Maybe you’ve used a tool like the Fly or Drive Calculator from coupon website BeFrugal or ShowerHacks to determine how to save your family a ton of money driving instead of flying to your destination. Or maybe you love the feel of the open road and having the ability to stop anywhere on your route for some impromptu sightseeing. Now is an ideal time for a family road trip, as the American Automobile Association (AAA) reports summer gas prices in 2016 were at their lowest in the past 12 years. Driving remains the most popular way of taking a family vacation in the U.S. Plus affordable gas spurred 55 percent of Americans to say they were more likely to take a road trip this year.
Road trips can also be stressful, since the unpredictable behavior of children can impact driving performance and the overall enjoyment of the trip. Use these tips to keep your sanity in check during your next family road trip.
Have Plenty of Entertainment on Hand
Whatever your child enjoys that can easily fit in your vehicle and won’t cause a huge mess should be packed. A tech device such as a smartphone allows you to bring multiple games, apps, music and movies on one device to keep young children entertained for hours. Look for a model with a large screen and ample battery power. For example, the Samsung Galaxy S6 has a 5.1-inch screen that’s great for movie-watching and unlimited 4G LTE data plans so the device stays working even in more remote areas.
Books, travel board games and crafts, such as friendship bracelet-making kits, are also low-maintenance items you can pack that are usable even during bumpy rides. Keep in mind, items like coloring books might frustrate young ones if you hit a dip. Games that account for sporadic movement, like ones that use magnets to hold things in place, make playtime easier.
Stock the Vehicle with Spill-Proof Snacks
It’s vital to keep young ones satisfied during a trip with plenty of food and water. Fortunately, there are ways of minimizing the kinds of messes and spills that might make your vehicle sticky and smelly. Raw vegetables like baby carrots or celery sticks are easy to handle and just require a cooler to stay fresh. Squeezeable applesauce, chewy granola bars that won’t crumble when eaten and string cheese are easy to consume and won’t cause huge messes. Be sure to pack napkins and sanitary wipes to get clean hands once your kids are finished eating.
Even for older kids, spill-proof cups are essential. Stick to water so any accidents that do occur don’t cause stickiness or stains on your children’s clothing or your vehicle’s upholstery. A reusable water bottle with a built-in straw allows for easy drinking.
Get Your Kids More Involved in the Trip
Battle boredom by encouraging young ones to become more focused on the trip by playing games related to the drive. Ask them to pay attention to license plates and try to find one from every state. Give them a map they can look at so they can point out upcoming landmarks or follow along on the route. Create a “Backseat Bingo” game where seeing certain common things along the way allows them to mark a space and motivates them to pay attention to the drive.
For budding photographers, supply a disposable camera they can use to shoot photos along your road trip. Once you’re back home, you can turn the photos into a book to remember the trip using a photo service such as Shutterfly. You can also have your child use a smartphone video camera to capture footage for a family movie you can create when you’re back home.
The most important thing you can do as a parent to get your kids to have fun on a road trip is to project a positive and upbeat attitude. There will be uncontrollable frustration and both literal and figurative bumps on the road, but by anticipating these before you take off and dealing with them as they come, the journey can be just as enjoyable as the destination.