Having to drive anywhere with kids can be a lot of work. Making sure they have their favourite stuffed animal, having enough of the right snacks (even for a 10-minute drive), and getting everyone safely strapped in are some of the obstacles parents face for any car trip. Then there’s the whole problem of when siblings fight because one “looked” at or touched the other, requiring you to play referee while trying to keep your cool and safely drive. Any normal mummy would want to avoid leaving the house if it involves loading everyone up in the car.
Whether your trip is to the supermarket, bank, or a long weekend road trip, there are ways to make car travel safer and more enjoyable for everyone. Here are some ideas on how to travel by car for any distance with kids.
The most important aspect of a car trip is safety. Make it clear to older kids that other things are negotiable but safety is not. Everyone must ride upright in their seats with their seatbelts securely fastened.
Younger kids in car seats should be tethered in the middle position if possible. Sign up for alerts on your car seat brand to keep on top of any product recalls, and if you have an accident while your child was riding with you, replace the car seat with a new one.
Keep Entertainment Handy
Car rides can be boring for kids, but just because they’re bored doesn’t mean you need to become the vehicle entertainment director. After all, your job is to drive safely so everyone gets to the destination in one piece.
Consider hanging a clear shoe caddy on the back of each car seat and filling each compartment with things your kids can use to stay entertained. Depending on the ages of your kids, the compartments may include crayons and mini colouring books or blank pads, headphones to tune in to music on their smartphones, and small toys such as toy soldiers or action figures.
The next time you’re at a party supply store, look for small puzzles and toys you can restock your car with. The hanging shoe caddies allow for your kids to choose for themselves what they’d like to use instead of constantly asking you for things. Now if they could only put the items back where they find them…
Prepare for Longer Journeys
If your kids are fidgety on even just a short trip to and from school, you probably dread the idea of spending hours in a car or going on a campervan road trip. But if you plan accordingly, it may be one of the most memorable experiences you can have as a family.
Plan your itinerary ahead of time and account for the fact that it’s just going to take longer. Do yourself and your kids a favour and make stops every couple of hours when they’re awake for a bathroom break and a stretch. Pack folding scooters or a ball so your kids can play or ride around when you stop for a break. And look ahead on your GPS or map for points of interest to stop at that your kids may enjoy. It may take longer to get there, but everyone will be more relaxed when they arrive.
Make sure the breaks aren’t too long; stick to shortstops so that the travel day doesn’t drag on. And if it does, a motel and a good night’s sleep before you continue will do everyone a world of good.
Pack Like a Boss for Road Trips
Packing well is crucial when travelling with kids. You’ll need to take packing matters into your own hands to ensure everyone has the right amount of gear to avoid a cluttered car or having to load and unload too many bags. Regardless of who is packing, choose multi-purpose items. For example, one family-sized sunscreen bottle is better than four individual sunscreen tubes. Pack lightweight microfiber towels; ethical travellers love them because they dry fast and require less washing and drying than hotel towels.
Packing for your younger kids is easy since they’re likely uninterested in what they’re going to wear. You should focus on the practical side — their clothes and nappies. Let them put together a small backpack of favourite items they are likely to ask for so you don’t have to pull over and dig through the bags looking for their favourite soft blanket.
Older kids and teens may pose more of a challenge. They probably prefer to choose what they’re taking. This is fine as long as you set limits. Give them a smaller bag that they can fill as they’d like. Tell them they’re responsible for carrying it, so they should make sure it’s not too heavy. If they have too many items, help them narrow them down by making suggestions of what they should leave behind.
Making the Journey Enjoyable Takes Planning
Driving around with kids isn’t always easy, but planning ahead to make sure you’ve got their needs covered should make it more enjoyable. When travelling, take your time, encourage them to self-entertain, and reward them for good behaviour by taking them for ice cream after — or simply give them a hug and a “thank you” for being your big helpers.