9 Steps To A Pain - Free Family Road Trip
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As a parent to four kids under the age of eight, I’m intimately familiar with the misery of traveling with children. For many, a July 4th vacation via an airplane is too expensive and too intimidating from a logistical perspective (namely hauling all that gear through security while others in line groan under their breath) — not to mention the potential for an embarrassing mid-flight meltdown.

No, it’s easier to just load up the car and drive — but beyond the fries that will forever be lost to the cracks within the seats and the arguments over what to watch, Frozen or Wreck-It-Ralph, there’s still a whole lot of stress that will inevitably occur, especially if your journey is a long one. Keep your family entertained by a car dvd player is a good way to make your journey alive.

Here are 9 tips to ensure your road trip is as stress-free as possible:

1. Plan Ahead: Look at you proposed route and note any cities that may pose the risk for catastrophic rush hour traffic. Try to plan your drive accordingly around those busy hours, limiting the amount of time you’re sat stationary with little Jimmy whining that he needs a wee. Also, if you’re driving a long distance, decide in advance if you will attempt to go straight through or stop for the night. In my experience, it’s easier to go straight through if you can (we drove with four kids from Indianapolis to Miami last year in one long stint) but always have a back-up plan if you or your partner feels too tired. Have this stopover point more or less marked out and bring a small overnight bag with the bare essentials to avoid needing to unpack the entire car.

2. Service your vehicle: If there’s one thing that can ruin a vacation before it has properly started it’s breaking down. Check all of the car’s fluids, including your washer fluid (there’s nothing worse than bug splatters you can’t get rid of) as well as ensure your tires are properly inflated. Also check the tread on those tires, and make sure they’re suitable for the type of road surfaces you’ll be encountering (especially if it’s winter and you’ll be driving through someplace snowy).

3. Consider renting: Even if your car is properly maintained and ready to roll, if you often feel a little cramped during regular weekly driving, it might be worth renting something larger — like a minivan. While those of us with four kids have little options but to own a van, folks with one or two may not yet have made that life choice. But minivans are excellent for road trips; many come with a DVD player in the roof and all have boatloads of space for luggage, toys, and under floor storage for things like diapers or a trillion boxes of baby wipes. Plus you won’t be putting the mileage on your own personal vehicle.

4. Bring the necessities: Talking of baby wipes, pack some — whether your kids are in diapers or not. Things can, and will, get messy during a long road trip, and you need to be prepared for any spills that may occur. Also bring some garbage bags for trash and keep a food and drinks supply handy so you can keep everyone fed and hydrated (try to pack as many healthy snacks as possible, knowing life on the road involves too many chicken nuggets as it is and a sugar rush isn’t ideal while strapped into a car seat). It’s also sensible to bring a small emergency kit, just in case.

5. Take regular breaks: Nothing wards off carsickness in children like a quick break to stretch their legs. Plan to stop every two hours, and if possible use a dedicated rest stop where things will be less crowded. Keep the stops short — just enough to break things up but not enough to turn a 10 hour drive into a 15 hour marathon.

6. Share the load: If you or your partner hates to drive, this is one of those scenarios where you should suck it up and do your share. Long distance driving is tiring and can be dangerous, so taking a few stints is a must. If it’s your turn to ride passenger, don’t assume it’s naptime. Your job is now to ensure the kids are happy, fed and occupied so the driver need not worry. But do of course try to rest when you can.

7. Be safe: Ultimately the main goal here is to arrive at your destination safe and sound. If that means taking more breaks than planned — do it. If you have to stay the night rather than muscling through — do it. Ensure you check the latches on any car seats prior to traveling and make sure all kids are in the appropriate seats for their height and age (avoid the temptation to switch a child under the age of two from a rear-facing seat to a front-facing one. It might be tougher on the parents to keep the child occupied, but it’s not worth the risk — instead, when not driving, try sitting yourself next to her in the back so you can better entertain her). Kids will also have a tendency to pull their arms out of their belts, so keep a close eye that everyone is belted up correctly.

8. Consider taking toll roads: Paying to drive on roads often feels like being ripped-off — especially if you have other options — but in this case, it’s probably worth the money. For starters, the traffic will likely be lighter, meaning you can better keep to your proposed schedule. And secondly, a study by IBTTA suggests that toll roads are typically 36 percent safer than non-tolled highways, with a fatality rate that’s three-times lower — mostly due to the fact that toll roads operate on a 24-hour basis from modern command centers linked to dedicated maintenance, emergency response and police personnel. So if something were to occur, the response time would be far more efficient.

9. Keep them entertained: The real key to a stress-free journey is to keep the kids from wondering whether “we’re nearly there yet.” Modern technology has made this much easier (thanks Steve Jobs!). Many times we as parents try to limit a child’s exposure to TV or iPad, et cetera. In this case, my opinion is you do whatever you need to do to keep them happy (and therefore you happy). If they want to watch five DVDs in a row, let them (if you don’t have a car dvd gps, buy or borrow one from a friend). If they want to play Boom Beach for seven straight hours, that’s fine too. Now is not the time to lay down the law; tell them it’s a treat for being so good on this journey and enjoy the peace and quiet. Do remind them, though, that if they start to feel queasy, stop watching or reading, look out of the window, and tell you so you can plan a quick break before things get messy.

There’s no easy way around it: If you have kids, traveling is tough, but by following these steps you can minimize the drama and start your trip as fresh as physically possible. In my book, driving handily beats going through airport security with a double stroller, eight carry-ons, three car seats, and a kid that’s watching the cartoons Android car dvd player. But then again, what doesn’t?


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