Traveling with family should be one of life’s greatest joys. Take as many trips as possible with your family because those are the memories they’ll always have. Leading up to the day that you leave for your trip is so exciting as you collect your snacks and road games and map out your route. Everyone piles into the car and then you get 15 minutes into a 10 hour drive, then the dreaded question from the back seat blurts out. “ARE WE THERE YET????” And who can blame them? They are as excited as you are to reach their destination.
Here are some things I have learned from traveling with our three daughters and now two grandkids through the years.
- What time should you leave for your long journey? This question can be an important one. Will the kids do better on the road during the daylight hours or is it better to travel overnight while they are sleeping? The best answer to this question depends on your particular family and their needs. Another factor is you may have to reach your destination at a certain time. Overnight traveling is convenient when the kiddos are very young and for those kids who fall asleep easily in the car. However for the driver this can be very exhausting. It’s also a good idea to have someone stay awake with you to keep you from dozing off. Staying up later than usual or driving overnight can take a toll on you. Sure you get to your destination a half day sooner, but then you’ll have to take a nap when you get there, while your kids are raring to go. We seemed to have better trips during the daytime hours. We would get up early and hit the road first thing. Eating breakfast at home before you leave is up to you. We always stopped about an hour into our trip to grab some breakfast because that was one thing they looked forward to.
- Make frequent stops. It’s ok to stop every hour and a half to 2 hours. Whether you’ve stopped at a gas station or at a rest stop, make the break an enjoyable one. Take a short walk around the rest area. Go to a souvenir shop on the side of the road and take in the local items. One time at one rest area, they had a gentleman there who was dressed like a pioneer man and he was making pottery. We stood there for half an hour with our granddaughter just watching him and listening to his stories. This is what we call “local flavor.” When you’re able to take in all that the area has to offer. The excitement about road trips is that there is always something to stop and see. Go ahead and pull off the interstate and drive 15 miles out of your way to see the largest ball of twine. It’s ok to be random. This is what your kids will remember the most. Take time to smell the roses as they say.
- After every stop, pull out a “surprise” for each of the kids. Part of my pre-vacation planning fun is to collect silly, cheap toys, books or gadgets. This certainly keeps things interesting and the kids are pleasantly surprised and entertained at the same time. This goodie bag technique works so well, that our daughter does this for her children.
- Snacks. Oh yummy. Why is it that traveling makes you hungry? Packing snacks is a fun thing. It’s best to pack fruits, veggies, and nuts. Stay away from sweets, salty chips and sugar based sodas. Fill a small cooler with water bottles.
- Picnic. Who doesn’t love a picnic? Having a picnic lunch at a rest stop or park can be exciting to a kid. Pack a plastic table cover, paper towels, loaf of bread, deli turkey meat and cheese and you have yourself a picnic. You can also bring along a jar of peanut butter. Just don’t forget the plastic knife.
- Games. I LOVE ROAD GAMES!!!!!!!!!!! My favorite one is the ABC game. Someone calls out a topic (ie. cereals or animals just to name a few). The first person starts with the letter “A” and has to name something from the topic that begins with that letter. Then the next player’s letter is “B” and has to name something in the same topic for that letter. You keep going until someone stumbles then they’re out. Of course you can set your own rules and topics.
- Pictures. For the older kids. Bring a small camera just for them to document their road trip. They could play a game to see who can take the most pics of a certain tree or different license plates.
- Shoes. I let my kids wear flip-flops while traveling because they like to kick them off in the car. However, I have them keep their sneakers in a handy spot. This way when we feel like pulling over to the beautiful state park that offers a 15 minute hike to a water fall, their shoes are ready to go and they don’t have to pull out the packed luggage to dig around for them.
- Overnight Bag for longer trips. Sometimes during travel it becomes necessary to stop overnight at a roadside hotel or inn. For this reason I recommend that you pack a small separate overnight bag with all your necessities that you’ll need just for that night. It’s ok to pack everyone’s items in this one smaller bag. This way you don’t have to unload the entire car just for the one night.
- Luggage space in the car. Does your vacation home offer a washer and dryer in the unit? If so, this is a wonderful benefit to you! You can wash your clothing every few days which means you can pack lighter. This saves you space in your car. Also remember the luggage “grows” during the vacation. Dirty laundry, souvenirs, and other items just don’t go back in the suitcase the same as it did at home.
Never let the kids be an excuse to not travel and experience the world around you. The fact is your children should be the main reason why you travel.
Show them the world through others eyes and help them to grow and expand their minds and appreciation of all that this wonderful world of ours offers!
They will bring up memories of these trips for decades to come and the journeys (good or bad) will mold the character of who they are.
Comment and Share your tips and suggestions.