Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Taking a Road Trip with Children, Part 1: Keeping Them Happy in the Car

Three of my fellow travelers.

While I do not consider myself an expert on traveling with children, I have taken four extended trips (meaning that it took longer than a day of driving to get to our destination) with my children in the past year, two of them by myself without John.  We had a wonderful trip to Atlanta, Georgia for a tour on the Civil War; a nice visit with my parents when we had to flee Hurricane Harvey; an educational and amazing tour of Washington, DC; and recently, an incredible trip through the Southwest.  With all of this traveling, I have learned a thing or two which you might find interesting, too.

The hardest thing about these trips is the time spent in the car.  There is just so much of it, and it's boring.  You're all packed in together like sardines, or at least it feels that way.  :)  So how do you keep your children happy, or at least content while also maintaining your sanity?

Here's what we've found:
  1. Audiobooks.  Admittedly, this tip has to start long before your actual trip because you have to instill a love of books.  You can usually find a great selection at your library, and I also highly recommend Heirloom Audio.  Their dramatic renditions are outstanding.  The added bonus to audiobooks that movies don't have is that the driver can enjoy them, too.
  2. Let your children pack their own bags with what they may want in the car.  I told our children they could pack one relatively small bag, but they had to keep their stuff in it when they weren't playing/using it so our van wasn't a mess.  Also, it allowed them to change seats more easily when we stopped.  Sarah Beth packed books, Mary took some toys, and Rachel took colored pencils and a coloring book.  I'm not sure what Daniel packed.  ;)
  3. Snacks.  It was amazing how my children's (and John's and my!) attitudes improved when I pulled out a snack.  It let us drive a little longer which we needed in several places in the Southwest because there just wasn't anywhere to stop.  Make your snacks something special that you don't normally have at home.
  4. Don't forget the water.  We don't usually let our children have unrestricted access to drinks while we drive because we don't want to have to stop for bathroom breaks.  But a little bit of water is necessary after eating a snack.  :)  And it was so hot and dry in the Southwest, we needed the water.  I recommend water because it's not a big deal if it spills.  
  5. Occasional quiet time.  It was nice to have some time when we weren't listening to anything, when it was quiet in the van.  However, that quiet didn't usually last long as the children got bored and started bickering.  
  6. Little ones like Hannah can be difficult.  They don't understand what's going on, why they're in the car for so long, and they cannot enjoy audiobooks.  I packed several books and toys for her along with extra snacks just for her.  (Goldfish which no one else really wanted anyway.)  She also got all of the water she wanted; wearing a diaper has its privileges!  And the child sitting next to her had to help keep her happy!
  7. Rest areas are excellent places to stop.  When you get out, you can walk around, have the kids run from here to there three times, spread out, etc.  Instead of sitting at a restaurant after sitting in the car all day, you are free to stand up and move around.  Do not neglect these fantastic places to stop, especially since the bathrooms are usually clean.  :)
Have you traveled much with your children?  If so, how do you keep them happy and content in the car?

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