Are you planning to hit the road this holiday season to visit friends and family? Before you endure hours of minivan meltdowns, endless whining “Are we there yet?” and the inevitable rounds of “Mom, make him stop!/What? I doing anything?” know this—you can have a stress-free road trip with your kids.
Here are some of the tips I’ve learned to make traveling with your kids this holiday season a little more bearable for everyone.
Here are our tips for How to Survive a Holiday Road Trip
Tip #1 Leave at the right time
If your child sleeps well in the car, consider leaving at bedtime, or in the wee hours of the morning. Just strap them into their car seat in their PJs and hit the road. At the very least, try to time your departure with morning nap time so the kids will sleep some of the way.
Tip #2 Make them comfy
Whether it’s their favorite pair of pajamas or the super hero costume, dress them in something they’ll enjoy wearing. Also bring along some security items, such as a stuffed animal, blanket and even pillows.
Tip #3 Arrange sensible seating
If you have a minivan, plan the seating wisely. “Place siblings that squabble and wind each other up in separate rows,” says Cindy Richards, editor of TravelingMom.com. “It’s much less stressful for the driving parent.” Great advice, but you could still end up with, “Mom, he’s looking at me.”
Tip #4 “Are we there yet?”
To help avoid hearing that dreaded phrase a half an hour into your six-hour trip pack a bag just for the kids. It can include books, toys, diapers, a change of clothes, and even snacks. Pre-load a tablet or smartphone with kid-friendly apps, videos or games.
Tip #5 Bring along snacks
The healthier, the better. Limit the amount of sugar, since you don’t want too much energy on a car journey. Think rice cakes, Cheerios, raisins, bananas and Goldfish crackers. Packing electrolyte water made for kids: It hydrates more quickly and stays in the body longer, meaning fewer potty stops.
Tip # 6 Think beyond rest stops
I like to find interesting places to stop for breaks (historic sites, museums, or charming urban parks) and beautiful places for picnics (state parks, lakes, waterfalls). I hate the thought of eating at roadside rest areas because they’re generic and don’t give any sense of the journey. Designated rest stops can get boring — and are especially crowded during holiday travel.
Tip # 7 Stick with a routine
If you’re stopping overnight, be sure to keep up the usual bedtime routines. It might be tempting to just put them right to bed after a long day, but try to keep up your standard routine, such as bath, books, nursing, etc. so the children are getting what they are used to getting at home. It will make for happier kids in the morning.
It’s all about adjusting your expectations and planning for as much as you can in advance.