10 tips for road trips

On the road again? This time, ensure a hassle-free (or close) family road trip by planning everything from your departure time to entertainment with your little road warriors in mind, such as:

  • timing your departure for best results, 
  • packing items to keep kids comfortable and entertained, 
  • planning for meals and potty breaks and more can help pave the way for a smooth drive ahead. 

With these tips for road trips, you might actually look forward to the road trip this time. 

  1  Family Planning

No, not that kind of family planning. It's a little late for that. We're talking family planning tips for road trips here.

This is the kind where you and the kids look at the map and talk about about how long the trip will take, and what kinds of interesting things there might be to see and do on the way.

Try to schedule at least one fun stop for each day of the trip. And let each kid pick at least one of the road trip attractions.

  2  Plan a Stealth Night Departure

For kids, there is something wonderfully wicked about jumping into the car in the middle of the night for a road trip. Wow! Up past bedtime and headed for adventure! The good news is that they are also headed for sleepy time and you're headed for at least eight hours of driving without whining or fighting.

  3  Plan for Comfort on the Road

Each kid needs his own blanket and pillow. Consider an electric car blanket for long trips during the cooler seasons. Cotton blankets and other soft blankets are also a good choice, along with a neck pillow.

Encourage kids to dress either in PJs or sweatpants and T-shirts. Or something with an elastic or tie waist. This is a road trip, after all, not a quick jaunt to the market.

  4  That's (Family) Entertainment

Riding in the car is tedious. (Remember?) Have each kid pack a little roadtrip survival kit with books, CDs, iPods, puzzles - whatever they will enjoy and that will fit in the backpack.

  5  Plan for Meals on the Road

When it comes to road trip food, look for picnic areas where you can enjoy a deli meal while they run around, let off steam, and act like a kid.

Or, try fast food places with playgrounds attached or pizza parlors disguised as amusement centers (think Chuck E Cheese). No, it may not be fine dining. But you may keep your sanity. Unsure if eating in the car is a good thing for your family? See Dashboard Dining: Yes or No?

  6  Plan Potty Breaks

Stop often for potty breaks and insist everyone go - even if they don't `have to'. Carry your own toilet seat covers, toilet paper (for times they can't wait till the potty stop), and lots of antibacterial wipes for babies. (They're the gentlest.)

  7  Plan Surprises Along the Way

Pack some inexpensive surprises like this fun-on-the-fly travel toy kit and wrap them up like presents.

If the kids aren't fighting or whining, they get to open a gift every 100 or 200 miles (depending on how long your trip is).

Also, give the children a small amount of money to spend (blow?) when you stop at restaurants with stores attached. If the plastic shark amuses little Dalton for the next 50 miles, it's worth the 99 cents.

  8   Take a Time Out to Visit Attractions Along the Way

Remember that getting there is part of the family fun. If the kids see signs for a Petrified Forest, stop and see what it is.

One of my friend's daughter's most memorable side trips was when she managed to persuade her goal-oriented mother to stop the car at the Donner Museum on the way to Lake Tahoe (she was studying the Donner party in school). The family enjoyed the museum almost as much as their ski vacation.

 9   Talk, Look, and Listen

Plan to use road trip time to actually talk with your kids; and actually listen to what they have to say. Look at the sights you pass and discuss them.

  10  Don't Pack Light; Pack for Spills and Emergencies

Yes, there are stores along the way. But none will be within 30 miles when Ashley throws up on herself. You'll need bottled water, paper towels, extra clothes, medications, a first aid kit and the aforementioned toilet paper and seat covers. Have a great trip!

› 10 Tips for Road Trips