As a kid my family went on a lot of road trips. Some were less than two hours, others took more than 24 hours. We drove to Washington DC, Florida, New York City, St. Louis and many other cities. With summer break almost upon us and families finalizing their vacation plans, I thought I would share some tips from an experienced family traveler.
Everyone has a first or second-hand horror story of traveling with kids, but it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, it’s very possible to have a fun family vacation without breaking the bank. I can’t promise it will be stress free, as there is always bound to be a little stress when a family is in close surroundings for a long period of time, but there are definite ways to make the stress more manageable.
If you’re going to be driving a long distance to your vacation destination, one tactic that is useful is planning to stop every few hours. I’m not talking about stopping to go to the bathroom at a rest stop, but plan a few 20-25 minute stops for everyone to get fresh air. This can also help subdue any friction among the kids, as they can be separated for a few minutes before getting back in the car. When I was about 9 years old my family drove from Buffalo, NY to Florida, and the only way we all survived this trip (especially myself and my younger sister) were the intermittent stops for fresh air along the way.
One thing we didn’t have growing up that would have made the traveling a whole lot easier is the ability to watch movies and TV in the car. Heck, I didn’t even have a discman until I was in middle school.
There are a lot of theories about not letting your kids watch too much television, and time spent in the car can be spent on family bonding. All of this may be true…but if the kids are at each other’s throats, is there something better than an episode of Dora the Explorer or Wizards of Waverly Way to ease the tension?
A lot of cars now come equipped with DVD players for just this purpose, but there are now ways to watch live TV and DVR recordings on your tablet, phone or computer. DISH even offers the ability to download DVR recordings to your iPad or iPhone so you can watch TV in the car, even if you don’t have an Internet connection.
Beyond keeping your kids entertained with the iPad and planning for periodic breaks, my last trick to co-existing in the car on a family road trip is packing the right food and drink. You don’t want to have a lot of soda and juice or else you’ll be making a lot of extra “pee breaks” and the sugar may make the kids hyper. You also don’t want to have only healthy snacks that the kids don’t want to eat, or else you’ll end up with an unplanned drive-thru stop.
My parents handled this dilemma by picking up delicious subs from Wegmans the night before. If you’ve ever had a Wegmans Sub before, you know how giant and delicious they really are, meaning the kids will want to eat them and they won’t still be hungry afterwards. Planning a special treat like the Wegmans Sub or even a favorite candy bar can prevent a non-planned stop and keep the car on the road.
Family road trips with children are always going to be a little stressful, but there are definite ways to make them a more enjoyable experience. By pre-planning long stops, downloading DVR recordings onto an iPad and packing the right food you can make sure everyone not only survives the family vacation, but has fun along the way. Things are a little different than the college road tip to Florida for spring break when all you needed was a few bags of chips and the right music, huh?
When he’s not disclosing his wisdom on family vacations, Alex Rubin is writing about television, technology, sports and pop culture at www.dishcostsless.com.