If you’ve ever taken a road trip with children before, you know it can be a long, difficult, exasperating event. Even the best-behaved kids can get antsy and irritable in the car. And even the most patient parents can lose it after being locked in a super-sized tin can for hours on end.
But while taking a road trip always presents some challenges, it doesn’t have to be torture for you or the kids. With a little strategic planning, it can actually turn out to be rather fun. Here are a few tips to help you survive the trip with your sanity intact.
No. 1. Plan in advance
We’ve said it before, but it always bears repeating. The first prerequisite to a successful family vacation is a good plan. Make a list well in advance of all the things you need to do before you leave (check the oil and tire pressure; buy new wiper blades; shop for snacks; download audio books and movies, etc. ) Then think about what you need to pack for yourself and each child, and begin setting items aside. If it looks like it’s going to be more than will fit in your family sedan, consider renting a mini-van. It will increase your vacation budget, to be sure. But the potential benefits — more leg room, more space per child, more room for suitcases and backpacks — may be worth the cost.
No. 2. Pack strategically
If you’re traveling any distance with a couple or more kids, you’ll undoubtedly have one or two large suitcases on board. But rummaging through a crammed suitcase for a fresh tee shirt for 4-year-old who spilled his juice is definitely not what you want to do while you’re on the road. A better plan: Bring a backpack for each child that holds a change of clothes and appropriate outdoor attire. If you’re coming to Atlanta in the spring or summer, pack a swimsuit, too, in case you find someplace to take a dip. And if you’re traveling with young children, don’t forget to include their favorite stuffed animal or toy. If there’s room in the car, a pillow and a blanket for each child can making napping both more likely and more comfortable.
No. 3. Keep essentials handy
This may seem like a no-brainer, but after a few hours in the car, its very easy to lose track of everything your brought along for the ride. To minimize “Where’s the (fill in the blank)” conversations, pack a bag for the front seat that holds essentials like face wipes, paper towels and small plastic trash bags. If you’re planning to stop for an outdoor adventure along the way, include sucnreen, insect repellant, hats and anything else you need to keep everyone safe and comfortable outdoors.
No. 4. Bring lots of snacks
We all know that boredom makes us hungry…or at least we think we’re hungry when there’s nothing else to do. So, to fill in the long spaces between stops and keep everyone’s blood sugar (and mood) in a good place, pack an abundance of healthy snacks. Granola bars, dried fruit, pretzels and dry cereal are good choices for snacking on the road. If you can squeeze a cooler into the car, add things like yogurt tubes, string cheese, some PB&J sandwiches, juice boxes and small containers of milk. Hint: if space in the cooler is limited, bring along containers of shelf-stable milk.
No. 5. Explore the route
An essential part of a successful road trip is stopping — a lot. Children, even school-aged children and teens, aren’t built to sit in a car for long periods of time. (For that matter, neither are you.) Older kids may be able to tolerate four hours of sitting still fairly well. But toddlers will typically need to get out and burn off some energy every couple of hours, at most.
Before heading out on your road trip, explore the route using an app like Roadtrippers. Just enter your start and end points, and the app will show you an amazing array of attractions, from parks to motels to restaurants and bars. Or try the Roadside America app, which promises to take you to “crazy places” that other guides miss. Note: As of this writing, both apps are available for iOS devices, but only Roadtrippers is available for Android.
No. 6. Plan your pit stops
The best family road trips include some off-road entertainment, like a trip to a national monument or amusement park. But if you’re pressed for time, you may have to make do with well-planned pit stops where everyone can get out and stretch their legs, use the restroom and freshen up. If you’re traveling on the Interstate, download the iExit app to your Apple or Android phone. It maps out every exit on your route and highlights what’s available there, including food, lodging, gas and ATMs. It also integrates with Gas Buddy (for real time fuel prices), Yelp, and Travel Coupons, (for inexpensive, same-day hotel deals.)
No. 7. Bring lots of entertainment
Technology has been an enormous boon for parents on the go. Portable DVD players and iPads are pretty much standard fare for any family road trip these days. Just keep in mind that wifi can be spotty, even along major routes. So make sure you download enough movies, games, TV shows and age-appropriate audio-books to keep the children engaged. But don’t rely just on screentime to keep your children occupied. If you’re traveling with young kids, bring along some stickers, washable markers and some blank paper for them to entertain themselves. If you’ve got slightly older kids, engage with them in interactive games, like the old stand-bys “I Spy,” ”20 Questions” and our favorite, “Hangman.”
A family vacation road trip should be fun. And with a little forethought, it definitely can be. Sure, being locked in a car for hours on end can be tiring and boring. But if you think of it as an adventure and present it that way to your kids, you’ll be way ahead of the game
Atlanta Family Vacation Rentals is your go-to venue for affordable family vacations in the Atlanta Metro area. Check out our beautiful family vacation rentals here. Or, if you have questions or want to speak to us before booking, give us a call or reach out online. We will help find a great vacation home for your family at the best possible price.