Every parent knows, or will know, the headaches and pains of having hyperactive children in the car during a long road trip. I feel you. I know how it’s like to drive up to Baguio in a cramped SUV with little children. It gets noisy and messy and migraine-inducing to the point that you almost want to give up on the trip and just go home.
Don’t worry. Not only does it get better with time, but here are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned during my time with toddlers in the backseat. Try these out and it’ll definitely help you deal with your own children during a long road trip!
General Tips for the Road:
Drive At Night
Toddlers and preschoolers will likely fall asleep during the drive when you travel at night. This lessens the annoying “Are we there yet?” questions, easily leading to a less stressful drive. Try to avoid this if you’re the only adult driving, however. It’s best if you have a second driver so you can rest up as well. If you can’t find an alternate driver, then it’s always a better idea to hit the road at daytime.
Set Ground Rules
Before you go on your long drive, make sure you have a talk with your children. Give them ground rules on what to do and what to avoid during the trip. To spice things up, set a reward system where you give the best behaved child a treat whenever you reach a pitstop.
Potty breaks will likely happen every hour or so. Make sure you have your route mapped and marked with places that you and your children can take bathroom breaks! Try assigning at least three places, and stay in the general location for 30 minutes or so. This helps everyone recharge and stretch their bodies out from sitting in the car too long.
Prep the Car
Don’t forget to bring your car in for maintenance before the long trip! Make sure you also prepared for the worst, so don’t forget to pack air freshener, a car charger, your comprehensive car insurance policy, travel insurance policy, rags, wet wipes, and other items you might need in case of an emergency.
Road Trip Activities:
You can still bring physical books, of course, but to avoid the endless cries of “Mom, I dropped the book!”, pack an audio version of your children’s favorite book. Remember the days of those read-along tapes? Audiobooks are kind of like that, but the good thing is you can download as many as you can in a mobile device.
Dry-Erase Markers & Whiteboard
For those hands-on creative types, a whiteboard and a plethora of dry-erase markers can help them release excess energy and creativity during the trip. They can even play drawing games like picture charades or a round-robin draw-fest.
This one helps your children learn map reading skills while warding off boredom. Print out a map and put a big ol’ “Red marks the spot” for your destination, and pit stops along the way. White out some of the names of popular landmarks on the way to your destination and give your kids a prize in the form of a treat if they answer correctly. It’s both fun and educational!
Photo Travel Journal
Prepare a disposable camera or a digital one. Have the kids take pictures of the places you pass through and let them write down a little something they like or enjoyed about that place. Who knows, your child might be a world-class photographer in the making!
Food & Drink:
Pack quick snacks in ziplock baggies or sealable paper cups! Easy-to-eat peanut butter sandwiches, sliced fruit, or their favorite cookies or biscuits should be in the mix so the children won’t complain too much. Kiddie Trail Mix is also a good idea to pack. Put in crackers, gummy candy, nuts, raisins, and other bite-sized treats in a ziplock bag and let the kids enjoy. Don’t forget bottles of water or juice boxes in case they get thirsty!
One of the most annoying things about driving with children is the constant begging to stop over for a bit to pee. Try to avoid this by setting up a kid-friendly drinking game. They could be in the form of “I spy” or simple word games where the prize is a juice box or a small serving of soda. Staying hydrated is important of course, so make sure that everyone has enough water—but not too much to warrant constant pee breaks.
Keep these tips in mind when preparing for a long road trip ahead with children. Keep kids busy and occupied by being prepared and encouraging them to make good use of their time while waiting to reach your destination.
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