Aren’t we there yet?
Why do we have to go on this dumb trip?
Mom, Kelly’s touching me!
Of course we want to take our kids on road trip adventures they’ll remember all their lives -- but then comes reality. Closed quarters with kids in a car for a long period of time is bound to spell T-R-O-U-B-L-E. Here are a few “sanity savers” to help you make your car trips a bit more pleasant for the kids as well as you.
1. Pack rations. Bring along non-messy snacks (watch the sugar content) and a small ice chest filled with bottle waters or boxed drinks.
2. Do lookouts. Challenge the kids to “look and find” something different every hour (or half-hour or every ten minutes) to pass the time away: a license plate from a different state; a different mammal, a church with a steeple, a tractor.
3. Bring a joke book. Appoint one child to be the “Comedian” who teaches the rest of the carload a different joke every fifteen minutes.
4. Hold a scavenger hunt. Ask your kids to brainstorm the one thing they want to collect each day. The item must be no-cost and something they must find. For example: a bird feather, a wild flower, or a pebble. Give each child a small box or folder to store the mementos.
5. Listen to books on tape. You can also download audiotapes into portable MP3 players so each child can listen to his own favorite story. Of course, music is always helpful as well.
6. Learn geography. Hang a map on the inside of the car. Your kids can mark their route with a marking pen and learn map skills tool.
7. Make frequent stops. Plan for little breaks and fun little outings. A quick game of Frisbee or a relay race can revitalize those kids.
8. Set car rules. “No hitting or yelling," "We'll rotate seats every day,” (or whatever rules you need to maintain sanity and safety in the car). Just lay down rules before starting off on that trip. For a severe infraction, pull over (after checking your rear-view mirror) and turn off the engine. Once your kids know you mean business, they usually resolve their problems. (Bring a good book just in case).
9. Designate packing. Give each child a small backpack to hold everything (besides clothes and medicine) they want to bring (teddy bear, small pillow, book, etch-a-sketch, MP3 player, sticker book). It should be able to fit at their feet in the car or be instantly accessible.
10. Make each child a photographer. Provide each child with an inexpensive camera to take a photo of the best daily memory. Give each a small scrapbook for their trip.
11. When all else fails, consider traveling at night or when your kids are napping. After all, it's your trip too!
Michele's latest book is 12 Simple Secrets Real Moms Know: Getting Back to Basics and Raising Happy Kids.