Road Trips on the Horizon
As a family who travels extensively locally and internationally, we have had our fair share of long car rides. And I do not foresee that ending anytime soon. I remember hearing from parents, before I became a parent myself, that road trips were the worst. I saw on television that families dread being in a car together for too long. It really made me nervous the first several times we had long car rides.
Seeing that road trips were not going to end anytime soon, I made it my mission to find ways to enjoy them. Not only was I going to choose to be happy, but I also wanted to give my entire family a good experience. I wanted to take advantage of the precious time I would have with my children in close proximity. Over the years, road trips have continued to get easier for us, and I wanted to pass along some of the things we have done to come to enjoy them.
4 Useful Tips for Road Trips
1. Set a Travel Rhythm.
A travel rhythm is having several activities the children (any age, even you) enjoy doing in the car and putting them into a rotation during the drive. I have another post that thoroughly goes through what a travel rhythm is – Look Here! I give examples and a printable to help you implement it with your children. Having a travel rhythm on long car rides was a game changer for our family and one of our top recommendations for families who travel.
2. Set Their Expectations.
Having clear expectations allows the children to know what is going on. All of us can understand fear of the unknown. Being taken out of our normal setting, though exciting, can also be challenging. When you are young enough that you do not understand time, an extended car ride can seem daunting. Likewise, if you are a teenager, you would want to be in the loop with how the trip is going to go. Simple communication can fix both of these circumstances.
If you have infants or toddlers, you will be planning around diaper changes, feedings, and nap times. Make sure the rest of the family knows when they may need to be doing a quiet activity or set that in their travel rhythm.
For younger ages, set a timer. We set a timer for when to switch activities in our rhythm. When I set the timer, they let me know when it is going off. It helps them feel a little more in control. I even let my younger ones help in picking their activities for their travel rhythm to give them a sense of control. There have been times where they switched up which activity we would do next, but rhythms are flexible and easy to work with.
With older children and teenagers, you may want to ask them to help you plan a rhythm. Having them be an active part of the decisions will help them not get as frustrated on the trip because they had input. With this age group you may also want to include “individual time” and “family time” into your rhythm. That way they have expectations from you on when you want them to participate or be listening and when they can have their own time.
Overall, having clear expectations is helpful for everyone. It also gives a framework that if change does need to happen, you can just adjust to the needs for the trip.
Our Travel Activity Book includes our Travel Rhythms Worksheet.
3. Set Your Expectations.
Having a rhythm for the kids is only half the battle. When it comes to car rides things happen. You could have car trouble. Your children could spill something or have a potty accident. These accidents may be fewer as they get older, but you still need to be ready in case things go wrong. We keep certain items in our car for these unexpected events and when traveling with younger children we always plan extra travel time.
Some items to have on hand:
- Towels – one large and several small are convenient to have on hand.
- Snacks and water
- Portable toilet – You can now find great travel toilets to have. These come in handy for potty training, but also emergencies when a restroom is not near.
- Small bottle of cleaner
- Small trash sack
- Wet bags for dirty items
- Hand Sanitizer
4. Set the Example.
Finally, as the adult it is up to you to set the tone for the travel. If you start the trip complaining, your kids will see that example. If you are able to be excited and optimistic about the trip, they will be watching you. The hardest part of being the example is that you will remain the example for the entire travel time.
Set your expectations that if things go wrong you will work to be one who helps the family stay focused. As whining begins, remember that this is not your children’s normal setting. When car trouble happens, remember that you can only do the next thing to help. Keep a good attitude.
If you need help with this, have someone to call for support! Tell your friend your travel details and ask that person to be on call so that you can get out all of your panic, negativity, and fears. You do this so that you can help your children process those same things. You are the adult in the situation and can set up support for yourself so that you can be the support your children need.
These 4 easy steps can make a huge impact on your car travels and you can make all of these work for your family!
The Travel Rhythm Worksheet is included in the Travel Activity Books.