consider how you’re going to survive the journey.
Driving with kids can be stressful, it’s hard for everyone being cooped up and they might get bored, frustrated, and irritable. In fact, it’s the same for parents as well so the more organized you are, the less of a headache it will be. You can sit back, relax, and enjoy the scenery on the way to your destination.
Here are ten tips for stress-free car journeys with kids.
Tip #1: Carry Out Maintenance Checks
To avoid a breakdown on the way, carry out essential maintenance checks on your tires, mags, brakes, and fluids to ensure your vehicle is in the best condition possible. It’s worth visiting a mechanic before you go to give you peace of mind.
If you have smaller children, check any car seats or safety equipment you have is still the appropriate size and set up properly. Make your kids comfortable before setting off and test your heating or air conditioning depending on the weather.
Tip #2: Plan Stops Along The Way
It’s a good idea to plan your schedule to factor in breaks. Look up your route and plan your breaks around mealtimes, for example, and note down rest stops on the way.
This way if one of your kids asks you to stop, you’ll be able to reassure them that you’re not far away. There are several apps to find the nearest rest stop if you do get caught out.
Tip #3: Take Proper Breaks
When you do stop it’s advisable to get out of the car and walk around. Make sure everyone uses the bathroom and gets some fresh air. This is important for you as a driver especially. It will give you an energy boost and help get your circulation going.
Being sat in the car for a while can get uncomfortable, so even though you might want to save time, there are benefits of taking proper breaks. You could even break up the journey with fun stops on the way, perhaps at a local farm, or village market.
Tip #4: Keep Them Entertained
There are plenty of ways to keep kids entertained in the car. This will hopefully prevent them from distracting you as often. Many parents relax screen time rules on a long journey, as it’s a sure-fire way to keep the kids entertained. Audiobooks are another great option!
If you would rather not leave them on a tablet the entire time, there are also unplugged road trip activities for kids. Get them to choose a toy each to bring or pack their own activity pack. It’s better for siblings to each have their own entertainment to avoid arguments.
Tip #5: Let Them Choose Fun Destinations
You should aim to foster enthusiasm for the destination and one way you can do this is by letting them have input. You could prepare a list of options of fun outdoor activities for younger kids and ask them to choose which ones they prefer. This will get them more excited about the trip and hopefully, they’ll be in a better mood.
Tip #6: Pack Snacks And Drinks
Whether or not you decide to stop for meals, it’s still a good idea to prepare food and drink for the journey.
You can stop the car for a picnic on the way, or give them snacks on the go, it’s up to you. The last thing you want, however, is complaints that they’re hungry or thirsty if you’re still quite far from a rest stop.
Tip #7: Monitor Weather And Traffic Conditions
To avoid stress on the way, monitor weather and traffic conditions in case you have to change direction. You can do this using the best traffic apps in 2021. It’s also advisable to have a contingency plan in place if you do need to use a different route.
Have a vague plan B with rest stops and emergency accommodation in mind if necessary. Getting stuck in a traffic jam will be frustrating for the whole family otherwise, and will delay your journey even further.
Tip #8: Wear Layers
As well as planning your route carefully you also need to be prepared for different weather conditions and temperatures. Ensure you and your kids wear comfortable layers so that if the weather changes you can simply grab a sweater, or take off your jacket.
If you’re planning on doing outdoor activities, don’t forget your waterproofs and some protective gear. Keep plastic bags in the car for muddy shoes and boots, and a change of footwear for everyone.
Tip #9: Incentives And Treats
If you’re really stuck for ideas on how to calm the kids down you could offer incentives and treats. This might seem a bit unethical but it’ll work and make the care journey less stressful. Explain to them that they’ll get a reward for good behavior whether this is an extra fun activity at your destination or even just some candy from the next rest stop.
Tip #10: Lead By Example
It can be challenging at times but the important thing is to stay calm and lead by example. Your kids will mirror the bad attitudes and behaviors they see in you. Avoid losing your temper or arguing with your partner.
The best way to maintain a calm atmosphere is by being as prepared as possible. Have your contingency plans in place, know your rest stops, and take a break before you get tired and irritable. A road trip with the entire family is a wonderful opportunity to bond and the journey can be just as important as the destination.
If you’re feeling stressed, make stops to enjoy the landscape on the way. Take in the sights, sounds, and smells, or enjoy a beautiful sunset together.
There you have my 10 tips for your next, ideally stress-free, car journey with your kids! I hope you enjoyed the read and learned something new.
Some time ago Chris has written an extensive article about traveling with toddlers in particular with tons of tips beyond what I have covered here. So make sure to check it out as well!
Did you try any of the tips above? What else do you do? What works best, what does not? Did I miss something? Please let me know in the comments below and let’s discuss 🙂
Josh – Contributing Author