Taking your family on a road trip is sometimes a gutsy decision. Sure, you might have DVD players to keep the kids busy, but that’s not all you’re going to need. If you’re traveling several hours to your destination, here’s five things you should keep in mind to keep your passengers occupied as well as non-disruptive.
One: Bring Your Own Snacks
Whenever we take a road trip, we bake cookies the night before. For us, we prefer chocolate chip cookies or cookie bars, M&M cookies or cowboy cookies. The latter are kind of crumbly, so the bars might be your best option.
Other great snack ideas that won’t make a huge gushy mess in the car are Pop-Tarts, 100 Calorie packs, licorice sticks, trail mix, pretzels and Goldfish. Try to stay away from chocolaty candy bars; bring along granola bars instead. They’re healthier and typically much less sticky.
Two: Bring Your Own Drinks – But Don’t Drink Too Much
There’s a fine line between staying hydrated and drinking so much your passengers will have to get out at every rest stop to relieve themselves. We’ve found that, on a 3-5 hour road trip, an 8-12 ounce bottle of water plus one can of pop or a juice box usually keeps everyone’s thirst quenched and bathroom breaks to a minimum.
If you’re not big into giving the kids pop or if juice boxes are too messy, you might try filling a tightly-sealed water bottle with juice for little ones. Apple juice, pear juice, white grape juice or white cranberry juice are all great for kids, and if they spill, they won’t get red stains all over themselves and the car.
Three: Bring Your Own Hygiene Materials
Yes, there will be spills in the car. So keep a package of wipes handy for everyone to use to wipe off hands, face, seats, and armrests. Also, make use of paper towels, and buy the kind that perforate in half-sheets so there’s less waste.
If you won’t be near rest stops on your journey, you might want to invest in a small bucket and some small garbage bags with twist ties. If anyone has to use a bathroom and there isn’t one around, you can use a makeshift toilet by lining the bucket with the garbage bag, relieving yourself, and tying it up with a twist tie. It’s also prudent to bring along a roll of toilet paper and disinfectant wipes. If you don’t think there will be a place to dump the waste, bring along a bigger bag and car air freshener to keep any smells to a minimum.
Four: Bring Your Own Entertainment
You’re probably familiar with car DVD players and iPods for personal use, but there’s other things you can bring to keep everyone entertained, too.
Most eye doctors will tell you it’s not good to read a book in the car for long periods of time. So if you’re hoping to get a lot of reading done, don’t do it in big chunks. A book is great to bring on a trip for a while, but make sure you take breaks for your eyes after every 10-15 minutes.
Audio books are a great way to pass the time for the whole family. Our favorite books to bring on car trips are:
Bear in the Attic by Patrick F. McManus (mostly family)
A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck (definitely family)
A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck (also family, a sequel to A Long Way From Chicago)
Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie S. Tolan (mostly family)
Ruby Holler by Sharon Creech (definitely family)
Other entertainment options include: handheld puzzle games (not PSP’s, but the more educational ones, like Sudoku and Hangman), portable board games and trivia cards.
Five: Bring Your Own Maps
It’s not always easy to follow a huge road map in the car. The person in the passenger side of the vehicle often doesn’t know how to read the map, and the kids in the back aren’t very willing to help, either. So you’re probably on your own.
If you don’t have a GPS, or if you’re traveling to an area where there’s no good satellite, you will do well to print off Google maps ahead of time. I have found that using Google maps with the “Get Directions” command has served us well quite often. You can drag and drop the route on the map to take any desired route, and you can get a feel for how long your trip will take (in case the kids ask one more time, “Are we there yet?”
Armed with these tools, you and your family will be set for a great trip.