Road Trip Bliss – 5 Tips for Enjoying Road Trips With The Kids

Being from a family of five children that used to take road trips to Newfoundland each and every summer, I have a strange fondness for car rides with the kids. I know you’re thinking that I’m crazy, but they really can be fun if you consider them in the right light. What you want your children to remember of their trip is not Dad yelling at everyone to be quiet, and Mom softly sobbing out of frustration in the front seat. You want them to remember the good stuff, and they will, if you can keep your cool and consider the fact that being trapped in a car together for hours on end is actually a good thing. Your kids can’t ignore you, they can’t walk away, or hide in their rooms. You have their undivided time and attention while you are all crammed in the car together. It’s a fabulous opportunity to reconnect with the little rug rats. Time flies, and your children are grown and full of attitude before you know it. But when you’re trying to get to Grandmas five hours north for the holidays, time can seem to stand still . Here are a few tips to keep your cool and enjoy yourself while traveling with the kids:
  1. Of course bring the electronic devices! I know it’s the anti-perfect-parent thing to say, but they won’t play them nonstop for the whole trip, just long enough to stop them from asking ‘Are we there yet?’ ‘How much longer?’ or announcing that they are bored every ten seconds. Thus saving you the frustration of repeating yourself over and over and over again ‘No we’re not there yet’, ‘I don’t know how much further’, ‘So find something to do’. It also gives Mom and Dad a chance to catch up with each other outside of the hustle and bustle of their busy lives and while the kids are preoccupied.
  2. Just because the radio is in the front seat doesn’t mean it’s just for the adults. Bring music that everyone likes and enjoys – make a mixed CD and take turns playing everyone’s favourite song. The diversity in music should be entertainment enough and will make everyone feel special. Don’t forget to include Mom and Dad's favourites too. Try playing some really catchy oldies by Elvis, Buddy Holly or the Everly Brothers. There’s no harm in education the kids on what real music sounds like.
  3. When the kids start fighting and the volume of yelling and whining rises from the backseat, do everyone a favour and take a deep breath. Telling them to cut it out or threatening to smack them all á la Larry, Curly, and Moe if they don’t settle down, isn’t going to work. Start by turning off the music which you probably can’t hear at that point anyway. Instead of yelling, which will only compound the noise in the car, clap your hands and announce that it's game time. The first game is who can stop talking the longest. Depending on the age of your children this will actually work. They will get all competitive with each other since they were arguing anyway and try to beat each other out. It may actually go a few rounds so be prepared for some temporary peace and quiet.
  4. Bring food. Healthy food that is. You’re just asking for mayhem if you hop the kids up on pop and chocolate for the ride. Some brightly coloured fruits and veggies are all that’s required. A snack is all that is needed before you stop for lunch. Remember to let them burn off some of their newly acquired food energy by running around a bit before getting back into the car. Most places have a grassy area that you can play a quick game of tag on.
  5. Don’t pack those pillows. Keep them in the backseat with the kids. Set the mood just as you would at home. Turn off the music or turn it down low and in your soft Mommy voice, suggest that everyone takes a nap. Collect all the gadgets and encourage everyone to get comfortable. Remind them that they will be a lot closer to your destination when they wake up. Take a nap yourself so the kids know to be quiet while you’re sleeping and they will soon follow suit.
Traveling with the kids doesn’t have to be a stressful event. Prepare yourself mentally for the road ahead and monopolize on the time together as a family to catch up on everyone’s news, friends, and school. Apply the same principle for short car trips around town; make it a habit to use car time as catch up time, when there are no distractions or interruptions from the outside world. Use it to your advantage and your children will only have happy family vacation memories when they are older.

Good luck out there,

Originally Published May 5, 2009
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