How to plan a road trip with kids

Summer is the perfect time to pack up the car, make the most of the longer days, and head out on the open road. Whether you’re heading up to cottage country, driving across Canada, or embarking on your annual camping trip South of the border, a road trip can be a great opportunity for bonding. However, an excess of time in a small space also brings its own challenges-especially when you throw restless youngsters into the mix. We put together some handy ways for you to plan the perfect road trip with kids:

1.Put safety first

Before you hit the road, you want to make sure that you’re fully prepared for the journey. If your child is still in a car seat or riding on a booster seat, make sure that it is installed correctly-3 out of 4 aren’t! Make sure you have all the essentials in case you run into any unexpected danger: plenty of water, a map, a first-aid kit, a flashlights and basic car safety equipment, such as jumper cables.

Plus, double check you have adequate insurance. If you are headed South, be sure that your auto insurance will cover this-speak with your insurer and notify them of your plans. Furthermore, you can’t go wrong with a good travel insurance policy. Your provincial health coverage will only go so far. In fact, while provincial healthcare covers some of the basic costs of emergency medical care, your plan may not pay the same rate out of province. And it definitely won’t account for emergency transport, or getting your loved ones back home if you can not longer drive back. Travel insurance will also provide extra coverage for your belongings and bags, just incase anything goes awry.

2.Include the kids

A long stint sat in one place isn’t fun for anyone, especially not kids who are buzzing with energy. However, when children get to choose the destination, and know a bit more about the journey ahead, they’re more likely to be excited about the trip. Turn your travel time into part of the vacation, and include your little ones in the planning process from the outset.

3.Get a paper map

Gone are the days of the road atlas and paper maps, and instead we have access to every road in the world thanks to Smartphones and GPS devices. But, for the sake of an enjoyable journey, consider bring back old school navigation. You can trace your route with a highlighter and mark desires stops, letting the kids get involved with this. The journey will become an adventure, a geography lesson and even provides you with a backup just incase your technology lets you down.

4.Play car games

Thinking back to the nostalgic days of my own youth, playing car games with my parents always comes to mind. Not only will car games instigate laughter and bonding, they’re also a great way to pass the time for the adults as well as the kids. Some classics include I Spy, 20 questions and Rock Paper Scissors.

5. Pack smart

What you choose to pack for your journey could be the thing that makes or breaks your car time. If you pack too many things, your vehicle will be cluttered chaos, don’t bring enough and you face the wrath of restless kids. While you should let your kids pick a favourite item that they want on the road, limit in-vehicle entertainment to a backpack per child. Consider packing a deck of cards, an activity or colouring book, plenty of pens and pencils. One useful tip is to make sure that everything is organized, and within reach of your child, so that you don’t spend the majority of your journey rooting round for various items to soothe a bored youngster.

6.Embrace technology

Although technology is not the answer, and for the most part parents are trying to limit screen time for their kids, sometimes it can be a life saver. Predownload favorite TV shows and movies onto your portable tablet, install some fun games (if they’re educational that’s a bonus), and fill up your ipod with some upbeat songs to change those moans of boredom into a family sing-a-long. Or why not download an audiobook so that the whole family can enjoy one of their favourite stories on the drive? That way you can embrace the benefits of technology without having to rely too heavily on screen time.

7. Point out interesting sites while you drive

Keeping your kids occupied is the key to a successful car journey, and sometimes the simplest things are actually the most effective. By pointing out fun, interesting sites on your drive you also keep the kids excited and involved with the journey. From a field full of farm animals and giant lorries passing you on the highway, to the azul waters of the ocean and drive-by tourist hotspots, anything can become an adventure for a child’s inquisitive mind.

8.Schedule your stops

Before you set off, have a rough idea of the stops that you are going to make; that way the whole family have something to look forward to. Taking a break is a great opportunity to get out of the car and stretch your kids. Opt for a rest stop for bathroom breaks and emergency snacks, or choose a grassy spot and let the kids run around to burn off some of that excess energy before you get back in the car-perhaps they will wear themselves out enough to sleep the rest of the journey.

9. Pack plenty of snacks

While there are usually plenty of rest stops dotted along the highway for emergency snacks, the cost of food is usually a lot higher than normal. Save on the cash, and ensure everyone is eating well-balanced snacks, by pre-packing your own. Bring napkins or paper towel for any unexpected spills, and opt for crackers, fruit and veggies instead of high sugar snacks-you don’t want your kids getting all hyper when you still have hours left on the road.

10.Practise patience

There may come a point when no amount of distractions can save you from the impending whining of a child who is tired of sitting in the same spot for hours on end, especially if you have an infant or toddler. Try not to become overly agitated by the repetitive sound track of “are we there yet”; the worst thing to do is retaliate and start an argument-no one wants a hostile car journey. Take it in your stride and try to keep everyone’s focus on how much fun you have in store.