It’s summer and a lot of us are hitting the highway for a family vacation. Some of my favorite childhood memories are of my brother and I in the backseat on a family road trip. Of course there was an invisible line dividing the back seat that one must dare not cross. OR ELSE. But maybe that was just us? Ha.
Now that we have small children, its important for me to get out and show them the world. There is so much to do, see and explore! And while I love to fly, with all our gear and the cost of multiple plane tickets, road trips are definitely a prominent feature in our vacation plans. After tackling the highway on several trips both short and long, and learning from a slew of mishaps and successes, here are my top road trip tips for families with young children.
1. The early bird owns the road. I’ve discovered that there is an excitement to waking up and hitting the road. Everyone is generally in a good mood and you are starting the day out fresh. Depending on how far you have to drive its great to get a few hours in before the first stop. For me I always have a goal of getting on the road by 6am. It sounds a little crazy I know, but then we can make it to 8:30am or 9am we’ve already done a good little chunk of driving and everyone gets breakfast. And more coffee! Also, the earlier you get on the road the less likely it is you will be late night stressing over getting to your destination. I’ve been there and boy is it ten times more stressful when you have kids in the car! Now I often just stay up late packing us all up while the kids sleep so we can be free to go at first sign of morning.
2. Forage for food before hunger strikes. We’ve had a lot of mistakes with this one. Kids just seem to go from fine and dandy to full on hangry in zero seconds. And of course that is when they want none of the snacks you packed and there isn’t an exit for miles. Now I’ve learned that if its near lunch time and I see a place that looks like a good stop to go ahead and make the call. If you are feeling like being more adventurous on your road trip you can even use an app to look for fun local finds ahead of time. Just make sure to a lot enough time to get from the highway to your restaurant before the screaming starts and you start throwing goldfish blindly in the backseat.
3. Plan for time to stretch your legs. Kids need time to stretch and even run a bit. Asking them to sit in a car seat for a 10 hour stretch is just too much for my guys. I personally think rest stops get a bad rap. I’ve found so many great rest stops that during the day provide a park like atmosphere. The welcome center rest stops when you cross a state line are typically nice in particular (we’re at the NC one above). I’ve discovered that packing a ball and some bubbles in the car and planning a few breaks where we can play for 30 minutes is a great way to get out the wiggles and get in the vacation spirit.
4. Go with the flow. Vacation is meant to be FUN! That means not sweating the small stuff and going with the flow. That might mean an impromptu ice cream stop or giving the baby a bottle on the side of the road or a million bathroom breaks or maybe your kid sees the sign for “South of the Border” every other mile and just has to go. It’s ok. Life happens. It’s vacay and making memories is what its all about, even if they aren’t on the itinerary.
Those are my top road trip tips for folks with kiddos in tow. Unless you can afford to fly the whole gang and stick them in coach while you sip champagne in first class (I jest, I jest….kind of)