How to Survive a Road Trip with Kids

Savings Angel

This article, entitled "Before You 'Turn this car right back around!' – How to Survive a Road Trip with Kids," comes from

Ever take a trip with kids and have “had it!” before you even get there? Surviving a road trip with kids can cause even the stoutest of parents to want to forget a trip at all. The bright news is that you can get through it all – and have a peaceful trip – by employing some tricks, some tips, and even a small bribe or two…

Leave late. Setting out on your trip in the late evening (or even after dark), rather than early morning, can yield a smoother, quieter road trip. The benefits are numerous: lighter traffic, quieter road conditions, less construction slowdowns, faster total travel time… and, best of all, the kids are likely to sleep quite a bit of the time. Just be sure you have a plan in place for ensuring the driver doesn’t also get sleepy, such as no one driving without at least one other person awake, and sneaking in a nap before setting out. This works very well on highways where you aren’t missing out on interesting landscape.

Plan “riding surprises”. Packing a little surprise for children can be fun both for them and for you. Perhaps it is a toy they’ve wanted, or a new movie. Hide packages where you can get to them, without their knowledge. Then spring the surprises when boredom (or bickering) reaches a peak. The new items will help waylay fights and provide something new to squelch boredom. Gift wrap the items for an extra layer of “surprise”.

Eliminate sugar and salt. Allowing kids to snack on sugary items in the car might appease them for the short-term, but will bite you in the long-term. Sugar causes that temporary high that results in boisterous car-riding… followed by the crash that can cause intense irritability. Avoid mood swings by sticking with snacks that won’t cause sugar spikes. Likewise, limit or totally avoid, salt. Indulging in salty snacks will only feed the need to drink something – resulting in more pit stops to flush out all that salt.

Stick to water. Unless you want to make frequent pit stops, skip any drinks that will cause them. Unfortunately, this is pretty much all beverages except water. So many things have sugar these days, it’s hard to avoid. Even milk can cause potty emergencies. For the adults, also avoiding coffee and tea can help eliminate excess stops.

Invest in a vehicle power inverter. A power invertor that is designed to plug into your vehicle’s cigarette lighter can be an electronics life-saver. Buy one with at least two ports for cord plugs. Some also come with additional USB plugs for small devices, eliminating the need to use the car charger for just one device. A power inverter allows more devices to be on in the car at once, reducing the struggle for power when batteries run low.

Plan ahead for a “no distractions” time. To break up the ride, plan and inform everyone that you’ll have a time period (perhaps 1 hour or more) of “no distractions”. During that time period, no one is allowed to play with any toy, including electronic devices, read books, or do other activities. This time period will be set aside for family interaction. Suggestions would be to play road trip games, discuss upcoming activities on the trip, or go over important details everyone needs to know. By breaking up the time, it can help with family bonding, while also staying boredom.

Schedule a special stop. Shorter rides might not need a long break, but anything over 8-10 hours with kids probably will. If time and budget will allow, plan to stop about midway to your destination. You may do something as short as visiting a small zoo for an hour, or something as long as staying overnight. Cutting your ride into two sections bolsters fortitude to press on. Kids can usually tolerate just another hour or two much better than five or six more hours “driving straight through”. The additional bonus is rest goes a long way to keeping drivers alert and safe behind the wheel.

When in doubt, go to the bribe. Just kidding… mostly. Sometimes kids just need a good motivation for self-policing on a road trip. Consider an earnings offer for great attitudes and a positive ride. Keeping a tally sheet, notate when time passes pleasantly and which kids are earning trip spending money. Likewise, notate deductions when tensions run high and attitudes aren’t positive. The incentive to have extra spending money for souvenirs and favorite treats can be all some kids need to leave brother or sister alone, and you blissfully listening to your favorite tunes.

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