Luckily, a little prep work ahead of time will pay off big time by helping to keep the kids occupied, happy and (hopefully) quiet in the back seat. This isn’t just about saving your sanity though. Distracted drivers are unsafe drivers, plain and simple. The more time you’re spending solving fights, bargaining with your kids to wait a little longer for lunch, the less time you’re devoting to monitoring traffic. In fact, studies show nearly 25 percent of crashes happen when drivers are dealing with kids in the back seat. Source
So before you set off on a long trip, take a look at these tips and tricks to keep everyone in the car safe and happy during your trip.
Pretty simple, but you might not think about it: telling your kids ahead of time how you expect them to behave. While rules will depend on the age and temperament of your children, it is helpful to everyone that expectations in behavior are set and what consequences of misbehaving are. For instance, you might expect that everyone uses the restroom during pit stops, and that any child who misbehaves gets their toys taken away for an hour.
You might be in a hurry to get to your destination for the evening, only stopping to refuel or for the all essential bathroom break. For adults, this is usually fine, but when travelling with children, they will often become grumpy and fidgety. At the very least, stop every few hours and stretch. Better yet, let the kids run around and burn off a bit of steam. This way, when you do get back on the road, they will be more than likely be a bit more calm.. or even tired!
No one likes to be hungry, especially kids on a long car ride. Timing meals is really important! If everyone is on the road at 7am, don’t stop for lunch at 1pm. Most adults would be starving and cranky in those situations, so don’t leave it too long. Aim to get a reasonably filling meal every 4 hours or so.
Quality of food is very important as well, especially when it comes to the snacks that get nibbled on between meals. Instead of packing sugary snacks, which will overstimulate the kids, opt for healthier options like cut up veggies and hummus, water, fresh fruit, nuts, string cheese, yogurt, or low-sugar juice. The odd cookie or piece of candy is fine, but overall, try to stick with the healthy stuff.
Intended for parents to have time to themselves, so encourage the children to read their books, watch the DVD player, play with the toys they brought along, or listen to their personal music by means of earphones.
Every child has their favorites! Perhaps it is a puzzle or a doll, or even their handheld gaming console.. within reason, you should bring these items along with you on the trip (as space allows). These are a great way to keep the kids busy while you are driving, but don’t forget to pack a soccer ball or Frisbee for those roadside stops we talked about – kicking around a ball with the kids will stretch your legs and theirs!
Having fun does not only apply to children, join in on the excitement yourself! Games such as: road bingo, scavenger hunt, alphabet games, I-spy and memory, are great time fillers that can last a few days and can be replayed for each town or state you pass.
Everyone likes to reminisce about past trips, but few of us have time to create photo albums and scrapbooks. So bring out the creative side of your children and enlist their help.
If you have multiple children, this can be a great project! One person can be in charge of taking photos, another of recording what you did each day in a journal. A third can collect souvenirs from various attractions you saw (like a ticket stub from a carnival you went to), coasters from restaurants, and any other neat items that remind you of where you were or what you did.
Pack kid-safe instant cameras, paper, markers and crayons, glue sticks, tape, and some kid-friendly scissors. Each evening, the kids can fashion some pages representing the day’s activities. Then when you’re home, set aside a special family night to look through their special creation. Source
A road trip is a great bonding experience for the whole family, but for the ones who are too young to occupy themselves with their iPhone it could soon turn into the vacation you’ll want to forget. If you keep these tips in mind, the kids (and even some teenagers) will be busy, happy and more quiet!
Do you have a tip or trick that works great in the car for your kids? Share it with us in the comments below!
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