Winter holidays are nearly here! Whether you’re planning a short Thanksgiving outing, or a longer family road trip over the New Year weekend, now is the time to prep your car and make sure the entire family is ready for any journey.
If you’ve ever driven more than a few hours straight with kids in tow, you know that you need to be prepared for anything that can happen on the road. So, here are some planning tips to help you get organized ahead of time.
1. Prep the kids. Family trips invariably lead to the familiar back-seat question, “Are we there yet?” Building fun road trip memories and avoiding hours of frustration are all about anticipating your children’s needs – and then some. So, pack fun travel games and plenty of snacks to help keep the kids occupied.
2. Plan your route. Especially when trekking new territory, use an online mapping service before you hit the road. There is often more than one route to most destinations: Do you want to take the longer, more scenic route with family activities along the way? Or do you want to get there quickly via the most direct route? Keep the sleep schedules and physical abilities of your passengers in mind; do you really want to disrupt a drowsy toddler’s sleep schedule, or wheel a stroller around the Grand Canyon?
Before you depart, check with local authorities or traffic websites to ensure roads are open and to avoid traffic jams in busy metropolitan areas. Some highways may be closed for repairs or resurfacing. Online mapping services may not be aware of such closures, and you could be faced with tedious detours.
3. Keep them entertained. Begin the road trip by handing out a scavenger-hunt-style list of sights and landmarks along the way to keep them engaged in what they see. Need a few hints? Keep track of license plates from other states. Count cows. Look for cars in unusual colors like yellow or orange or purple. Promise and deliver prizes for the most sights seen or most unusual things found. If you’ll be doing a lot of driving in the dark, this might be a good time to purchase an inexpensive portable DVD player to occupy backseat passengers with their favorite movies when there is less to see outside the car.
4. Take a break. Take LOTS of breaks! Make sure you plan plenty of pit stops for snacking and so the kids can get out and stretch their legs. Bring healthy snacks, and avoid sugary foods — the last thing you want is a carload of wired kids burning off a sugar rush with hours to go before you arrive at your destination. Plan for extra stops if you’ll need to feed and change a baby, and don’t forget wipes, extra changes of clothes, and some resealable storage bags in case of “accidents.”
5. Don’t forget your roadside emergency kit! To ensure you’re prepared for any wintertime roadside mishap, keep these things in your car: snacks and bottled water, plastic trash bags for wind protection and car sickness, first aid kit, cellphone and charger, flashlight and batteries, blankets, waterproof matches and/or a lighter, properly inflated spare tire, jack and lug wrench, jumper cables, signal flares, pocket knife, atlas and state/local road maps, extra quart of high-quality motor oil, hand cleaner, and paper towels. And remember your family’s emergency contact list!
Traveling with youngsters is always a challenge. Following these five tips can help make your family drive time a part of the family vacation, and help keep Mom and Dad sane along the way!