s May winds to an end, many of us have started planning a summer vacation of some sort for the family. There are so many options that vary depending on budget, personal preference (some of us shudder at the thought of camping!), location and availability.
For many, road trips offer a unique opportunity to get the family together for a fun, unique experience. What’s great about road trips is just how customizable they are: you can leave from home, or fly to a different location and road trip from there. You could take your family on a 1-day road trip or a 2-week road trip. You can focus on nature, or city, or a mixture of both. Road trips are among the easiest types of vacations to customize to your family’s unique needs and preferences.
But what about a family road trip with kids? Will young children appreciate beautiful views outside the car window? Will they participate in road trip games?
Your Kid’s Age & Temperament
A large part of whether a road trip is a good idea relies on your child or children’s age(s). While babies under age 1 might be great in the car, they’re probably too young to enjoy extensive car rides over the course of more than one day. Toddlers between the ages of 1 to 3 might be more likely to enjoy a family road trip. This will depend, of course, on how they handle being in the car in the first place. But many young children will love the sense of adventure offered by a road trip, and even just the prospect of all that family time will get many young people on board.
If you have bigger kids at home, you may very well have the easiest time discerning whether a road trip would fly in their books by discussing it with them! Another plus about traveling with older children is, depending on your level of flexibility, the fact that you can have them participate in planning. And, of course, they can typically take care of themselves when it comes to in-the-car entertainment. Which brings us to the topic of how to keep the younger ones happy in the car…
Keeping Youngsters Happy In The Car
If you’re headed on a family road trip this summer with young children in tow, here are some tips for keeping everyone entertained and happy!
1. Prepare games
A simple Google search will yield countless road trip games that everyone in the family can enjoy. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing with young children who don’t yet know how to spell. Many road trip games are very imaginative; some will involve things you can spot through the window, others will involve memory challenges or rhyming. One of our favorite road trip games is 20 Questions, which is suitable for ages 4 and up. The game involves one person who thinks of something in a certain category (categories might include “In the home,” “People we know,” “Famous people,” etc.) and each person in the family takes turns asking yes-or-no questions until 20 questions have been asked. Once 20 questions have been asked, each member of the family gets one shot at guessing what or who the person had in mind.
2. Bring food
There’s something about sitting for extended periods of time that tends to make people hungry. Think about going to the movies or getting aboard a long flight–don’t these activities have you wondering what you’ll munch on? Especially when you’re embarking on a road trip with children, snacks can be a total lifesaver. Getting equipped with a variety of tasty food that’s easy to eat in the car will save you from unnecessary pit stops. And, the larger the variety of options, the more likely your children are to be satisfied with them.
3. Make a strategic seating plan
Depending on how many kids you’re traveling with and how well they get along, you might want to think strategically about where each member of the family will sit. Many families traveling with more than one or two children find that renting a larger car, like a minivan, helps each child travel more comfortably while also affording them the space they need to keep their sanity. If you’re taking a road trip with a vehicle other than your own, try to bring your own car seats. Your kids are already familiar with them and it’ll help keep them more comfortable. Regardless of whether you take your own vehicle or a rental, always ensure that all car seats are installed properly before heading out, and at the start of each day of your road trip.
4. Plan your route & stops according to your child’s routine
Parents of young children often do this on a daily basis–planning their car rides in accordance with their children’s schedules and routines. When planning a road trip with a young child who still naps during the day, you’ll make life much easier for the entire family if you plan stops and attractions for times when your child is usually awake, and long stretches of driving for the hours of the day when they typically nap. Keeping your child as close as possible to his or her daily routine in terms of awake and asleep times will help them be able to enjoy your adventure to the fullest, and it’ll help you avoid having an overtired, cranky kid to take care of out of the car.
5. Pack wisely
You’ll probably want to pack light as you head out for your road trip. If you’re embarking on an overnight road trip, you’ll need to consider campsite or hotel room entertainment for your little ones. This is a great opportunity to get creative with what you pack. Keep in mind that just being in a new environment for the evening and night might be exciting enough for your child. They might get a kick out of exploring the campground or checking out different areas of the hotel. But as the evening winds down, you’ll want to have a couple toys or books they’re familiar with that will offer comfort. And you might consider including a few small surprises–new games or books, for example–to add to the vacation fun.