There is nothing more exciting than a family vacation. Before you became a parent, a vacation was your time to unwind and relax. It was a time for indulging in great sleep, rich food and soaking in the culture. You got to take your time and only worry about yourself. Then, you decide to have a family and the definition of a vacation changes. A relaxing vacation is no longer a relaxing time, because you’re doing the same parenting that you would do at home, you’re just doing it somewhere else. Parenting is hard, but at least when you choose to go on vacation with the kids, you get a great view while you do it, right?
Choosing to go on a road trip as a family can take a lot of organisation. You’ve got to think of the route that you want to take as well as the stops that you want to make along the way. There are two types of stops when you go for a road trip: the ones that you schedule for being a family of tourists, and the ones that you schedule for toilet breaks, diaper changes, leg-stretching and buying supplies until the next service station. Kids generally don’t enjoy being cooped up in their Graco car seats for long periods of time, so it’s in your best interest to make sure that you are stopping at least every two hours. Children are resilient, so even when they’re not particularly comfortable they know that they can add pillows and blankets and get really comfortable really quickly. Being on the road for a few days is going to strengthen your bond as a family, but there are some tips that all parents need to make their road trip as exciting, comfortable and thrilling as possible.
Safety Really Counts.
You’re going in a car, on the road, for days at a time. And you’re bringing children. There are so many things that can go wrong here that it would be impossible to list them all. Your road trip has to be comfortable, but it also has to be safe. While you can’t guarantee the way that other people will drive around you, you can control the way that you drive and how safe your car is on the road.
- Children should be in the correct car seats for weight and height and the seats themselves should be installed correctly. Double check this when you go to leave, even if the seats have been installed for some time.
- Pack your usual bags for travel, but also pack two separate emergency kits. One should be in the trunk of the car, the other in the front seat footwell. This kit should have torches, matches, batteries and candles. It should also have a small first aid kit, water and snacks and basic car safety equipment like jump leads and oil.
- In the glove compartment, put all your insurance and roadside assistance information. Make sure you have all this on your phone, as well.
- Consider a solar powered phone charger as a spare part to your car.
To ensure maximum safety, get a great night of sleep before the road trip. You cannot be too tired and both you and your partner should switch out the driving duties throughout the trip. Every time you stop, swap!
Car? No, VAN!
If you don’t have a minivan, you should consider renting one purely for your trip. Not only will you be able to space out the seating arrangements a little, you’ll create more space for luggage, leg room and you’ll find it far more comfortable for a long journey. There is also more space to shuffle people around if the kids start to squabble in the back; an inevitability on a long journey. Don’t bother hiring any car seats, though. You can always uninstall yours from your car and bring your own with you on your journey.
Smart Packing Saves Space.
Going on a road trip is a little different to getting on a plane to a resort, namely that you may need a few extras. Some families love to camp, and so will tie tents and camping gear to the roof racks of the car. This enables them to have a night sleeping outside and looking at the stars at least once. When you pack, keep the outdoor gear such as coats, hats, scarves, gloves and the outdoor meds like mosquito repellents on the top of the bags. This way, you can grab what you need easily as you get in and out of the car. Keep a bag with towels and beach gear separately from your everyday clothes; you don’t need to dig around in your pack if you can avoid it! If there are any very young children or babies travelling, have a bag with emergency diaper and wipe supplies to one side, ready to get hold of when you need it. Pack extra carrier bags for those dreaded diaper blowouts!
Routine En Route.
Kids are sticklers for eating and sleeping routines. Even though you are on the road, you should do your best to stick to those routines. Cranky children on the road is just not as fun as you think it is. Schedule your driving time carefully around naps and bedtime, switching into pyjamas for the kids if you plan to drive through the night. Bring with you all soothers, blankets, light up toys and pacifying items. Woe betide a parent who leaves a snuggle bedtime blanket behind and doesn’t realise until 100 miles into the journey!
There’s no need to pack junk food for a car journey. Think about what you would normally have your kids eat through the day and hit the grocery store for bunches of bananas, packs of apples and even punnets of grapes. Bring a few carrier bags with you for rubbish purposes and have a small, covered knife in the glove compartment to slice grapes lengthwise for safe eating. Bring cups that won’t spill, too, as the last thing you need is to have soggy car seats or children to deal with when you’re trying to get to the motel!
Kids can do well with car games and sing-along songs, but there’s a limit. Downloading movies and favoured TV shows onto tablets and allowing them in the car is going to make a difference between whether your kids have fun or not while they’re on the road. Your older kids can download audio books, which are far easier to deal with than reading, which can induce car sickness. Handheld consoles, road trip scavenger hunts and travel journals can all give the kids something to do while you concentrate on the road or map reading.
Your family trip is going to be an absolute blast if you let it. Choosing your entertainment and your stops to all marry together is going to be the big hurdle, as you can’t actually choose how the traffic will go. You can plan as much as possible before you go and plan while you’re on the road, but ultimately, you’re going to have to have a contingency plan wherever you are. Your kids are going to have the absolute time of their lives, because a road trip is an adventure. Don’t be under any illusions that it’s going to be easy, but as much as you can have fun and enjoy making memories with the kids.