A Step by Step Guide on How to Plan a Road Trip with Kids in Tow
With summer just around the corner, I’m sure you are beginning to think about your next adventure with the kids. Although a road trip may not be everyone’s first idea of fun, with good planning and preparation, a family road trip can be enjoyable and a great way to bond. If you like the idea or are, in fact, already planning a road trip with the kids and want to avoid the “are we there yet?” chorus from the back seats, then follow these simple steps:
Prior to Setting Off:
If you are going solo with the kids, you will need to decide when you will do the majority of the driving. You may prefer to drive early in the morning or late in the evening when the children are likely to be asleep. Driving in the dark can lead to reduced concentration levels and fatigue so it is important that you put safety first and stop for regular breaks.
Conduct some thorough research into the towns and cities you will be driving through. If you are road tripping through or around Europe, it is important to understand its diversity, particularly when it comes to driving regulations and roads. You can literally drive for a few hours and find yourself in a whole new region, if not country and culture so having the correct travel documents is also essential. If you are unsure which documents you will require, visiting an immigration solicitor or visa team prior to your road trip is a good idea.
Once you have decided on your final destination, a great activity to do with the kids ahead of your road trip is to sit down with a map and a marker pen and discuss together how you will get to places and how long it will take by mapping out the journey. Invest in a good quality road map and draw on the map so it is easy for the children to understand. The map will be a great tool for distraction and will keep the kids quiet in the car. It is also educational as they will be able to follow the journey as you go along, teaching them useful map reading skills.
Unlike air travel, packing for a road trip shouldn’t feel like a task of restraint. Pack as if you are packing an overnight bag – and then add a couple extra. Ensure everyone in the car has a spare change of clothes, a set of pyjamas and clean underwear. Toiletries can be shared and purchased so a forgotten shampoo is not the end of the world. Pack a separate bag for just the electronics and ensure that everything is fully charged the night before your embark.
Snacks and Sweet Treats
It is a good tactic to pack as healthy as possible with as little unrefined sugar as possible. A car full of hyper, sugar-fuelled kids is never going to end well and I’m sure will increase your stress levels significantly. Here is a list of healthy snacks on the go:
- Cheese and crackers
- Cereal bars
- Dried fruit bags
- Low salt crisps
- Water bottles
- Juice cartons (not concentrate)
- Pitta and humus
- Yoghurts (take the pouch variety to avoid spillage)
- Prepared sandwiches
Popular Road Trip Destinations for Kids
When choosing your route and destination, allow your children to help and make some of the decisions. That way they will be more inclined to be excited and helpful because they are invested in the process. Plan your road trip around famous landmarks, even if you are just driving past, it is a great way for the kids to experience culture and recognize what landmarks belong to which cities.
Paris has some wonderful sightseeing for everyone to enjoy and your children are more than likely going to be able to recognize and have knowledge of the Eiffel Tower. If you are stopping off for a day of fresh air and fun, then visit Disney Land Paris.
Rome has a remarkable history and makes for an unforgettable visit with the kids, particularly the Eternal City. Older kids will be thrilled to immerse themselves in the history of ancient Rome whilst younger kids will be blown away by the colossal ruins and ancient artefacts. And if this isn’t enough to wow, the famous gelato and pizza should do the job! Beware of the traffic and parking charges and the often narrow roads in Italian cities.
Never thought of the Netherlands for a road trip? Start of in Amsterdam where the kids will enjoy boarding a canal tour. From here you can see many of Amsterdam’s famous sites. Or if you feel more need to stretch your legs after a few hours in the car, hire some bikes from one of Amsterdam’s numerous rental shops – complete with a bakfiets (bike trailer) for the youngest and join the locals. The most popular road trip in the Netherlands in the spring is the Flower Tour. In April and May, flower fields displaying hyacinths, tulips, narcissi, and daffodils delight travellers and locals alike. So continue your road trip by heading to Haarlem, then south on the so-called Bloemen Route to the cities of Lisse, Leiden, and Naaldwijk for a spectacular view of flower field after flower field.
The Portuguese cities of Lisbon and Porto have become extremely popular tourist destinations whilst the coastline is a favourite for families and beach lovers. Due to its relatively small size, Portugal makes for an ideal road trip that appeals to both parents and children. The roads in Portugal are relatively safe, however, if you choose the scenic route through the red and white hills, the roads can become narrow and meandering so are recommended for confident drivers only. Winding roads are also something to avoid if your child suffers from travel sickness.
The USA is home to hundreds of wonderful road trip routes which are a magical and beautiful way to learn about the fascinating country as well as witness some of the most breath-taking sites in the world. While a long route through the deep south or down California’s coastline may be great for the older kids, the North Atlantic Coast route has an excellent mix of educational and recreational activities for children to enjoy.
If you are planning to travel in the summer, make sure you are able to stop off at places that have a water park or swimming pool to cool off and exercise. Roadside parks make for a great destination to stop for a picnic; however, you will have more fun if you incorporate a theme park and other attractions into your road trip, especially if a little bribery is needed to keep the kids going!
Let the Journey Commence
There is an infinite list of family car games for both you and your kids to enjoy. Begin with the classic “I Spy” game and then when this begins to feel boring try another. One game that tends to have some longevity is the storytelling game. The driver begins the story and when it reaches a dramatic point, the storyteller switches and continues until the next dramatic point.
If you haven’t got one already, borrow a portable DVD player and pack your children’s favourite movies. Another great way of avoiding the “are we there yet” questions is to hang a mini whiteboard on the back of the front seat headrests. For every hour of the trip the kids can write down how much time and how many miles are left until the next stop of your road trip.
If your child is prone to travel sickness, you may be faced with some sicky challenges along the way. There are a few things you can do to prevent motion sickness on your road trip and it is important to know what factors can make it worse. Ginger and peppermint are effective stomach settlers, so it is a good idea to have these (in the form of sweets or tablets) handy. Reading small text has been proven to cause motion sickness, so ensure that your child avoids reading books. You can invest in inexpensive travel bands for your road trip that are worn on each wrist. These have been proven to reduce sickness as well as travel sickness tablets.
The most important thing to keep in mind when embarking on your road trip with the kids is to make sure you enjoy the ride. The long hours spent on the road are all part of the adventure and memories that your children will cherish and take with them for the rest of their lives. Don’t forget to pack a camera even if it is just a disposable. After returning from your trip, developing the photos and creating a scrapbook with the kids will be a great way to preserve your amazing memories.