The thought of a long road trip with kids can be scary and stressful. However, if we as parents prepare for it and relax a bit, we can make a fun and enjoyable experience for all family members. In August 2016 we decided to take a road trip with Leo (4) and Mila (10 months) - we drove from West Palm Beach, FL to Washington, DC, but our longest stretch was between West Palm and Charlotte, NC (about 670 miles). We planned to drive that distance in one day, ha! Looking back at that adventure, we should have made it a two day event, but as they say, you live you learn. Overall, the kids were very good and behaved pretty well, but the parents were exhausted! Below we listed some of our suggestions on how to make a road trip with kids a successful and pleasant experience.
1. Pack a small bag full of changing clothes for kids, diapers, wipes, toothbrushes, and everything else that you may need during the trip. In case when your child gets dirty or spits juice all over himself, you won't need to search the whole trunk because everything will be in your small "carry on bag" (when Leo was 3 years old we went on a vacation to California. We drove a lot during that trip and at one point Leo got car sick and threw up - nicely speaking. We were not prepared for it and had to dig through all of the luggage stored in the trunk. We did not have wipes and as a result, for the next two hours we continued our journey in a very unpleasant scent...)
2. Pack lots of snacks. drinks and little bites. We all know that eating is a good activity and can keep everyone busy, especially during a long drive.
3. Remember to take books, coloring pages, favorite toys, good music and DVDS. Portable DVD player can be really helpful and keep busy even most active child. Maybe its not something to be proud of, but Leo knows very well how to use an IPAD. But believe me, during long travel stretches that gadget is a must.
4. During times when our kids started to complain and whine, I sat with them on the back seat and tried to keep them busy by playing games, tickling them, reading books and telling funny stories.
5. During our road trip there were moments when our kids cried. We tried to keep them occupied by singing or feeding them, but nothing was working. In those situations we made 10-15 min stops so everyone could stretch the bones and breath some fresh air. We also searched for near by playgrounds. Making stops like that can prolong the whole trip, but there are moments when it's necessary for all of the travelers.
6. Leaving late at night or very early in the morning is a good solution because kids are very tired and there is a big probability that they will sleep.
7. Several times during the road trip we experienced rainy weather and on top of that, our kids were going crazy on the back seats. In those situations we drove to Chick Fil A or other fast food (yes, I know, that fast food is one of the worst things you can give it to your child but once a year it won't hurt - right?!). Places like that besides having kids meals also have a small indoor playground so the children can release some of the energy.
A though of a road trip with kids can be scary but we need to remember that positive thinking and calm demeanor is the key during extreme situations. So when we drive a car for many many hours, when our kids are crying and misbehaving on the back seats and all we want is to leave this madness and simply start walking, it is good to keep in mind that it's the journey, not the destination...