Ahh, the open road. Feel the wind in your hair, smell the… is that cow manure or pig? Definitely, pig. There are the holiday road trips –get to Grandma’s house in time for Thanksgiving Dinner, and there are vacation road trips. Not all parents remember that these are two separate things. Vacation road trips are about experiencing the places between your house and your destination. Your destination is possibly simply the place to turn around and head back home.
My #1Tip: Do your best to keep the normal routines for meals and sleeping, and your child will be much more cooperative. If you’re doing a road trip, plan to stop at least every 2 or 3 hours and let your toddler walk or run around for at least 15 or 20 minutes. Those little legs need to move! (not to mention diapers need to be changed. PU!) Don’t be tempted to snack in the car all day. Not only is it a choking hazard, but you’re missing out on one of the best parts of the road trip… eating with the locals! You get a real ‘flavor’ of the town when you eat in its restaurants, or picnic in its parks.
Fodor’s had a great article highlighting 7 tips for avoiding common road trip mistakes. I especially like the tip about bringing an actual road map. I personally print a screen shot from Google Earth of key points, stops or turns; the detailed street maps of destinations, AND bring a road atlas. Overkill? I don’t think so. Oh, here’s a tip –maybe more of a vent- if you’re lost, don’t start frantically turning down side roads trying to get back to where you were. Or, if you think you’re in a scary neighborhood, don’t keep driving further into it ‘looking for a place to turn around’. Just do a U-turn as quickly and safely as possible staying on roads you’ve been on before so you can recognize where things went wrong. Whew! Glad I got that out. Moving on…
Another thing I make a point of is to be sure to have at least one non-travel day… ideally only traveling every other day. Let me clarify… say you hit the road bright and early Saturday morning. When you stop for the night Saturday night, try to stay there until bright and early Monday morning (instead of Sunday). Now, of course, this isn’t always logistically possible. But, if you think about this when planning the trip, it may make it easier to chart your course to places of interest. It also gives the kids more time to explore and cement some memories of the trip.
I’d love to hear your favorite games/entertainment for the kids in the car. Of course, I’m a fan of the DVD player when you’ve already seen 20 minutes of corn and there’s nothing else on the horizon. Then again, that’s part of the experience, isn’t it?