Let’s be honest, when you have kids there is no such thing as “family vacations” – it’s just doing the same old family things in a NEW place. You’re still waking up in the middle of the night to feed the baby or change the wet sheets; there just might happen to be some palm trees outside your window this time – and hey, you take the wins (and palm trees) when you can get them. But before you get to the palm trees, you must face (quite possibly) the biggest challenge of the Family vacation: the car trip. Just thinking about a family car trip makes me shutter: the idea of kids complaining, kids bickering, kids throwing up, kids asking to go to the bathroom, asking how much longer. It can be painful. Very painful. Here are some ideas to make it a little less painful:
Set a schedule/set expectations
Go over the plan when you get in the car. Set expectations early on. Letting them know there are a handful of activities (and many hours) before you get there is a good thing to communicate.
Talk about the trip: what everyone is looking forward to doing
Guide the talk track and get everyone exited (or more excited) so the conversation doesn’t take a negative spin and revolve around a sibling being in another’s sibling “space”.
Let the kids play DJ
Listening to frozen on repeat can be painful in itself but it sure beats them asking “when I we going to be there” over and over again. Besides, this is why earphones were invented.
Plan for plenty of snacks
Car trips are not the time to go health conscious. You’re trying to survive. And sometimes surviving is a large bag of Doritos and combos from the highway 7-eleven.
Organize an Activity/Drawing
Look for travel desks that fit around kids’ car seats (relatively cheap on Amazon) – these are amazing and allow for some quiet color time. If you pick some of these up, be sure to bring plenty of (washable) markers and paper.
Go to Target/Dollar store a day or two before our road trip and pick out something cheap for each kid. You’d be surprised how excited they get and quiet they’ll be playing with these for a while. Plus, they have a special toy for the remainder of the trip
Depending how old your kids are, classic games like “see who can spot the license plate from the furthest state”, or “who can spot a cow farm”, or “try to find a purple truck” can surprisingly keep you kids entertained for a while.
When all else fails (maybe within 45 minutes of the car trip), turn on those screens. We generally make a rule, no screens until the last hour. Set those ground rules up front, otherwise you might get desperation pleas the entirety of the trip. By leaving screen time at the end, you distract them from their car fatigue which is a real thing towards the end of long car trip.