Tom Cochrane says, Life is a Highway, but I doubt he drove it all night long with whiny wee-ones. We all know the best road trips are the ones where we cruise wherever inspiration strikes. Nowadays, I consider myself lucky if nobody yaks in the car. But exhausting days crammed in close quarters aren’t inevitable. Use this road trip checklist before you take it to the street on the upcoming May long weekend.
- Tune up: What’s worse than being stuck in a vehicle with whiny kids? Being stuck in a one-horse town waiting for the mechanic to open. Take the car in for a tune up and be sure you’ve done this maintenance prior to hitting the road.
- Have realistic expectations: You know your kids, so plan accordingly. For some, that might mean stopping every hour for a few minutes. For others, an unlimited supply of valium (for the co-pilot, of course), seems to do the trick.
- Share the planning: When you involve kids in the planning process, they feel like they have some some control over what’s happening during the day. Give the kids part of each day to organize, and let them know how long you’re going to be in the car, so they can bring what’s needed to keep themselves occupied.
- Be prepared: Make like a Girl Guide and have back ups like cards or new magazines for the car ride, and alternative itineraries for your destination.
- Pit Stops: Know when you’re going stop and make a rule that at scheduled bathroom breaks, everyone needs to try going (even if they don’t feel like it). Look for green spaces online, like parks and elementary schools, to burn off the steam instead of the side of the highway.
- Be flexible: Ignore Rule 5 if everyone is sleeping. When that blessed event occurs, power on. Just be prepared to make an impromptu stop after they’re awake.
- Music: If you’re not keen to listen to the Wiggles for eights hours, decide as a family in advance who gets to play DJ, or if you’ll take turns.
- Food: Who wants to waste time eating at sketchy roadside restaurants? Stopping is for burning off energy, not getting food poisoning. Keep a cooler in the car with lunches, snacks and cool drinks. Try to keep food healthy to avoid sugar rushes, but dole out little rewards that last long – like a piece of licorice or a sucker.
- Packing: Besides time passers, be sure to stash a hacky sack or soccer ball to get kids moving and deep breathing during rest stops. It’s also wise to have a complete change of clothes in resealable bag for when accidents happen.
- Entertainment: Consider making a surprise bag with dollar store trinkets for each child. Inexpensive items like new crayons, etch-a-sketch and silly putty might not last long, but keep kids amused. Keep baby’s curiosity going by popping their soothers into containers like a gift box or tupperware. Cookie sheets fit across car seats, and the rim prevents crayons from falling off the end (plus magnets stick well to them).
Keep in mind, the worst part of the drive is usually the last few hours in the car. Best to save electronics for when nobody’s fresh anymore.
‘Be ready for crying, fussing and whining, and purposefully ignore about 80% of it,” recommends Calgary Pediatric Behavioral Specialist, Kitty Raymond. “Children tend to either work those things out, give up or fall asleep.”
And if you’re really dreading the whole ordeal, check out the trailer for National Lampoon’s Vacation.
Have you ever taken a long road trip with kids? I’d love to hear your suggestions. Please let me know your tips.
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