How to Plan Your First Family Road Trip
Road trips can be one of the best ways to take a vacation together as a family. But diving with your children elbowing each other and screaming in the backseat is hardly what dreams are made of. To make your first family road trip a success, a few easy steps to prepare for drive can go a long way.
Shorter Trial Trip
Before you even decide where you’re going, get a sense of what a realistic distance is for your family. You will want to go on shorter trips before a cross-country adventure. Think of it as research. Collect the data before locking down your itinerary so you can factor in time-sensitive issues like how long you can drive without needing to stop for bathroom breaks. This way, you can tailor your trip to fit your family’s needs and expectations.
Prepare Your Car
It is recommended to have your vehicle inspected before you hit the road. Needless to say, safety always comes first. The last thing you need when traveling with children is to break down on the side of the road.
Drafting an inventory of what you take with you is a great way to stay on top of things, especially in case of an emergency. Be sure to include jumper cables, a flashlight and a toolbox in your car. You will also want to have a first aid kit, flares, toilet paper, wipes, soap, chargers for the electronics, blankets in case of a temperature drop, and any weather-specific accessories like umbrellas or bug repellent.
Limit the Electronics
While apps are useful and save on space, it is a good idea to print out your itinerary so you can still navigate should your technology fail. Lots of areas do not have reception, especially places that are popular for family road trips like national parks or mountainous regions. Physical maps are always good to keep in the car too.
We may live in the age of screens, but consider taking this chance to show your kids the highlights of living off-the-grid. Pack games like cards and books to keep them occupied. If you choose to let them have their screen time, pick movies or TV shows appropriate for all ages that will not have extreme sounds that may spook the driver. Also make earbuds and noise-canceling headphones available for those who wish to sleep.
Screens aside, looking out the window can be entertaining and calming, especially if your kid is feeling nauseous. Car sickness in toddlers is especially challenging because they may not give you very much warning before it is too late. You should plan for motion sickness by stashing trash bags in your car.
Of course, prevention is always preferable. Acupressure bracelets can help those prone to motion sickness. Ginger is also said to be more effective than over-the-counter medication like Dramamine. Taking regular stops and fresh air also ease the urge, so make sure every one of your kids gets out of the car when you take stops.
Snacks and Water
Load up on water and on-the-road foods that do not call for refrigeration. You know your children, so pack what they like to eat to keep their blood sugar stable. Trail mix, fruit, crackers, and baked goods are always great in a pinch. Depending on the gas stations where you travel, food can get pricey and uninspiring, so think of stopping at a grocery store on your way out of town.
Tell someone back home where you are taking your family. Give them all the details and even your itinerary, if you should feel comfortable sharing it. Make sure to include when you will be coming back, so they don’t worry about you.
Consider asking this person or a friendly neighbor to check on your home while you are away. It is not fun to come home to a burglary that could have been avoided. Some people like to leave a light on inside to keep thieves away. If you are going away for a while, you may want to set up an alarm system so all you precious belongings will remain safe and sound while you head out on an adventure.
Get your Kids Involved
Like all of us, kids like to feel useful and productive. Share the itinerary with them in advance so they can get excited about the trip. Turn it into a game: encourage them to put together a list of what they would like to do or see in the places you are planning to go (it could be as simple as “spot a bird” and as site-specific as catching a glimpse of a unique roadside attraction). Letting your child in on the details of the trip can help curb the dreaded question of: “Are we there yet?”
As is always the case with parenting, planning is your best friend. Take care of everything in advance so you can fully enjoy the family fun as you explore the world together.