Smart Mom Secrets for Family Road Trips
School is out and the kids are home constantly clambering at your side. “Mom, we’re bored!” or “Mom, what are we going to do today?” are probably among the litany of phrases sure to almost drive you nuts. Instead of being bored at home, plan a family road trip, whether near or far, to prevent you from surfing the web for summer schools. But, you need to be prepared for the drive so that Johnny and Sally don’t have a meltdown in the backseat. Consider some of the following smart mom tricks to keep the kiddos happy on even the longest summer outing.
Are you going to the zoo for a day? Pack like you are staying the night. Are you planning a cross-country trip for two weeks? Think as though you will be gone for four. Packing like the apocalypse might happen while you are driving is a safe strategy. Be sure to pack these items to save your sanity and to save you from emergency trips to the mall:
- A Change of Clothes:If you think your 2-year old will have one blow out diaper, it will actually be six. Pack a day’s worth of clothes for the whole family in one bag to minimize how many bags you schlep in and out of hotel rooms.
- Electronics: This goes without saying, but how many moms have left the Kindle at home by mistake? All kids should have equivalent items and there should be enough to go around if you can manage it. If you bring two iPads, bring four chargers. Seriously. By the end of the trip, one will surely not work and another will be wedged in your electric driver seat, leaving two actually still working for the munchkins to use. And don’t forget their headphones so you aren’t dreaming in video game sounds later.
- Other Entertainment: Pack a small plastic tub (which can double as a desk) with books, coloring books, pens, crayons, Ziplock bags with Legos, Mad-Libs and kid-friendly CDs. Rent DVDs from your local library to save money on movies. Another great option is printable bingo cards from Scholastic.com, which can be filled out in advance with the names of states. Have a competition for who can get a bingo first, and include prizes like more electronics time.
Plan a Family-Friendly Route
Don’t limit your bathroom breaks to Chevron stations or rest stops. Instead, map out your route in advance around interesting roadside attractions, museums or other points of interest. Have a picnic in a state park with take-out food from a local teriyaki shop or deli. Locate every Costco on your route so you can stock up on food along the way as well as get inexpensive gasoline.
Revolve Around Food
A hungry kid is a whiny one, so your entire trip should be planned with food at the forefront. First suggestion: Make sure your trip is in and of itself a food destination. That means stop in a location with multiple restaurants or ones with a large selection of food to please your picky eaters. Locate family-friendly restaurants in advance, especially if you have little kids, and time your arrival according to their eating schedule.
Another way to revolve around food is to not have driving as your only mode you travel. Consider a family-friendly cruise such as Disney Cruises. Make your vacation into a combo of part road trip and part cruise. Once on board, rest assured that food tantrums will be greatly reduced thanks to the wide selection of healthy options available in the many on-board dining choices.
Besides planning your trip around restaurant destinations, there are other food-related plans you must make to ensure your trip is a success. For example, for a longer drive, pack a kid-sized cooler that can fit between the kids in the back seat. Fill it with juice boxes, sodas, apples, cheese sticks and a fun food like pickle spears. Also pack a lunch bag of smaller snacks such as fruit snacks and crackers. And don’t forget to bring adult snacks to increase the chance you’ll remain calm when Johnny throws an apple core at Sally.