Sunday, November 19, 2006
By Celia Fielding
“You’re driving how many hours with three children?” Looks of horror or sympathy often accompany this reaction when our friends learn we are taking yet another road trip.
Sure we enjoyed flying, when there were only two of us. But soon after our first child became a full-fare airline passenger at the age of two, we realized that driving would be far less of a strain on the family budget. We purchased a minivan and our destiny was sealed: we were officially a road trip family.
With a little advanced planning, the journey can be something of an adventure rather than an ordeal. Here are eight tips for planning an extended car trip with your children:
1. Kids enjoy being a part of the planning process. Involve them in mapping the route and talk about the attractions you might visit. There are even child-friendly maps and atlases available for your child to track the journey.
2. Pack water bottles and juice boxes in a small ice chest, along with healthy (and not too messy) snacks like cheese sticks, grapes and pretzels. Packing entire meals is a good option if you are adverse to the idea of fast food, but the trade-off is you’ll probably have to squeeze a larger ice chest in your vehicle.
3. Get your toddler or preschooler accustomed to going to the restroom when everyone else does. For the very newly toilet-trained, consider bringing a potty chair that can be used in an “emergency.” And don’t forget to bring along hand sanitizer and toilet seat covers for rest stops and gas stations.
4. Let your child choose two or three favorite toys that will fit in their backpack or tote bag. Avoid toys with lots of small parts that can easily be lost. And if you’ve ever tried to remove melted crayon from upholstery, you’ll know not to leave any crayons in a hot car.
5. Provide special travel games or activity books that are new to your child just for the trip. Rather than giving them several toys at once, doling out individual toys at intervals throughout your journey will help your child appreciate each new thing and increase its enjoyment.
6. If you’re fortunate enough to have a DVD player in your vehicle, allow your child to pick out a few movies and bring along a never-before-seen movie or two in addition to the favorites. Headphones can be invaluable for those times when the driver wants to listen to a CD or audio book without being drowned out by the kids’ flicks.
7. Allow time for “stretch” breaks. This could mean a longer meal at a restaurant with a play area, a romp in the grass at a rest area, or a short walk around a scenic viewpoint. We find that our grown-up legs need to work out the wiggles just as much as our little ones’ do. If you’re driving for more than a day and staying overnight at a hotel, find one with a pool or playground for the kids to burn off energy. They’ll have something to look forward to and should sleep well that night.
8. Keep a positive attitude. At some point the kids will probably whine or get restless. An impromptu game of “I spy” or “Twenty Questions” or even a silly song can often break the monotony.