Summertime is family travel time, but it doesn’t have to be a headache to road trip with kids. A few key tips will have you at your destination frazzle-free.
Traveling with Children
It’s summer. School’s out and the kids are restless and-gas prices be damned-you owe a visit to family in Boston, or Phoenix, or San Francisco, or Washington, D.C. It’s been decided: the family and their sundry luggage, iPods, stuffed animals, favorite books, and dinosaur-shaped pool toys are going to stuff into the mini van and embark on a road trip, that great American tradition.
The last time you road-tripped you were young and single. It was easy; you had less stuff and only yourself to worry about. Now you’re middle-aged, married, and the three kids under five are along for the ride. How do you get across country with minimal screaming?
Do not not get lost. Getting lost leads to screaming – everyone’s, including your frustrated own – and difficulties between you and your ever-loving spouse who looks like he might open the passenger door and roll out, summer blockbuster-style, to the relative comfort and quiet of an unknown café in an unknown city. Never to return.
If you don’t have a GPS in your car, get one. Now (with apologies to the humorist Ogden Nash) you have the gadget that will keep your marriage brimming, with love in the loving cup. You will rely on a calm, British voice to help you navigate the nation’s capital at rush hour and cross the Cross-Bronx Expressway. No worries. No fighting. You might even start adopting the GPS’s plummy accent. Road tripping is simply tops! It’s smashing! A question: do any of you lovely, well-mannered sprogs in the back seat care for a cuppa tea? Mummy packed cucumber sandwiches!
Road Trip Tips
Now that the primary worry–directions–is taken care of, the secondary worry–children in the car for more than an hour–remains. Here are some tips:
- Toys, toys, and more toys. A good piece of advice is to dole out a toy every hour, on the hour. The kids will get their first real-life experience of telling time and they will learn to practice patience.
- Snacks and drinks. Bring their favorites, don’t worry too much about healthfulness. Road trip=road food. As soon as you get to where you are going, the family can get back on the straight and narrow.
- Maps, the old fashioned kind, made of laminated paper; a five-year-old will love to trace the route. A great source is The Globe Corner Bookstore; they have maps just for kids.
- Stop frequently; kids need to unfold and run around.
- Try to enjoy yourself. Your kids will feed off your mood. If you enthusiastically sing “The Wheels on The Bus” so will they.
You are making memories. Ten years from now when all the kids are in their teens and won’t travel a mile with you, you’ll reminisce about that summer when you made it across America.