If you’re thinking of taking a long family road trip, you’ll have to plan much more than the route you’re going to take – a car full of children also requires a full itinerary of entertainment to keep the journey as stress-free as possible.
Road trips are the epitome of the summer experience. For many families, vacations are not quite what they were before children. After having kids, you may need to spend your summers traveling to local destinations, often by car. After you get your car in tip-top shape, you may be wondering what else you need to create an ideal road trip experience. Because kids cannot sit in a simple conversation for hours on end, here are a few tips for keeping them entertained and creating the perfect family road trip experience. Four easy ways to make your next family road trip a much better experience for everyone in your family. Learn all about a family road trip.
Family road trips are super underrated, many people say that it is hard to stay crammed in a car with your family members, but if you do everything right and plan the trip carefully, you can actually have an amazing time and strengthen your bond with your family. In this post, we have created a to-do list that you should follow for a guaranteed fun time and bonding with your family on a long, fun, and adventurous road trip:
So here are some top tips to consider if you hitting the road with the kids in tow…
Tips for a Family Road Trip
Before the Road Trip
Plan the Trip Carefully
Planning is a very important part of having an amazing road trip. When you are traveling with some adventurous friends, going with the flow is an option, but if you have your family with you on a road trip, you should definitely take some time to hash out the details of the trip among the family. It is important that the kids are also a part of these discussions so that they feel included in the decision-making. You should add some destinations that the kids want to visit on the trip as well.
Choosing the Right Vehicle
Space should be just one of many considerations when it comes to renting or purchasing a vehicle for a road trip. Safety should be first and foremost when making your choice. Ask your car dealer or renter to show you vehicles with the latest safety features such as automatic braking (to prevent a collision with the car in front of you), blind spot warning, pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, and airbags. Safety belt features are also very important; some vehicles have inflatable belts in the rear set to reduce the force of the belts on passengers in the event of an accident.
Related Read: How to Make Sure Your Car Is Road Trip Ready
Make Sure the Car is in Perfect Condition
This step is important for every road trip. Your car should be maintained all the time, but when you are about to leave on a long cross-country road trip, it is wise to take the car to the mechanic for a detailed checkup. It will make sure that your car stays running smoothly and doesn’t cause any problems during the trip. If your tires are old, consider changing them now.
This cannot be stated enough. You need to have your car fully and completely serviced.
Do not try to cut corners and not do it or think that your car doesn’t need the maintenance or the service or the checkup or whatever it is, especially before going on a pretty big road trip.
- Make sure that your spark plugs are okay
- Make sure that you have the oil.
- Make sure you have the brake fluids.
- Check that you have wiper fluids.
- Then make sure that your tires are in great condition.
- Check your tire pressure.
- Make sure that you have an extra tire.
- Make sure you have jumper cables.
- Make sure you have jacks.
Make sure that you have and have some extra oil with you because you never know and have some extra water. You never know if your radiator might heat up. All these little things can be completely and totally avoided if you simply do the proper service, the proper maintenance and checking of everything, and even your own tires.
Getting Your Car Travel-Ready and Prepare for the Worse
If you will be taking your existing vehicle on the road trip, ensuring it is well-prepared is vital, bring your car to the wash. Check for aspects such as tire pressure, lights, wiper blades, oil and coolant levels, brakes, belts, and more. You should also be prepared for what you would do if you were involved in an accident. Steps range from assembling a good first aid kit to listing down the name of an accident lawyer who specializes in personal injury.
And, remember to wash and wax your car before you leave and along the way to keep the exterior safe. You can carry an orbital polisher in the car to properly wax the car. Washing and waxing the car is important because the dirt and dust in the air can damage the paint of the car on a long trip.
Download Google Maps
There will be times that you will not have Internet, regardless of which country you are in. There’s just no service in some areas, especially when you are traveling in less traveled destinations. So, it is crucial for you to download your Google Maps.
If you don’t know how to do that, it’s pretty simple, but you do have to do it in portions, you can get about 9 to 10 hours worth of travel time easily into each map. Make sure to do it beforehand, in a place where you have really good, strong Internet, it’s better to do it where there’s good WiFi rather than your cellular data.
Also, it’s even a better idea to do it on several devices just in case one fails.
It’s better to do this several days before your trip and again, revisit it the night before you head out on your trip.
Keeping your kids occupied is the second step to happy road trip memories. Good entertainment options for the car should take up a small amount of room, but provide hours of entertainment. For this reason, large plastic toys are not the ideal choice for a road trip. Instead, utilize old-school items like drawing pads and pencils, puzzle books, or coloring books.
The chances are you’ll hear the first cry of “Are we nearly there yet?” within 20 minutes of leaving the house, so you’ll need to curb the kids’ natural impatience – the best way to do this is to keep them entertained in as many ways as possible.
Download whatever you can. Because on long stretches of road, where there’s no Internet, where there’s nothing to really do, or sometimes you’ll start to get bored, have everything ready. You could download amazing podcasts. You could download movies on Netflix. Not only that, but you could download books.
You could have a great playlist. We personally love Audible for our books. I don’t know what you use for your books, but there are so many different options out there today. But make sure that you have it ready because you can’t decide to download it on the day off or during the actual road trip. Why?
Related Read: 21 Essentials to Pack for a Family Road Trip
Audiobooks and music
stock up on some of your clan’s favorite music and throw in a few family-friendly audiobooks to relieve the boredom of some of those long stretches of motorway. It’ll also help to keep your mind alert while you’re at the wheel.
Books and DVDS
if you think the drive is long and arduous, the kids will be feeling the boredom even more in the back, so make sure you pack a selection of their favorite books and comics to keep them entertained. If you can get a portable DVD player – the ones that fit onto the back of the headrests of the front seats are ideal – you can pack their favorite films and you won’t even know they’re there.
if you’ve exhausted all the other options, or you can’t bear to hear the songs from Frozen one more time, then it could be time to kick off a good, old-fashioned car game. Eye-spy is an old-classic but quickly gets boring, so try something like Yellow Car – where the aim is to spot the most yellow cars on the road – or Through the Glovebox – the idea here is to pick another motorist and make up a narrative about them; this is a good game for when you’re stuck in a traffic jam.
It’s also a good idea to make each child a backpack for the journey, containing coloring books, travel games, and portable consoles or tablets if they have one. And make sure they have all the apps and games they need – and don’t forget to pack the chargers!
During the Road Trip
Food and drink
It’s one thing keeping boredom at bay, but you also need to fight off the hunger pangs. If you’re driving for family road trips through some little towns and villages it’s always a good idea to stop off and get something to eat, but while motorway services are handy, they’re also expensive and often unhealthy.
So, pack food beforehand. Don’t skimp on munchies, juices, or water because that will keep everybody happy and satisfied.
Because at times you could go hours without any service centers or any places to eat, and the last thing you want to do is have hungry, grouchy people simply because you forgot to bring some fun munchies.
If you’re not big into junk food, great. There are tons of fruit that you could bring. There are so many healthy options and there are some energy drinks to keep you guys awake, especially the driver.
Plan Some Fun Stops Along the Way
You shouldn’t only stick to the highways until you reach your destination, you should also visit some small attractions along the way. This will keep the whole family excited for the next location, and you won’t get bored. You should also consider getting some amazing local food from the areas you pass through during the trip. It is a great way to enhance your experience and have a great trip with the family.
Long hours in the car leave everyone’s legs feeling cramped and uncomfortable. The best way to stave off the discomfort is by getting a lot of exercises each time you stop for a pee break. Most road trips will be far more pleasant if you allow the kids to get some of their energy out at the pit stop.
While playing tag is a game that requires running with little props, your kids may get bored of it after the fifth time in one day. Consider bringing a Frisbee, jump rope, tennis ball or bubbles to get the kids exercising and boost morale. When your kids nod off after a long pit stop, you will appreciate the feeling of a seat that is not being kicked.
Patience for a family road trip
As with everything related to parenting, patience is the most important tool you can ever bring with you. Try to understand the amount of energy contained in your tiny toddler’s body, and be patient and empathetic during your family road trip experience. If possible, remember to take things slow and savor the moment, constantly rushing means missing out on important memories.
Respect Each Other’s Privacy and Boundaries
We all know siblings can end up fighting when they stay together for a long time. To avoid such issues which can ruin the whole trip, you should have a discussion with the whole family before you leave. You should set some boundaries and instruct everyone to respect them. Having a detailed discussion with the kids before the trip starts can really help keep things civil in the car.
Planning Driving Schedules
If you will be traveling with other drivers, ensure you take turns so that each driver has the chance to have a break and disconnect. Ensure you are alert when you take the wheel; drivers need to continually scan the road for potential dangers as well as be vigilant for sudden obstacles that may arise on the road – including animals and pedestrians. If you are feeling tired, consider taking a small break or staying overnight. You should have a list of good hotels you will encounter as you drive through various cities or towns. The Road Trip Expert recommends that nobody should drive for over nine hours a day and that drivers should take a break of at least 45 minutes for every 4.5 hours driven.
Related Read: How to Stay Safe on a Road Trip
Another good way to keep everyone engaged is to learn a bit about the places you’re visiting and talk about what you’re going to do there before you arrive – this will make sure everyone is excited to get to the final destination of your family road trips. For some destination inspiration, these European places could be a great starting point.
And if there are any landmarks along the way, make sure you stop off at them to break up the journey.
Bring Pillows and Blankets
You cannot even imagine the difference just having a couple of pillows and a blanket in the car. For whoever is sitting as a passenger, it doesn’t matter if you’re in the front seat or in the back seat, but those pillows and blankets make all the difference.
Personally, I like to have a lot of pillows and I don’t like to share my blankets when we are staying in different Airbnb or even hotels, having that extra really makes a difference. It just gives that little bit of comfort having a pillow and a blanket for your kids or whoever.
Extra Phone Chargers
I know it seems so obvious, however, you’d be surprised how many people forget their phone chargers. Also, I’m talking more about the car phone chargers.
You need to have a good car charger. First of all, you need to test it out, we’ve had several that just stopped working, so having maybe an extra one just in case is crucial.
If you are in the middle of God knows where and your phone dies because you don’t have a good charger, let me tell you, that is a critical life hack. Make sure that you have at least two phone chargers for the car, and on top of that, you need to have at least two to four cables.
Local Currency, Money and Tolls
Have money for tolls and do not ever expect or think that the tolls are going to accept credit cards because a lot of times that is not the case. There are a lot of times that you will be passing many tolls, and if you don’t have money, firstly, you could be fined. Secondly, you might not be allowed to pass, and it could really stall a lot of your trip.
So, make sure to just have a lot of change and a lot of loose bills.
If you’re traveling in a foreign country, go and get some money that is foreign, the currency of the country you’re traveling in just to have, especially if you are in a road trip situation, just so that you have that extra cash on hand. And obviously, if you have the chance to use a credit card, I would recommend using that over the extra cash on hand because you might be hit with a toll that does not accept a credit card. Also, don’t ever assume that this foreign country will accept your country, your home country’s currency. A lot of times that is not the case.
Bring Jumper Cables, and Spare Tires
Yes, you need to make sure you test your jumper cables and your jack. Also, would be fantastic for you to kind of brush up on your flat tire skills.
A lot of times people don’t have jumper cable, you need to be responsible and get jumper cables. As a matter of fact, they sell for like $30, kind of like the first eight kits of cars. The last thing you want to do is be stuck in God knows where. You have no cell service to call a car service or a tow service.
Also, it would be good if you learn something as basic as fixing a flat tire, which, by the way, requires you to have an extra tire for that flat tire.
I know, it sounds so obvious and so in your face to have a garbage bag in your car, but I cannot even tell you the number of times I get into people’s cars, and they don’t have garbage bags.
What do you do with your garbage? If you’re going on a long road trip, you will have an accumulation of garbage, either from food, toilet paper, from whatever. The thing is, have a bag, have several extra plastic bags. For those particular reasons, there is nothing closer than having food scraps and toilet paper and packaging that you have nowhere to put.
Bringing your toilet paper is a necessity. Obviously, if you’re doing more of the less traveled third-world countries, that’s much more important because their own bathrooms don’t even have toilet paper. But even in the US. Sometimes you could be driving for hours on end and there will be nowhere to stop, and you’re going to have to go to the bathroom.
Guess what? Toilet paper is a critical component of your road trip, and not only for going to the bathroom, what if you have a runny nose? What if you’re eating and you don’t have napkins? Just have a roll of toilet paper with you at all times.
This is something that I would recommend putting in a backpack on top of putting it in your car as well.