Whether this is your first Road Trip or one of many here are some of the most vital tips and advise on planning and organizing the Safest, Funnest and most memorable Road trip with your littles ones. Logging long kilometres in the car can be exhausting for everyone, from uncomfortable moms-to-be to cranky babies and active preschoolers tired of being cooped up.
Before you take your Road Trip, make sure your child’s car seat is installed properly – nearly three out of four aren’t.
Pack plenty of water, a first-aid kit, a flashlight, and basic car safety equipment, such as jumper cables. Make sure your road assistance plan is up to date. Charge your phone before you leave, and bring a phone charger and an extra battery. (Consider getting one that’s solar-powered.)
Get a good night’s sleep before you go. This is essential: Sleep deprivation can contribute to frazzled nerves and even unsafe driving. (It’s helpful if your children are well-rested at the start of the trip too.)
Think about seating arrangements
If you have more than one child and don’t have a minivan, consider renting one. (Reserve well in advance, especially during the summer.) You’ll have more space to pack gear and more flexibility about where everyone sits.
Take your own car seats, even if you use a van with built-ins. Your kids might find them more comfortable for the long haul or like the option to switch it up. Also, it’s good to be prepared with car seats when you get to your destination in case someone else drives or you take a taxi.
Pack everything you want easy access to on the road separately so you won’t have to dig around in a suitcase. For example, keep jackets and hats within easy reach. And tuck basic outdoor supplies, such as sunscreen and mosquito repellent, in their own bag for outdoor fun along the way.
If you’re heading to a warm climate, pack swimsuits and towels in a beach bag – you never know when you might stumble on a great watering hole. It’s also a good idea to have a change of clothes, wipes, and sealing plastic bags handy for you and your kids in case of a diaper blowout, motion sickness, or another mess.
Plan around your child’s schedule
When scheduling your driving time, think about when your kids usually eat and sleep. For example, you could leave a bit before lunchtime and let your kids eat in the car. Then they could nap while you log some miles.
Some people buckle their pajama-clad kids into their car seats and begin their travel at bedtime. This works if you’re not too tired to drive late at night – and if you’re reasonably sure your children will stay asleep. If it backfires, you could end up with a wide-awake toddler at midnight.
Stop at regular intervals
The beauty of a road trip is that you can pull over and get out whenever you want.
If you’re pregnant, take a break every hour to walk around and do some simple stretches. Sitting anywhere for long periods of time can make your feet and ankles swell and your legs cramp. Get more tips on traveling by car while pregnant.
If you’re traveling with toddlers and younger kids, try not to drive more than a couple hours in one stretch. Expecting young kids to sit still much longer is pretty unrealistic.
Plus, doing something fun along the way makes the car trip itself enjoyable. A quick game of tag or catch at a park or a stop at a roadside attraction can break up a drive without losing too much time.
The secret is planning. Once on the road, it can be hard to know where to stop. Before you leave, ask friends who know the route to recommend pit stops. Check online for playgrounds, parks, and old-fashioned attractions such as giant statues and kitschy tourist stops.
Split driving and entertainment duties
If you’re traveling with another adult, one person can be in charge of snack distribution, storytelling, and toy rotation while the other drives. If you have space, sitting with the kids in the backseat can make things easier.
Pack lots of snacks
Keep plenty of drinks and snacks on hand. Food that travels well includes rice cakes, pretzels, bagels, granola bars, raisins or other dried fruit.. Bring an insulated bag for string cheese, tubes of yogurt, and other perishables.
Don’t bother with fruit or juice boxes, which are too messy for younger kids. Instead, bring dried fruit and spillproof sippy cups.
No matter how well you prepared or how set you are on making it to your destination by bedtime, you’ll have to stop along the way.
Whether you’re pregnant or traveling with a baby, toddler, or older kid, parks and rest stops are perfect picnic spots. They’re a great way to get a bit of fresh air and exercise. Nothing relieves a child’s pent-up physical energy better than running around outside. Bring a ball for some fun playtime.
If winter weather makes outdoor play impossible, a mall with a food court is another option. There’s room to roam, and many have a central play area.
Here are some other tips for eating on the road:
If you’re pregnant, stretching your legs (and back, and everything else) probably will be a top priority – after finding a bathroom, of course. Instead of long stops at sit-down restaurants, swing by a market where you can walk around while you pick out something to eat. Many have cases of prepared foods for people on the go.
If you’re traveling with a baby, plan mealtimes for when your baby is awake and alert, and choose baby-friendly locations. If weather permits, it’s more relaxing to let your baby roll around on a blanket at a park or rest stop than to try to keep her quiet in a restaurant.
If you want to use expressed breast milk, keep it in a cooler with ice or frozen cold packs for up to 24 hours. To warm it, hold the bottle under running water or warm it in a bowl of warm water. (You could also bring it in a thermos.)
If your baby drinks formula, pack bottles of premeasured powdered formula and a thermos of warm water. When your baby’s ready to eat, simply add the warm water to a bottle, shake, and serve. Or just buy a pack of ready-to-use formula.
If you’re traveling with toddlers and older kids, search for kid-friendly restaurants with your phone or tablet. Look for a restaurant with an outdoor area, where kids can play and colour the menus. Bring along toys to entertain your little one or play games such as “I Spy.”
Many restaurants offer discounted or even free kids’ meals, so always ask for a kids’ menu
Keep everyone happy with car activities, songs, stories, and more. Here are some suggestions:
If you’re pregnant, consider listening to podcasts or audiobooks as an alternative to the radio. You can get free audiobooks at your library or online. Or use a music streaming app such as Spotify – you could even create a road-trip playlist before you go.
If you’re traveling with a baby, bring an activity mat or other travel-friendly toy. Choose soft, securely attached toys for your child so a sudden stop won’t make her bump into hard plastic.
Entertain older babies by reading aloud from picture books or board books. If you’re the only adult, look for kids’ audiobooks. Check out the ones at your library or record your own at home. Sing-alongs and nursery rhymes are always crowd pleasers.
If you’re traveling with a toddler, audiobooks with fairy tales and other familiar stories are your best bet for keeping toddlers’ attention. Songs and singing games are also entertaining.
Popular TV shows, such as Sesame Street and Dora the Explorer, or a kid-friendly movie will also do the trick.
Other activities that work well for toddlers include sticker books, magnetic storyboards, drawing boards, and other toys that don’t involve lots of small pieces or make a gooey mess. A baking sheet can be used to play with magnets and doubles as a playing surface so crayons and toy cars don’t easily roll and slide away.
If you’re traveling with older kids, try audiobooks or download free stories from StoryNory.
Games are another great way to keep older kids entertained. You can find travel versions of many popular games, from Scrabble to Battleship. Choose wisely, though: The best ones for car trips have pieces that slide or are attached by magnets.
A travel journal can keep kids busy and capture memories of your family trip. Give each child a notebook and washable crayons or markers. You could even pack a glue stick or double-sided tape for adding postcards, ticket stubs, and other mementos from your trip.
Prevent backseat meltdowns
Fussy babies and squabbling siblings can turn a road trip into torture. Try some of these sanity-savers to keep the peace:
Get off to a good start. Well-fed, well-rested children equipped with toys are less apt to get cranky or fight with each other in the car.
Join the kids. If you have a baby or toddler and are traveling with another adult, try riding in the back seat with your child. Your company may be enough to ward off any fussy fits, and you can offer snacks, toys, and help with car activities like sticker books.
Divide and conquer. In a van, separate siblings in different rows for some stretches of the drive. If you’re in a smaller car and you have room, stick pillows between your kids to give each their own space. Don’t expect very young children to share – make sure there are enough diversions for each.
Defuse drama. If a fight erupts, distract older children by organizing a car game. And when the going gets tough, pull over and take a break. You want to arrive at your destination safely and still on speaking terms, even if takes you a little longer than planned. A chance to stretch your legs, play a game of tag, or just breathe some fresh air can help you all recharge.