For travel enthusiasts, the phrase “road trip” means adventure. For others, it can mean being locked in a small space, uncomfortable and cranky for hours. Family roadtripping during the winter holidays can be frustrating, but with a little planning, you can turn your experience from the dreaded slog through the snow and traffic into a bonding experience your whole family can enjoy.
Prepping for a road trip with your family not only teaches children many of the important aspects of travel safety but also helps them plan for the road ahead and gives them some of the responsibility for their entertainment during the trip. Have them pick out some of their own car activities.
Go over car preparedness with family members. Go through a preparedness checklist together. If it’s snowy out, have them assist with winterizing the car, such as putting on snow tires. Teach them important aspects of car maintenance while you spend time together. Get out a map and plot a course.
Put together snacks for the car trip. Giving kids a say on what they can bring, or snack on, can give them a better sense of involvement (and can reduce the number of unnecessary stops). If you’re headed out to a relative’s place with food in hand, get kids involved in the food prep. Going to a family potluck? Have them help with one of their favorite desserts. Bringing a casserole or food that can be frozen and heated up later? Get your kids involved!
Getting stuck in the car can be dull and boring. Use imagination games to spice up the trip. Imagination games foster imaginative skills, making them especially important for children — the games help them be happier and grow into well-adjusted, creative individuals, according to Parenting Magazine. Storytelling is an excellent way to encourage imagination and have silly fun.
When someone is separated from the group — say Dad gets out of the car at a stop for food or fuel, or someone falls asleep — make up a crazy story that’s just a little bit believable and see if you can convince them it really happened. Likewise, observe cars and people around you. Make up elaborate backstories for those people: where they’re going, what they’ve been doing.
The World Around You
There’s a lot of stuff around you, and on long car trips, those cool things present the perfect opportunity to stop, stretch, and enjoy local landmarks or pop culture destinations. Have your kids help you choose where you stop based on their interests. Read online reviews of stopping points together. If you want to reduce how many stops you make, encourage awareness of the world around you by playing bingo with cards that include things your normally see on trips. Just make sure that if you are the driver, you are able to have fun with your family while also avoiding distracted driving, a condition that is the cause of so much sorrow around the holidays.
If your kids are big into books (or the movies books often get turned into), try an audiobook! Pick out something good for the family — something your kids like. Stop between chapters to talk about the story, the characters’ actions, potential consequences and where your kids think it’s going. If you choose a mystery, debate whodunit and see if you can guess the big reveal. Get your kids involved, and if the opportunity presents, talk about important issues facing your kids as they relate.
Sometimes, it’s important to let kids be quiet and keep to themselves. If they’re readers and lost in a good book, if they’re enjoying a video game on a handheld console, if they’re listening to music, or daydreaming, or sleeping, don’t force family interaction. Encourage their growth and individuality, especially if your child presents introvert characteristics. And, as any parent knows, quiet time is often hard to get, so enjoy it while you can! Who knows — the trip back might be noisy, and all your hard work and preparation will pay off by turning an uncomfortable road trip into an enjoyable adventure.