Packing all the kids and the family dog into the car can be an incredibly fun, but terribly crowding experience. But there are a few tips and tricks you can use to keep more of the fun in your family bonding time.
#1 – Plan Together
While the final decisions are Mom and Dad’s, it can be fun for the children to plot out your trip on a map. They can also research the places you’re doing to stay, eat and visit. Holding a road trip planning meeting is a great bonding experience, helps the kids feel involved and helps them understand what goes into planning a trip.
# 2 – Get Your Vehicle Ready
Make sure you get your vehicle maintenance done and your car is inspected for safety. Ensure your washer fluid is topped up (to get those splattered bugs off the windshield) and your spare tire and jack are in good order.
#3 – Pack it Up
Exactly what you need will depend on where you’re going and how long you’ll be there. But for the purposes of being on the road, here are a few things you should bring along.
* Healthy snacks: Instead of stopping at a fast food restaurant or gas station to fuel yourselves up, take the time to pack some healthy and inexpensive food to come with you.
* Water: Bring plenty of water on your trip and make sure everyone stays hydrated.
* First Aid Kit: Get a new one or make sure your existing first aid kit is all stocked up.
* Flash light and Safety Flares: Make sure the batteries are all charged up.
* Toilet Paper: You never know when you might need it.
* Blankets and Pillows: Especially if you’re traveling at night.
* Entertainment: Pick what your family likes best. Whether it’s art supplies, books, digital devices or a special musical playlist, get it ready in advance.
#3: The “Everybody Pees and Burns Energy at Stops” Rule
We have a rule that everyone gets out of the car and pees when we make an official rest stop. You know how it is. A kid will say he doesn’t need to go, but once on the toilet, things usually flow freely. If you don’t make them do it, you know you’ll be stopping again a short while later.
Everyone also has to get out and burn off some energy. Whether it’s a foot race between trees or kicking a ball around, being cooped up in a car all day requires some physical activity breaks.
#4: Plan the Food
While you may not know exactly where you’ll be at which time and on which day, you can do research on good places to eat on the road. Look for family friendly options and places where kids eat free. You can also check the website Restaurant.com and pre-order gift cards that will give you some pretty good discounts at restaurants all over the United States.
#5: Have Fun Along the Way
There’s plenty of interactive fun you can do while cooped up in the car. Prepare a scavenger hunt by making a list of things you might see on the road (ex. a green van, a certain type of tree, etc.). While the “Punch Buggy” or “Slug Bug” isn’t as abundant as they were years ago, you can play a game to find cars of a certain make and/or color. And of course, the sing-a-long is always great, as long as the driver doesn’t mind.
#6: Be Prepared for Messes
Messes happen, so come prepared. Pack paper towels, wet wipes, garbage bags and a laundry bag. Where possible, plan your eating and drinking for rest stops, but go with the flow, where needed.
The most important thing is to have fun and enjoy the ride. While you might be in a hurry to reach your destination, be prepared to make adjustments to your plan, as necessary. After all, you want everyone to remember the whole trip fondly…not just the final destination.