I don't know how many of you plan to take road trips with the whole family this summer, but for those of you that are I feel your pain. Even though a family vacation can be the ticket to building better bonds with teenagers and getting siblings to see eye to eye, when you've got a few hours stuck in the car together with a few extra back seat drivers or siblings that can't stop annoying one another it can really try your patience.
So how can you shorten the hours and frustration?
1.) Plan your route a few days before and make sure to check online for road construction updates so you don't get stuck in a jam. Most state departments of transportation list upcoming road construction projects and alternative suggested routes.
2.) Plan for a few stops to get out and stretch your legs. It's good to get out and walk around plus it give you a break from the hectic and anxiety associated with traffic jams. My personal favorites to stop at include Cracker Barrel and rest areas with playgrounds and sightseeing. Cracker Barrel is a store and a restaurant that has plenty to see between the knick knacks on the wall and country styled toys and fashion wear. As an added plus many of them carry audio books that you can purchase and return with a $3.49 fee/week rental deduction. Many rest areas have hiking trails, places for sightseeing, and grill/picnic areas for strategically planned road trip breaks or impromptu meals.
3.) Bring plenty of water. About 80% of Americans are already dehydrated and being exposed to sunlight while traveling in the car doesn't help. Bring at least one water bottle per person for every 2 hours in the car. You may think the added fluids will increase rest stops but sometimes that is a good way to keep everyone sane during a long drive.
4.) Bring low sugar snacks. Bring a small cooler with ice over drinks to keep everything chilled. Aim for fruits, chocolate chip free snacks, and cheese. This will ensure there's no sugar rushes from screaming passengers or whining siblings who are victims of annoyance and boredom.
5.) Bring a magic bag of tricks. I know this sounds clique but everyone needs Mary Poppin's carpet bag on a road trip. This bag should be filled with car game ideas, decks of cards, travel games, books, a fun CD or two rented from the library, and maybe even a family movie rental if you have a portable DVD player or laptop for the road. Don't let the kids see all the tricks at once! Pull an item out of the bag once an hour or more often if they are bored and getting rowdy. They'll get something new to focus on and it'll be a surprise they're looking forward to.
6.) Bring extra layers for everyone.Odds are not everyone in the car can agree on interior temperature and rather than having fingers and toes freeze due to an A/C disagreement just make sure to bring a light jacket and a pair of socks to cover your toes in this situation. A few light fleece blankets wouldn't hurt in this situation either.
7.)Make sure to get plenty of rest before the drive as sleep deprivation can set you up for a car accident that can put a huge damper on plans.
8.) Make sure your cell phone is fully charged and bring a car charger in case of emergency.
9.) Don't forget to pack a small first aid kit and sunscreen as boo-boos, bug bites, and burns are frequent occurrences when you're away from home and don't have these things on hand.
10.) Plan road trips around children's nap schedules. This ensures they'll be snoozing shortly after you hit the road and will give you a chance to get on the long stretch of the trip.