The end of July and August are the most popular times of the year for parents to take time off from work and go on a vacation with their family. However, this doesn’t mean that every family will be flying to their destinations (which opens up a host of its own challenges)- but for many families, this means a road trip. Perhaps road trips were fun and exciting when you were 22 and going with all your friends, but some parents would call a road trip with all your children in a packed car something out of a horror movie.
No matter what, the road trip probably won’t be an experience you would call amazingly fun and exciting or something you’ll want to do again right away, but there are strategies you can take to ease some of the stress and chaos and make the trip at least bearable. Some of these strategies involve planning and completion ahead of time, and the others are for when the road trip is in progress.
For the days leading up to the road trip:
1. Check the weather
Bad weather can make a road trip extra stressful, even without kids, so put a car full of kids and bad weather together and you’ve got yourself a nightmare road trip. At the beginning of the week be sure to check the weather forecast and see how the weather is going to be on the day of your trip. If it is going to pour, leave a day earlier or leave the day after you planned because, I promise, it is not worth it to drive through a storm in order to be there on schedule.
2. Pack a cooler of easy to eat and not too messy snacks
Emphasis on the not too messy part! Having a cooler filled with snacks and refreshments will keep kids from wanting to make unnecessary stops or continuously whining that they are hungry. And they are there for when you get hungry too! Great road trip snacks include goldfish, apple slices, cheese, and juice boxes.
3. Perfect your “you better stop doing what you’re doing” face
Having the ability to communicate your expectations with a single look is an art that seems to be perfected by mothers. This skill becomes extra important when you’re up in the passenger seat or driving and can’t take your eyes off the road for longer than a split second- or when you just don’t have the energy to yell or lecture. Bonus points for being able to do it in the rearview mirror!
4. Charge all electronics
This one is super important because if the technology and entertainment dies and the children are bored- you’ll be the one paying for it! The night before the road trip, make sure that all portable DVD players, kindles, iPads, cell phones, ect are plugged in and charging.
5. Make sure headphones are packed
Not only make sure some headphones are packed, make sure enough headphones for each child are packed because, trust me, you do not want the kids fighting over who gets to use them. Forgetting headphones would also mean that you have to listen to their movies or music the whole ride too instead of your own, and that will probably put a damper on the trip.
For when the road trip is in progress:
1. Don’t stress
This may sound impossible, but try as best you can to not get overwhelmed and let the little things bother you. The trip will probably not go entirely as planned or be easy every second, but it is important to go with the flow! Remember, you are on your way to your vacation!
2. Forget about potty training: bring extra diapers
Even if your toddler is doing a pretty good job with their potty training or fully potty trained, forget the lessons and just throw on a diaper or pull-up. You’ll be glad you did when your 20 miles from the nearest rest stop and your child says they need to go like, immediately.
3. Master the art of peeing on the side of the road (for you or the kids…)
Sometimes rest stops can be few and far between, and every parent knows when a child has to go to the bathroom, they cannot wait. For those of you who have children too old to put a diaper on, get ready to have to pull over. From what I have read, the best thing to do is pull over so your car is completely off the road, on top of a hill if possible to decrease visibility, open both passenger side doors, and have your child stand or squat between the doors. If your child doesn’t feel comfortable doing that- they are just gonna have to get over it or hold it!
4. Do your best to ignore them
Kids and long car rides do not mix well. They are probably going to annoy the heck out of you at certain points, but do your best to resist giving in or lashing out because that will just make things worse. Just put in your favorite CD, turn it up, and tune them out!
5. Have some “road trip games” ready
The classic road trip games may have lost their popularity since the increase in technology, but they can still be a great bonding experience and provide some technology-free entertainment. If the kids are in a good mood, and you’re in a good mood, give some of these road trip games a try.
ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker. Click here to find her acclaimed books