Vacations are fun and especially so when you and your partner love travelling. No matter how much you may expect and pray for your kids to inherit the same passion, it is not always so. A road trip with kids is not a simple road trip! Especially if your kids are under 10, it is simply futile to expect them to share your love for watching the fields go by and reflecting upon life! Getting them to stay put inside an enclosed space with little activity possible is a feat in itself! My husband and I, who used to undertake road trips exceeding 1500 kms together, learnt this the hard way when we took our one year old daughter on her first road trip with us. Every 20 kms or so, she would start howling and shout ‘Stop!’ only to start giggling the moment we pulled over and took her outside. The rules change after kids, for everything, even travel!!
It has been 7 years since and although my daughter has now become a great travel partner who I love travelling with, it took a lot of trial and error and experimentation to reach here. There are so many things to remember while travelling with kids. From all that I have learnt over the years, here are a few useful tips for undertaking a road trip with kids:
1.Plan your travel
Spontaneous road trips become a thing of the past once you have kids and I think it is only prudent to plan a road trip with kids well in advance because you can manage even without your spectacles but you cannot survive a single day if you miss packing your kid’s favourite toy or blanket. Right? Right. So plan ahead, not only the packing but also the accommodation which should be child-friendly.
The paraphernalia that you need to carry for your child is no less than that of a member of the erstwhile royal families. As soon as our daughter was a year-old, we switched over from a hatchback to a sedan only because of its 400 litre boot space that fit the pram and the steriliser and the toys and…you get the idea!
2. Take up routes that have places for breaks
You may have once boasted about the miles you and your partner covered in a day. Great! Forget it now and factor in breaks after every couple of hours and if you manage to not stop before that, it would be an achievement in itself. Therefore, it is relevant that instead of the shortest route on Google maps, you should opt for the one that offers decent places where you can stop over for poo or pee or just to let the kids get out of the car.
3. Invest in a car seat/booster seat
Before you bundle up your kids in the car and take off, do NOT make your kids sit in the car without a car seat/booster seat. Indian parents love to travel with the kid in mum’s lap on the co-driver seat. Trust me, you are putting the child at as much risk of injury as leaving her on the street alone. Invest in an age-appropriate car seat and only seat your child in it. Contrary to popular belief, children do get used to it. It is parents who lack the patience.
4. Arm yourself with toys and games
”Are we there yet?” If you have seen Shrek, you will know what this sentence means and how irritating it can be. My daughter loves asking this question every 15 minutes or so just to annoy me. Initially, I did lose it after a couple of repetitions but now I have become wise. I show her the clock inside the car and tell her the exact time we will reach and keep her busy with toys and games she can play during the journey. Hand-held puzzles, magnet boards, doodlers, crayons, plush toys…I carry a mini-Hamley’s store in my car.
5. Snacks are saviours!
Travel is a time to enjoy so allow your kids to indulge in chips and popcorns and other snacks they love. Just avoid the ones that might make a mess difficult to clean. Munching on a snack keeps children busy and a full stomach helps them doze off too. And to top it, if the snack is a favourite, it may keep the tantrums and tears at bay too, at least for some time!
6. Say no to sweets!
Despite the tip above, try, and I repeat, try to avoid too sweet snacks like too many ice-creams, candies or chocolates unless you can risk having hyperactive kids thanks to the sugar rush! Avoiding them altogether is impossible but you may time them when it is not the children’s nap time.
7. Tissues, wipes, hankies…load ’em up!
Despite your best efforts and meticulous choice of snacks, kids are bound to make a mess. And God save you if any of your tiny tots suffers from motion sickness like mine. Carry a sufficient supply of tissues, wet wipes and hand towels on a road trip with kids. You will need them!
P.S. Handing a kid a box of tissues can have disastrous consequences if the kiddo discovers that tearing up a tissue into bits and scattering it everywhere is fun!
8. Journal the travel
Encourage the kiddos to chronicle their journey in whatever way they can. For the little ones, tell them to name or draw the things they love the most on the way. For the older children, help them make a travel journal and write notes about the places they visit or the things they see enroute. Give them toll slips and tickets to stick in the diary as souvenirs. It will keep them busy and also serve as a way to preserve memories.
9. Division of labour always works!
We both love driving, so we enjoy road trips. A road trip with kids can be easier if you both drive. That way, you can alternate between driving and indulging with the kids in their games or activities. Just doing one of the two can be quite tiring! If only one of you drives, you need to take more breaks and…well, more caffeine to retain concentration and your sanity.
10. Relax and enjoy the journey!
Lastly and most importantly, do not fret too much and enjoy the drive. A couple fo years from now it won’t matter whether you forgot that extra pair of your child’s pyjamas or how dirty your car was at the end of the trip, only the memories you made and the laughs you shared shall be what you look back on and smile. So make memories! Orderliness and perfection can wait a few decades!
Share these tips if you agree. If you have other ones that you follow, do share with me and others by posting in the comments section below.