family traveling at airport

We love traveling without kids but it’s all about providing experiences, of building the sense of family when you’re traveling with kids.  The main thing to enjoying a road trip with children is to adjust your expectations. Include a reasonable amount of activities like lots of parks, pools, and things the whole family can enjoy.  Here are a few things that may make the road trip a little more bearable.

  • Know yourself, know your kids. You may love spending hours in the car but the kids may not feel the same.  Experiment with shorter trips.  If you hate car rides, or your kids do, you may want to consider other modes of travel, if possible.
  • Make sure it’s worth it.  Even if you and your kids love being in the car, long drives with little ones are difficult. So, be sure that whatever is waiting for you at the other end of the car is worth the suffering you may have to endure. Meeting up with friends or family, a water park, a shopping spree…make sure they’re up for the travel.
  • Plan for the worst. Crankiness, arguing, lots of rest stops. And there’s no escape. Hope for the best and be ready. Plan to go nuts. If it doesn’t happen, you’ll feel like the road trip was a success.
  • Prep the kids.  Discuss the trip and let them know what to expect.  And repeat.  Talking about it might not make much difference, but it probably will, and it’s worth a shot.
  • Turn up the tunes.  Make a playlist of your little ones’ favorite music.  The first time you’ll sing along.  The second time, you won’t.  By the twentieth time, you’ll be bleeding from your ears.  And then you’ll play it again because the song is better than the screams that will occur if you turn it off.
  • Feed Them First.  Have diapers and wipes handy and bring a change of clothes for everyone.  (Also, plastic bags to hold wet or dirty clothes.) Obvious, maybe.  Necessary, definitely.
  • Go High Tech. If your little ones are forward facing, hit PLAY on the DVD player. Even if TV is taboo in your house, make an exception for the car. Explain that videos are a special treat for long car rides, not for the house, and not for short trips.
  • Entertainer is not your job title. You don’t have to amuse them the entire time if you provide the right tools.  Make sure each child has his or her favorite something, turn on the music or the videos, and leave them alone. Be creative–an hour of TV, followed by music, and then back again. Or just let them stare out the window. But don’t start out the drive by entertaining them. Save it for when you really need it, when things start to fall apart. Which they will.
  • Take a deep breath. Enjoy the ride.  Eventually, the trip will end.  We’ve all survived road trips, and your family will, too. Hopefully there will be some wine for you and a treat for the kids when you reach your destination.