A summer without a road trip is like s’mores without chocolate. Whether you’re traveling across the country or two states away, you can make the journey more enjoyable for the entire family with some planned entertainment and lots of patience. Here are nine ideas to help you survive your summer road trip with the kids.
1. Tune Up Your Ride
Before you embark, make sure your car is road ready. Check your tires, oil, and radiator fluid. Make sure you have a spare tire and know how to change it, and create an emergency pack in your trunk with supplies like rain ponchos, jumper cables, a flashlight, batteries, and a tire gauge.
2. Plan Your Pit Stops
Before you hit the highway, research sightseeing spots along your route. (You don’t want to miss that ‘World’s Largest Ball of Twine’ exit.) Do some online digging ahead of time for renowned rest stops, gift shops, or restaurants.
3. Make Game Binders
Assemble a kit for each of your children that includes games like hangman, mazes, tic-tac-toe, coloring pages, license plate spotters, and more. Print maps marked with your route so the kids can follow along and note landmarks or special spots along the way. Small dry-erase boards and markers take up less room in the car than coloring books.
4. Have Goodie Bags
Put small toys, stickers, new markers, etc. in lunch bags marked with milestones along the trip, like a certain number of miles traveled, each state entered, or times of day. Pull the bags out to surprise the kids — or help encourage good behavior.
5. Pack Snacks
Avoid “Mom, I’m hungry!” emergencies and keep unplanned stops to a minimum by making snack boxes filled with favorite treats and healthy snacks. Be sure to include a bottle of water bottle or a drink box, but don’t get carried away or you’ll be making more pit stops than you planned!
6. Charge Electronics
Playing games on a tablet, laptop, or smartphone can make the miles fly. Avoid meltdowns by packing all the correct chargers. Save time by labeling chargers with tape and storing them in individual bags. Before you hit the road, download new books or movies to keep clutter to a minimum.
7. Get Comfy
Have each child choose something special from home, like a small pillow, special blanket, or stuffed animal from his or her room. If you are exploring sites along your route, don’t forget appropriate footwear, hats, shades, and sunscreen.
8. Make a Mix
Spontaneous sing-alongs have been part of family road trips since the invention of the automobile. Instead of trying to find kid-friendly radio stations or packing dozen of CDs, create a playlist with family favorites or travel-themed songs.
9. Just in Case
Keep an extra change of clothes within easy reach. Don’t forget to pack a roll of paper towels, storage bags for collecting treasures at stops along the way, and a first-aid kit.
Planning for a family road trip can be part of the fun, so include kids in preparing and packing. And remember: The most important thing to have on a road trip with kids is a sense of humor. Not everything will go as planned, but if you can laugh, it will all seem like a fun adventure.