Are you planning a drive to visit family or friends for the holidays? Is the idea of packing your kids in the car for several hours stressing you out? Don’t worry! There are a few simple steps you can take to make a holiday road trip – whether it’s one hour long or ten – easier for both you and your kids.
Plot your trip
You can help prepare your kids for your trip by making sure they understand just how far you will be traveling and how long the drive will take. This can be as easy as printing out a map with your planned route on it and explaining it to them. You can also use reference points they already know to put the drive into context. For example: “When we go to Aunt Susan’s house, it takes two hours. Going to Grandma’s will take twice as long as that.”
If you want to help your kids practice some math skills, you could also ask them questions such as: “Grandma’s house is about 240 miles away. If we drive 50 mph, how long will it take to get there? What if we drive 60 mph?”
Plan for stops
While you may be tempted to try and reach your destination as quickly as possible, don’t underestimate the positive effects of getting out of the car and letting everyone stretch their legs. This is especially true for longer road trips. Take a few moments before your trip to map out any good places to stop. Perhaps you would like to break up your time in the car by stopping at interesting landmarks along the way. Or maybe you would prefer to schedule a stop every few hours. Even if you only take a break for lunch or dinner time, you will be grateful for the time spent out of the car.
Leave early or late
If you feel confident driving in low light, a good strategy is to start your trip very early in the morning or very late in the evening. Your kids will probably be tired at these times, and you can encourage them to get some sleep in the car. This way, when they wake up, you will already be well into your estimated drive time.
One of the easiest ways to make sure your kids are content is to make them comfortable. Encourage your kids to wear their pajamas or another cozy outfit, and pack the backseat with their pillows and blankets. Another way to raise their spirits is to bring some of their favorite snacks along for the ride. (Just be careful not to pack too much liquid if you’re concerned about making unscheduled restroom breaks.)
A classic way to pass the time on the road is with car games. Car games are also a great way to help your kids practice some basic memory and math skills. The “I’m Going on a Trip” game is a perfect example. To play, someone in the car begins by saying, “I’m going on a trip, and I’m bringing…” and then lists an item. The next person must say the first item and then add one. The game continues in this pattern until someone makes a mistake.
Another great game is “Fizz Buzz.” To play this game, the first player starts by saying “1,” and each player takes a turn counting one number at a time. The trick is that any number divisible by three is replaced with the word “Fizz,” and every number divisible by five is replaced with the word “Buzz.” So the first ten turns would be: 1, 2, Fizz, 4, Buzz, Fizz, 7, 8, Fizz, Buzz.
Apart from car games, there are a number of other items you can bring with you to help make the trip easier on your kids. If they have a handheld game they love to play, make sure you take it and its power supply. If they love to read, take a few good books. Be aware that some of these activities may not work well in the car if your kids get motion sickness. In this case, try to bring a few movies to play on a portable or in-car DVD player. If your kids have a phone or tablet they’ll be using in the car; you may also want to consider packing a mobile hotspot so everyone can have access to the Internet.