It should be simple (hop in the car, pack up the kids and hit the road) but kids who tire of looking out the window before you’ve left the driveway will derail the best road trip intentions. But there’s hope. Remember who’s in charge (them), who needs to be (you) and that family survival is the goal and you might even do it again.
Traveling with Babies
The plan: The 10-hour trip will be just like circling the block to get him to sleep.
Reality: The baby will sleep for 10 minutes and then look at you as their sole option for entertainment.
The Survival Plan:
- Pack extras: You know the game where the baby drops the pacifier, you pick it up, she drops it again? Much less fun in the car. Be ready for her with extras of essentials close by (wipes, pacifiers, the tiny rattle that is destined to roll under the seat in front of her, the can’t-sleep-without-it pal you will forget at a rest stop) and you might win a round.
- Work on their time: Feedings and naps are destined to go wonky once you leave home, being prepared will help. Be realistic about how far you can go without a stop and how long it will take. A 12-hour trip can take 24 with kids.
- Pack a pal: A sock puppet is fun, but a grandparent is better. At home, you have an abundance of tricks and toys to keep her amused. In the car you’re limited. Save your sanity by bringing along someone to share the joy.
Traveling with Toddlers
The plan: Stick him in the car seat, hand him his favourite bunny and you’re off!
Reality: Toddlers hate car seats. Getting them back in after you’ve stopped to let them stretch their legs will rival an Olympic event.
The Survival Plan:
- Stop the car: For a toddler a “scenic lookout” is about as much fun as, well, sitting in the car. Map out park stops along your route and let them loose. Pack a small ball, jump rope or Frisbee and you’ve got a playground in your purse. Bonus: Keeping them active increases the possibility they’ll nap.
- Expect toilet trouble: It’ll only take one bathroom run at a gas station to make you wish you’d packed a few extra things. Hand sanitizer, a roll of soft toilet paper and even a portable seat for little bums will help transitioning toddlers go.
- Make a dollar store run: A new toy in the middle of a temper tantrum can stop tears faster than Kleenex. And never underestimate the power of a bottle of bubbles.
Traveling with School Kids
The plan: Pack the kid(s) up in the family car for a too-expensive-to-fly destination.
Reality: He pulls her hair. She touched his leg. And everyone is bored.
Road Trip Ready:
- Put them to work: Let the kids plan some of the stops along the way. Make the trip about the journey not the destination and you’ll rule out 50% of the “Are we there yets.”
- Choose wisely: It’s a confined space, do you really want the loudest toy along for the ride? Hand out earphones and keep a stash of games you know they’ll love (but they don’t know you brought) along for emergencies.
- Hand over the technology: Let them hold the GPS and they’ll feel more control over where they’re going and when they’ll get there.
**Heather is a freelance travel writer. Her 7-year-old column “Alternate Arrangements” runs monthly in The Toronto Star, Canada’s largest circulation daily newspaper and her Globetrotting Mama travel tips appear on urbanmoms.ca in the Travel Reviews.