Road Trip Tips: Traveling With Small Children
Road trips with young children can be amazing bonding experiences. However, a bad experience can make you want to pull your hair out! We have traveled by plane, train, and automobile on previous vacations. However, our most common mode of transportation on a vacation is in my SUV or my husband’s truck.
Trains are fun, but I get really motion sick. Airplanes are the fastest way to get somewhere, but they are the most expensive way to travel with four people, especially when you have to rent a car at the destination. We enjoy road trips because we like to leave the beaten path. We are likely to turn down an interesting looking road at any given intersection. We love finding things that others miss.
Here is a list of road trip tips that we’ve compiled over the years:
This is the only “rule” we strictly follow. Things happen when planning vacations. Like getting summoned to serve on the grand jury the morning you are supposed to leave. Or your child vomiting just as you hit the interstate six hours after your scheduled departure time. Both true stories. On the same day.
Service your car before you leave
Change the oil, check your tires, have a mechanic look it over. Prevention beats the inconvenience of your car overheating on the top of a mountain turning a four hour drive into ten hours. True story: The $7 leaky radiator cap ended up costing me about $200.
Do your research
Look for books or Internet articles about your destination, but don’t forget all the space in between your house and the hotel. Hidden just off the road, you might find Indian burial grounds, immigrant communities (with the best baklava I’ve ever tasted), local art, and markers denoting little-known historical sites.
Granola bars, nuts, dried fruit, and fruit are better than pumping the little bits full of sugar and then expecting the best in about 50 cubic feet of car space. Stop at local grocery stores to replenish snacks along the way.
Pack activity bags for the kids
Include activities that are age appropriate. I always include a journal and an art sketch book so the girls can keep a running story about our vacation in their own words.
Tissues and wet wipes are necessary
Also, plan on packing a first aid kit. It should be pretty comprehensive and contain bandages, antibiotic ointment, antihistamine (either creme or oral medication, or both), pain reliever/fever reducer, and tummy medicine. Trust me on this one.
Bring any electronic devices you deem necessary
Our GPS qualifies under this category. Personal DVD players are useful so each child can watch her own movie. Some parents rely heavily on iPads, tablets, cell phones, and personal game machines. Those things work for some families. I really try to make our vacations electronic-free as much as possible, especially after losing the DVDs. (For more on this, see our article on Screen-Free Road Trips.)
Don’t try to travel too far in a day
Allow time for stretching, walking around, and exploring the country. If you try to drive twelve or fourteen hours in a day, everyone will be miserable. Enjoy the journey.
A little planning can make your trip much easier. Relax and have fun.
- See other road trip tips.