In the past year alone, our family has driven from Toronto to Atlanta, from Atlanta to Myrtle Beach, from Myrtle Beach to Milwaukee, from Milwaukee to Toronto (twice!), and from Toronto to Milwaukee. It’s safe to say that our children spend a lot of time in the car. Because of this, we have become experts in the art of surviving the family road trip. In fact, many of our friends actually come to us to ask for tips on how to make road-tripping as stress-free as possible and I always recommend the following five things:
1. Entertainment device: Make sure each child has some sort of electronic entertainment device of his or her own. Having a DVD player in the car is wonderful and can really come in handy on long road trips, but in can also become a source of fighting, arguments and frustration. Pro tip: Steal away your child’s iPod and put a surprise movie on it, or steal away the gaming device and pop in a brand-new surprise game.
2. Personal snack bags: Pre-pack a bag filled with drinks and snacks and treats. I find that kids tend to love taking ownership of their things, and they like opening up their bags seeing the things that they love to eat and don’t have to share with their siblings. Pro tip: Always overpack when it comes to food. Bring several different kinds of fruit, veggies, string cheese, granola bars, etc. The more you offer, the better your chances are of having packed something the kids will love.
3. Colouring Projects: Activity books of all kinds are an absolute necessity on road trips. Colouring books, word searches, Mad Libs and crosswords are great. But often these can end in the infamous “Mommy! I dropped my crayon/pen/marker/pencil” or “Mommy! I just drew with marker all over my car seat/legs/windows/clothing!” which is really no fun for anyone involved. This is where Crayola’s Color Wonder activities come in handy. The colours appear on the designated paper only and not on clothing, body parts or your vehicle.
4. The licence plate game. Oh, this game. It’s an oldie, but it really is a goodie. Print out a map of the US and Canada, or simply have fun trying to find/list of the states and provinces together. When you spot a licence from that place, cross it off the list. It’s a fun challenge that will keep little eyes focused on something other than a glowing screen.
5. Strategically-planned pit stops. You shouldn’t only stop for the necessary gas fill-ups or bathroom visits. Instead, plan ahead and find places to just take a break from the road. Find a park or an open field or a place to run around and stretch your legs. Sometimes changing up the scenery and getting out of the car for a little bit can renew youngsters’ energy and gear them up for some more time in the car.
What are your no-fail family travel tips?
If you’re looking for more road trip survival tips, check out our travel tips for a family road trip.
—Ali, Senior Associate Editor of CF.ca