Top 4 Tips for a Kid Friendly Road Trip

by Female Abroad

While the COVID lockdown put an end to travel and locked a lot of families at home. Now with the uncertainty of the new strains and the chance of rules changing once trips are booked, a lot of families are start to do a classic trip - the road trip! Now you may be wondering, how can I plan one and not go crazy being locked with kids in a car for hours? As someone who took summer road trips growing up, I have some tips that should help make the trip fun for you and the kids while also keeping your sanity.

1. Plan a "Fun" Route & Eat

All trips take planning and a road trip is no different. Think about what your kids like to do, their ages, how long they could probably be in the car without breaks (also think about bathroom stops!), how long you want to drive for, and how much time you have off. The time factor is huge as you do want to have some down time and not be driving for a week straight, after all it is your vacation too!

My favorite thing is to pull out a map or pull up Google maps and zoom out far enough that I can still see where I am located but also what is in the area. Are there any town names you see that you've never visited? Quickly pop them into Google and see if there is anything recreationally that may interest yourself or the kids. Also look at bathroom and restaurants along the route to make sure nothing is shut due to COVID regulations that may cause you issues. Kids have short attention spans and bladders so make sure that you would be stuck driving for hours to find a rest stop because the one you knew of turns out to be closed.

Another fun way to break up the trip and save money is to look for parks or rest stops with picnic areas. It is super easy to make some sandwiches, pack some snacks, a few drinks, and the have a meal break / leg stretch in nature. Think about looking out for beaches, zoos, waterparks, roadside stands, unique area attractions (ex. goats that live on someone roof, the worlds largest ball of yarn, etc) and other things that might be interesting along the route that also gives you an excuse to stretch your legs.

Also, do not forget to pack snacks! A little ones stomach doesn't hold as much as yours and their metabolism is faster so they are guaranteed to become hungry more frequently and you might not have an option to stop. Things like popcorn, veggie straws, and cereal make great snacks plus you do not have to worry about keeping them in a cooler. Who cares if they are left in a hot car all day?

2. Bring Activities / Games

I might be aging myself here but when I went on road trips AC consisted of rolling down the windows and hoping there isn't a crash on the highway; this was also the time before cell phones as we know them today and we couldn't afford a Gameboy. In other words there were no games or internet within arms reach and after a couple of road trip with bored kids, my mother and grandmother knew there had to be an easier way to entertain us than just telling us to sleep. That is when we all took a trip to Toys R Us and Walmart where we found handheld electronic games for about $10 a pop. Yahtzee, Sorry, Hangman, and Solitare were quickly purchased for our next trip along with giant word search puzzles, travel checkers, and various connect the dots book. Even as an adult, I still travel with word search puzzles and a variety of paper based games that I can play with my husband on our long flights.

Other things you could pack are colouring books, books for their age group, art supplies, and of course you could give them a tablet with movies or games already downloaded. Just make sure that you try the games at home to make sure they run without internet. Went on a road trip with my two year old niece this summer and I learned that mistake the hard way!

3. Take it Slow

As I mentioned earlier, do not plan a trip that will take you half your vacation to get to and then half to get back without stopping except to eat and sleep. Not only will you need rest & recoup days, your kids will need to too. Do you think you would remember how you were able to reach that far away location by car or how much fun that really cool pool / beach / aquarium / hike was that you found along the way? More than likely if you cram too much in you will use the trip as an example of what not to do on your next road trip instead of having actual fun memories.

Make sure to also play things by ear. If you are headed somewhere that you think the kids will like but they are asleep in the back and do not know that is where you are headed, it might be more worthwhile to keep driving than waking them up all cranky to drag them through something they are not enjoying because they want to be napping.

4. Think About Comfort & Safety

Whether you are headed out in a car, RV, camper van, motorcycle, or any other numerous forms of vehicle transportation make sure that you have all the necessary safety equipment (ex. helmets, the correct car seats, etc) and that the kids will still be comfortable when the car is fully packed. As an adult, you might be used to making a few compromises to make the trip happen or to fit that extra bag but kids usually will not make any compromises. It is your decision to pack them into a vehicle for all hours and if they are uncomfortable they will certainly let you know!