Actually enjoy your next family road trip with these simple tips
By Amy McCready
Half the fun of any trip is getting there, right? Well, maybe not
if you envision mile after mile of whining, choruses of “are we there yet” or
refereeing backseat battles. But it doesn’t have to be a dreaded experience.
Here are some tips to help you make the most of long road trips with your
Plan Ahead of Time
1. Know your limits. If your kids haven’t
made the two-hour trip to Grandma’s house yet without screaming the whole way,
this may not be the best summer for that cross-country trip to Yellowstone.
2. Take a practice run. If you haven’t had a
family excursion that’s more than a jaunt across town, take a short day or
weekend trip to get your kids used to time in the car. It will also give them a
chance to practice any special “car rules” for behavior.
3. Let kids know what to expect ahead of time. Let
kids know if there any special car rules or changes from the norm for a long
trip. Role play these rules on the way home from school or on an errand run.
Let them know about how long the trip will take, how often you’ll be stopping,
what they can do to entertain themselves and how you’ll handle bathroom breaks.
4. Know your route. Do some research
ahead of time to scout out possible places to stop to stretch, take bathroom
breaks and for meals. Have a smartphone maps app – and a road atlas in case
there’s not good reception – at the ready to help you find a good place to stop
when the inevitable “But I have to go now!” comes from the backseat. Another
option is traveling through the night, so kids sleep the whole time. However,
sleep in a car is usually not as deep and less restful, so be prepared that
kids may do well on the trip but be cranky the next day.
1. Be prepared. While no one wants to
over-pack, there are just some extra items that can prove invaluable on the
road. Think extra diapers, baby wipes for spills and messes, extra travel cups,
refills for snack cups, ibuprofen or acetaminophen (for the kids and adults),
motion sickness medication, insurance cards, a map or atlas, and of course,
plastic sacks, towels and extra sets of clothes in case of car sickness or
2. Have your kids pack their
own activity bags. Give each of your kids a similarly sized tote bag or
backpack and let them fill it with their favorite things. Your kids will
appreciate having some control over part of the trip, and it’s one less thing
for you to do to get ready. However, if you have younger children, you may want
to guide their choices or limit the number of items they can put in the bag –
this may not be a good time to pack that tambourine or 50 Matchbox cars!
3. Don’t forget yourself. You don’t need to
entertain the kids the entire trip. If you’re a passenger too, bring your own
way to escape – like books or magazines. It’s also a great time to get caught
up on some tasks like meal planning, paying bills, or updating the family
calendar, for example.
Find Fun on the Road
1. Keep them occupied. Many parents rave
about books, audiobooks and DVDs – but don’t be afraid to get creative. Kids
can stay busy for hours wrapping toys or creating sculptures out of aluminum
foil. Pipe cleaners, Post-It notes and other basic craft supplies can hold
their attention, too. Bringing a dry erase board (with washable markers, of
course) reduces the need to bring sheets and sheets of paper and can be the
center of lots of different activities. If you do go the DVD route or have
tablets or video games, set limits on screen time, especially if this is the
first long trip. Watching a screen in the car can cause headaches or tummy
troubles for some kids.
2. Pass the time together with
games. Games can involve the whole family and get your kids
involved in watching the scenery around them – things like license plate bingo
or using highway signs to play the alphabet game. There are always classics
like Twenty Questions or Name That Tune. Or, hand over the road atlas to the
kids and let them quiz you on states and capitals.
3. Never underestimate the
power of snacks. Use snack cups, or use plastic storage bags to pre-portion
out your kids’ favorite car-friendly snacks. Throw in some special treats for
some tasty surprises.
4. Speaking of surprises…hit the dollar store to
find fun items that you can pull out when you feel a meltdown coming. The new
sticker sheet or coloring book can provide a distraction. However, don’t give
the surprises after your child has started whining or throwing a fit – this
tells them that this behavior is rewarded, and they’ll start back up later when
they want a new surprise.
5. Get musical. Younger kids will
love singing their favorite songs with the family. But if you can’t stomach the
thought of 30 miles of “If You’re Happy and You Know
It” or even the latest Disney theme song they love, put
together your own fun, kid-safe playlist ahead of the trip that will keep
everyone in the family happy. Or if they’re set on listening to their own
music, consider headphones – just look for a set that has limits on how loud
your kid can crank it up.
Put Your Focus on the Kids
1. Let the kids have a say. Giving kids the
chance to have a little bit of control can help keep crankiness at bay. Let
them pick their snack, which radio station you’ll listen to or where you’ll
eat. When kids can make some of their own choices, they’re less likely to
engage you in a power struggle.
2. Don’t forget the best way to
keep kids happy on a long journey. Set aside time each day for some
one-on-one attention for each of your children. If your vehicle allows, sit
next to them for a stretch of the trip and read books or do puzzles. Find time
at the hotel or after a lunch break. When kids get consistent positive
attention, they are less likely to act out in negative ways, like hitting their
brother or tossing their water bottle out the window.
Take a deep breath and enjoy your journey, whether it’s a short trip to see family or crossing states for days.
Before Amy began her Positive Parenting Solutions journey, she was a trainer and senior manager for Fortune 500 companies.
Her humble, but desperate realization ignited a lifelong fire to solve these power struggles in her home once and for all. After years of researching Adlerian Psychology and Positive Discipline, Amy put the knowledge into practice with her own family.
Astounded by the transformation she experienced with her two boys, Amy knew she had to share these methods with other parents. She never wanted another parent to feel as hopeless and desperate as she did in those early years which is why she created the Positive Parenting Solutions Course.
Amy’s experience as a corporate trainer paired with her positive parenting research and Positive Discipline certification, make her a trusted voice in parenting circles.
Not only is Amy a trusted teacher by over 75,000 families worldwide, but she is a valued contributor on many media outlets. Amy is a regular parenting contributor on the Today Show, has authored two best-selling books and has written and appeared on a plethora of other media outlets.