Road trips were always one of my favorite things to do as a child. There’s no better way to bond with your family than to be stuck in a car with them for long amounts of time right? I honestly loved watching the country go by as a I relaxed and rested my head on the windowsill. I also loved how my family would bicker as we tried figure out which was was the right way on the directions that we printed out with MapQuest. Good thing I don’t have to worry about that anymore.
Going on road trips really brought me some of my favorite memories as a kid, so I couldn’t wait to bring my own family on some too. But as anyone who has ever tried to sit in a car with a young child knows, keeping them entertained and happy for over 20 minutes already hard enough. So here are some tips that I’ve gathered that help keep kids happy and scream-free when you’re going cross-country.
1: Try Not to Indulge Them
We were halfway to North Charleston when I figured this one out. Kids will continue to scream and ask for things if you give them the attention. The more you answer or indulge their cries and screams, the more that they’ll do it. If they know that screaming at the top of their lungs will get them an extra piece of candy, they’ll scream until they can’t anymore. If your child is throwing a fit, let them ride it out, even if that means putting up with cries for a solid 15-minutes. Try to set this rule early on in the trip so that you don’t get sporadic screaming fits.
2: Pack A Variety of Food and Snacks
Predicting what your child will want to eat is a tough game to play. My daughter loves peanut-butter and jellies one day and will despise them the next. Like, didn’t you just ask me to make you 5 of those yesterday? Anyways, because of this, I recommend that you pack a cooler with an array of sandwiches and snacks. Get snacks that require minimal cleaning like pieces of fruit, baby carrots, cheese sticks, cut up sandwiches, cookies and granola bars. Try to stay away from snacks that will make a mess like yogurt tubes and anything that requires squeezing to eat. If possible, bring your child to the supermarket when you’re purchasing these snacks. Doing this will help get them excited for the trip and will take a bit of the guessing out of the game.
3: Navigate Smartly
One of the most unpredictable things about going on a road trip is the traffic. We never know when there will be a car accident, construction, road block ahead. It’s always the worst when you unexpectedly get stuck in one lane. (Shout out to all my South Carolinians who have survived being stuck on the I-26 for hours on end.) The longer you have your kids stuck in a car, the more impatient and antsy they can get. Utilize your smartphone and download apps like Waze, which will help you navigate around traffic jams. Bonus tip: You should also use GasBuddy, which will help you find the cheapest gas near you.
4: Download Apps & Podcasts
Getting screen time will surely help your child stay busy and distracted throughout the trip. Make sure to have your iPads, iPhones, and other tablets fully charged and ready at the start of the trip. (Pack a few external batteries too, so you child can charge and use the tablet at the same time.) Download a few movies, games, and even podcasts for your kids. These are sure to keep them entertained and could even help put them to sleep! Win-win right?
5: Prepare for Emergencies and Accidents
Prior to starting the trip, speak to your significant other, family member, or loved one that you are traveling with and create a plan for emergencies. I know that this is the last thing that we want to think about when taking a family trip, but as someone who always likes to prepare for the worst, I believe that it is better safe than sorry.
The most common emergency to occur during a road trip is a car accident. If this were to occur, speak to your road trip partner about who would help secure the kids and move them to safety. While it’s impossible to predict the nature of the accident, discussing specific roles and jobs before the event will help when you’re shaken up from the accident itself.
I also like to pack a single bag that carries all the essentials, in case of emergency. I put everyone’s identification cards in there, extra clothes, snacks, a couple bottles of water, and a mini flashlight in there. You can quickly grab this in the event of an accident. But it’s also useful to have despite of that!
Summer is just around the corner and my family and I are already talking about where we’d like to go next. I’m going to continue going on road trips with them until they beg me otherwise! Like I said, there’s no better way to bond and see the States.