Five Speedbumps That Will Wreck Your Family Road Trip
by Rob Elliott
The beach and the pool, theme parks and camp grounds — summer is awesome! Yet the best-planned vacation can be ruined before you even get out of the driveway. Road trips in the car can be a torture chamber of bickering, barfing, and “Are we there yet?!” Is it possible for driving with kids to be fun instead of frustrating? Is our only hope found in TV’s and tablets for all? Some of the best memories of family vacation can come from time together in the car. Avoid these five speedbumps, and you can have the trip of a lifetime.
Speedbump #1: Failure to Plan
Packing for any trip with kids is a big job. I’m amazed at how much stuff our family has to jam in the minivan for a week away from home. Filling the trunk is a twisted game of Jenga — every time I turn around there’s more to cram in. The problem is in planning so much for the destination, we forget to pack for the drive. Make sure you put together a great stash of snacks, games, and toys. Include some conversation starters to get the family talking, like, “If you were headed for a deserted island, what three things would you want to bring?” Prep some music for a cheesy (and loud!) sing-along. Grab an audiobook to listen to as a family (stop for gas right at the suspenseful parts!). Give everybody a small pillow and lap blanket so they can cozy up and maybe even nap. Laugh it up with a Laugh-Out-Loud joke book so it never gets boring.
Speed bump #2: Sick and sloppy
There’s nothing like a carsick kid to wreck the fun of a road trip. Help out everybody’s tummy by limiting sugary snacks and screen time. Keep the temp a little low in the vehicle, and crack windows even if it puts a dent in the gas mileage. Save the bacon burger with onions for later to keep food odors away. Let your most sensitive kiddo have a window seat with a view of the road outside. Keep motion-sickness medication, plastic bags, water bottles, and an icy-cold washcloth in the cooler for the worst-case scenario.
A trashy car isn’t a happy place to be, either. A supply of baby wipes, paper towels, trash bags, and anti-bacterial cleaning wipes let you freshen up your space every time you stop.
Speed bump #3: Rushing and rigid
As fine-tuned as our vacation plans may be, stuff happens. Tires go flat. Kids have to pee. Drinks spill and toys get lost. The GPS sends you in circles. No matter how off-schedule your trip is going, don’t stress over what you can’t control. Focus on each other in the moment instead of wrecking your mood over a disrupted agenda. Whatever issue is raising your blood pressure will probably fade away a couple hundred miles down the road.
Bank in extra time to veer off course to take in a view or a playground. Freak out the kids by stopping for ice cream at 10 a.m. Play a quick game of tag on the lawn at a rest stop. Put your energy into making memories instead of trying to get there NOW.
Speed bump #4: Road rage
As much as you can count on kids to bicker and push each other’s buttons, most fighting starts in the front seat. Mom and Dad can start off cranky from the stressful effort of loading up and getting out the door. Take a moment to breathe and remember you’re on the same team before backing out of the driveway. Plant a kiss on each other too — it’s a great way to gross out the kids.
If griping and tattling start wrecking the mood in the vehicle, try some kindness. Start a conversation of “what I like best about you is…”. Create a tally sheet so you can make a mark for every please, thank you, and compliment you hear. When you get to 50, pass out a treat. Have the kids swap seats from time to time so they get a new view and “neighbor”. If all else fails, turn the music up a little louder to drown them out!
Speed bump #5: Leaving them out
Kids will be a lot more enthusiastic if they know it’s their trip too. Go old-school and put a paper map in their hands so they can mark your route along the way. Let them take turns choosing where to stop for meals. Give them each a job, like trash collector, DJ, or snack manager.
Reward your kids for being great travelers. Get a roll of quarters for each one before you leave. Let them know that every time they argue, complain, or ask “How much farther?!” it will cost them a quarter. Any money left at the end of the drive is theirs to keep for souvenirs. Create a secret stash of surprises — crafts, trinkets, or dollar-store items — to pass out as a prize every 100 miles. Toss them a gummy bear when you catch them being nice to their sibs.
Find ways to let your kids know you’re excited to be together. You see them trying to be patient when the day gets long. You’re thrilled for time to have fun because they’re your favorite people ever.
Let a little planning and a lot of laughter make this your best summer ever as a family. Drive safe!
Rob Elliott is the author of Laugh-Out-Loud Jokes for Kids, More Laugh-Out-Loud Jokes for Kids, Laugh-Out Loud Animal Jokes for Kids, Laugh-Out-Loud Doodles for Kids, Knock-Knock Jokes for Kids, Laugh-Out Loud Spooky Jokes for Kids, Laugh-Out-Loud Christmas Jokes for Kids, and Laugh-Out-Loud Awesome Jokes for Kids. He has been a publishing professional for more than twenty years and lives in West Michigan, where in his spare time he enjoys laughing out loud with his wife and five children.