The ultimate guide to road-tripping with kids
Planning is the key
Road trips with kids are a great way to create family memories, but if you’re unprepared, road trips can really test your patience!
The key to a fantastic road trip is simple – you need to plan ahead. We’ve created a list of strategies so that you can plan ahead of time to keep your kids happy and entertained.
Consider the questions below before planning a trip:
- Does your child have a small bladder and constantly want to go to the toilet?
- Does your child sleep well in the car?
- Does your child get car sickness?
- If you have more than one child, do they fight with each other all the time?
- Are you travelling with a baby or a very young child?
Now…here’s how to plan a good road trip.
Make sure to pack the right things for a road trip
Pack and plan food
- Make sure to plan rest stops and eat your main meals on time
- Even with a meal plan, your children may whine “I’m hungry!”. To help with this, pack a few snacks you can give your children during your trip. Good snack choices include cut-up sandwiches and fruit. Snacks like squeeze-tube yogurts and juice boxes can make a mess.
Bring your cleaning essentials
- Make sure to pack lots of nappies, towels and spare clothes for everyone – including yourself!
- It’s always handy to pack a few plastic bags
- Baby wipes are good to clean up spilt drinks, sticker fingers, messy mouths and runny noses.
Plan the entertainment and comfort
Hours of The Wiggles may drive you more bananas than your kids. To help with this buy over-ear headphones for the kids and then listen to what you want in the car. It’s even better if the headphones are wireless. Check out your local library for a wide selection of audio books for children which you can borrow.
Screens can keep kids quiet and entertained however, it can make them car sick. Give your children regular screen breaks and let them take some time to watch the world go by.
Road trip, activities and games
There’s nothing wrong with staring out the window and leaving your kids to their own thoughts – it builds character! If your children get bored, you can try some games that will help them explore the scenery, learn there is life outside the city, and help them with motion sickness. Some car games for long trips can include I Spy, Bingo and Scavenger Hunts. Visit the Road Pixel Expert website for some word games you can play in the car.
Baking tray lap boards
Buy a cheap baking trays and give one to each child. The baking tray can include colouring books, crayons, markers, sticker books. The children can use the tray as a flat surface to draw and write. This also helps keep the car clean. A baking tray is a great base for magnets or building blocks in the car. It gives your child space to be creative and keeps magnet pieces from getting lost.
Colouring and drawing books
Bring a drawing or colouring book with coloured pencils, crayons or washable markers. Clipboards with paper to draw on is good too.
Most children love sticker books. For car trips, buy sticker books with stickers that can be peeled and reused.
A bag of plastic tub of toys
Toys will help keep your children happy. If your child is old enough, let them pack their toy bag. Having their favourite toys gives children a sense of responsibility and they’re more willing to play with them along the way. Make sure the toys are not noisy and that they cannot be used to hurt other siblings.
Comfortable pillows keep children happy and can work as a barrier between fighting siblings.
Take a ball for the kids to play with during rest stops. You can keep the whole family entertained with this one.
Pipe cleaners are great for getting creative. They are cheap to get and kids love to twist them around and make things with them. Visit the Artsy Crafty Mom website for fun DIY pipe cleaner projects.
Leaving at the Right Time
There are good bad times to leave for your family road trip. Keeping this in mind, consider the following points when choosing your departure time.
Check the weather
Bad weather can slow down your trip. You won’t be able to use outdoor rest stops, so it is good to leave later in the day if the weather is bad.
Guess the travel time
Plan how long your drive will take and then double it. This will give you a realistic drive time without too much pressure and stress
You can leave at night time for your trip if this works for you. This could mean your children can sleep in the car and keep quiet after a busy day of activity. Be mindful that this can also make your child angry, and stressed if they don’t get enough sleep. You could find yourself exhausted by the time you arrive with your kids full of energy.
Leave during nap time as this has the same benefits as leaving while it’s still dark. The key is not stopping the car while they’re asleep as it can wake up kids.
Make sure to rest and relax
Travel, rest, travel, rest. Break up the trip into bite-sized chunks. Make sure to move around and stretch their legs after being in the car. Let kids run free in a safe place, while you catch you relax.
Rest-stop picnics in parks with a playground are a great idea. Bring a ball to play with! You can even look for a local swimming pool.
Have a rest-stop activity, like creating a memory scrapbook of all the places you stop. Picking up a flower, leaf or something else small and sticky tape it into a scrapbook. Collecting small items along the way helps children to focus on the trip rather than the destination.
Be prepared for car sickness
Motion sickness in children is common – especially in children aged 10 -12. If you don’t know if your child gets motion sickness, you might find out during your trip. You should always be prepared in case your child feels sick.
There are motion sickness tablets designed for children. They often need to be taken before they get sick. Speak with your GP about motion sickness before giving them to your child.
If you do not have motion sickness tablets with you and your child gets motion sickness:
- You can give your child peppermints, ginger ale, hard-boiled sugar lollies and lemonade which can help soothe a nauseous stomach.
- Don’t let your child focus on games or reading. Instead, tell them to look out the window.
- Give them a light snack before the trip that is not heavy or greasy.
- Use a pillow to make sure your child doesn’t move their head a lot.
- Get some air into the car from an open window or air-conditioner.
If your child is very young or a baby and gets motion sickness:
- If your child is in a rear-facing seat give them something to look at.
- You can buy activity mats, strap-on mirrors and other toys that strap to the car seat to keep them happy.
- An adult or older sibling can help by sitting in the back for some of the trip.
Extra parent tips
Save your best entertainment for when your children need it. If you start off the trip entertaining them a lot, they’ll expect it the whole trip and you will get tired. Looking out the car window and having some quiet time is fine to do during your trip.
If nothing is working…try doing something unexpected because this will help stop whining or fighting. You can turn up the music really loud or break out in song or you can try getting everyone out of the car for some fresh air.
Make the family road trip more about the journey than the destination. Making a good plan will help keep the whole family engaged rather than counting down the hours until you reach your destination.
Stay safe and have fun!
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