“Are we there yet?” “Are we nearly there?” Two questions that bring a sigh of frustration to any parent on a road trip with children – especially when they are asked only a mile or so after leaving home. There are ways of making a road trip fun however, and for at least keeping the boredom level at bay as long as possible. Try a few of the following on your next long road trip and see if you notice a difference.
- Map out the Route together. A few days before you are due to leave on the road trip, find some time to sit down with the children and a map that shows where you are, your destination, and the route you will follow for your trip. Use a large scale map and explain the distances involved in terms that they understand – ie one square on the map is the same as driving to school and back x number of times. Think it out beforehand and try and work out approximately how long it will take you to drive one square on the map. Try and put the time frame for this into a reference they can understand – such as two episodes of their favorite television show.
- Prepare your road trip carefully. Plan to make frequent stops – at least once per hour for ten minutes or so. Use the map to locate picnic areas that have parks where young children can run off some energy before getting back into the car. If you can couple these stops with bathroom visits and snack breaks you will accomplish your drive quicker in the long run.
- Create a goodie bag. In this allow one “surprise” item for each child for each half hour you will be on the road. These can include magazines, paper and crayons, travel games, puzzle books etc. If you have more then one child, and its age appropriate to do so, have them swap after 15 minutes so that no-one gets a chance to get bored.
- Have each child choose the music for the road trip. Set guidelines if need be – after all you do need to be able to concentrate on the road! Rotate the music every 15-20 minutes.
- Supply each child with a pillow and blanket. Essential if traveling at night, but even during the day, long hours on the road can get weary and a nap is a good way of passing a bit of time – especially if they have just been fed, and released some energy at a play area.
- Are there any “attractions” en route to your destination? This could add a couple of hours to your trip, but save your sanity in the long run – especially if it’s a hot day and the attraction happens to be a water park!
- Create of list of car quizzes and play one each hour of travel and give a small prize to the first person to answer 10 or 15 questions correctly.
- If at all possible, travel through the night! Be prepared to travel the day before you leave, sleep during the actual travel day whilst the children are at school or with a child minder – or even pay a babysitter to amuse them whilst you get some rest, then wait until it gets dark before you set off. Stop at a favorite fast food place for a snack and bathroom break before they settle down for the night, and then play some soft music and let the natural motion of the vehicle lull them to sleep as you drive quietly through the darkness.
You know your kids better than anyone; you know what interests them and what bores them. Use this to make the road trip part of the vacation adventure rather than the tedious bit before the fun starts at their destination.