Family travel fun | summer guide


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Summer is here and with it family vacations. As modern air travel adapts to all sorts of destinations and schedules, how about considering the more retro family road trip? Over the past two years, many families have opted for road trips over air travel due to germs and pandemic-related uncertainty, but road trips have many other benefits.

For one, traveling by car allows you to be on your own schedule, mitigating the negative effects of fussy toddlers or bathroom emergencies. Plus, when traveling by car, you don’t have to worry about leaving for the airport at a certain time, let alone irritating airline delays and cancellations. Car travel also has the advantage of being cheaper than air travel. Finally, they give families more flexibility and space when it comes to packing, which can be a big plus when you’re still in the pram and car seat days.

Of course, if you’re venturing on the old-fashioned family road trip, you’ll want to do a bit of preparation and planning in order to ensure a smooth ride. Review the following tips and suggestions for long road trips with children to determine whether or not a family trip is for you.

Prepare for success

Get your car serviced, cleaned and filled with gas ahead of time. Some families with young children choose to drive at night or leave very early in the morning. You know your kids’ sleep preferences best, so do what works for you.

Trinkets and Novelty

Buy or borrow new small items for your children to play with and distribute them slowly during the car ride. Toy animals, cars or trucks, WikkiStix, furry blocks, Legos, playdoh, whiteboards and markers, window stickers, coloring books, sticker books and silly putty are all mess-free and car-friendly toys that can provide lots of quiet entertainment for younger children.

Bring books

As long as your child isn’t too prone to motion sickness, bring a big stack of books that your kids can easily access on their own. Graphic novels and picture books are our house favorites. Elementary students might enjoy a children’s atlas or map book to track the journey.

About that car sickness…

Prepare for tummy issues. Since you’re in the car, you have extra space for a change of clothes, a box of cleaning wipes, an old towel and heavy-duty plastic bags (I have it on very good authority that Aldi’s plastic bags are great for containing stomachaches). Fresh air, crackers, soft drinks, and acupressure bracelets like Seabands are also helpful in fighting nausea.

Snacks, snacks and more snacks

Pack healthy snacks to keep everyone’s mood up, but bring spare change and allow the kids to make rest vending machines an exciting, free-for-all fun time. Why not?

Lean on the screens

I know there are families who don’t use screens while driving. If that sounds like you, skip this part. But, as with me and my home, screens are a tool we absolutely use on the go. Before a big trip, I download new movies, games or apps, and try to focus on some educational content like PBSKids or Khan Academy Kids apps. In the end, I think the heavy screen use only lasts a day or two during the trip, and once they get to their destination, the kids will be too busy to worry about what there on the iPad for a few days.

Speaking of screens

If your child is old enough to use them on their own, bring kids headphones. Trust me.

Make fun pit stops

Keep your eyes peeled for rest areas with playgrounds, picnic tables, or large grassy areas. Bring your lunch and play a game of frisbee or tag before getting back in the car. If your family trip is a multi-day drive, choose a hotel that has a pool and treat your family to an hour or two of swimming.

Let your children be bored

Resist the urge to be your kids’ personal cruise director. Boredom increases creativity and self-control, so let your kids stare out the window, daydream, and clear their minds.

Take care of the big ones

If you are miserable, the trip will probably look like a failure. Pack your own favorite snacks and caffeinated beverages. Queue up a great audiobook or podcast to listen to while your kids use screens. Anticipate traffic and change drivers if you can.

Most important…

Be patient and remember that anything can happen. The key to calm and happy children on a car trip is calm and happy parents. Do your best to take it all in stride and enjoy your family road trip!

Pamela Savage is a freelance writer in Springfield. She and her family will be on a 17-hour road trip this summer. Thoughts and prayers (and snacks) are appreciated.


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