The rental car is all packed up and you’re set for the great American road trip. So how will you keep the kids happy when you’re driving for long stretches of time? Here are some tips to keep even the tiniest terror content.
1. Bring toys
You can’t keep kids of any age happy on a long car trip if you don’t let them have some toys. Give them the choice of a couple of their favorite toys to take along for the trip. You can also buy some cheap toys at a local dollar store, wrap them up and give them out during the ride as presents. Kids will get a kick out of unwrapping them and it won’t break the bank.
2. Interactive fun
Kids have it a lot easier than many of us did when it comes to keeping busy in the car. Use of laptops, tablets and portable game players have been a godsend to parents everywhere. Have these toys charged up and ready to go. You might want to buy a portable AC outlet for the car to keep these things powered – they usually cost between $20 and $40.
3. Game time
If the toys and iPad fun have run their course for the moment, then you might want to try another game route. You can find lots of travel versions of board games, but those fun diversions can devolve into shouting matches with the kiddies. You can always go with the classic road trip games like I Spy, 20 Questions and Name that Tune. Just keep ‘em away from Punch Buggy since that’s just going to end in tears.
Car rides breed hunger – they just do. That means you’re going to want to bring plenty of snacks for the little ones. Variety packs with single serving boxes of Frosted Flakes, Rice Krispies and Apple Jacks are always a hit. But don’t skimp on the healthy ones like apples, peanut butter & celery and carrots. Bring some suckers or another sweet treat to give them at certain times on the drive for good behavior because nothing works better than a bribe. Even stopping for an ice cream cone will make them smile.
5. Set some expectations
Just let your kids know the lay of the land, and hold firm to them. For instance, tell them you’ll be driving from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with stops for lunch and rest stops. It sounds strange, but this works with most kids.
6. Give them a say
Kids like to whine when they’re forced into things they don’t want to do, like eating their vegetables, going to school or a long car ride. Let them know that for a certain amount of time they get to have a say in what you do on the drive. Stop when they want to take a break or see a cool roadside attraction. Even let them pick out music that nobody is allowed to comment about. This can work with older kids as you can have them plan out the day’s music playlist and where you’ll go along the way.
7. First-class first aid
It doesn’t matter how safe you make things, kids are going to get scratches and get sick. That’s why you want to bring a good first aid kit to cover all boo boos you encounter. And you have to bring a small batch of medications you’ll need for any allergies or what could sprout up during the trip.
8. Make pit stops
Find someone that claims they can drive 300 miles with children and not make one stop for the restroom and I’ll show you a liar. Kids and adults alike need to get out of the car every once in a while to just do a reset for the trip. Stretch your legs while at a rest area, or find fun roadside attraction to visit. Just get out of the car and enjoy the experience with them. And if you decide to stay a night at a hotel on the way because the kids want to, so be it.