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CRA Motoring & Travel Explored – USA

By Amy Marturana Winderl, C.P.T.

How to keep the chaos at a minimum.

For many people, a road trip is seemingly the best, safest way to travel this year amid the pandemic. Road tripping means you can throw everything you need in the trunk and get to your destination without having to be in any enclosed spaces with other people outside your immediate family. The downside? You’re spending hours in an enclosed space with your immediate family, which can be…a lot to handle.

When you’ve got kids involved, the stress of a road trip can go from 0 to 60 pretty quickly. That’s why it’s important to go into it with some strategies for how you’re going to keep everyone—including the adults in the vehicle—happy and content. To help you prepare, we asked parents to share their best tips for keeping their kids occupied and entertained on road trips. Some of these tips are especially great if you have little ones, and others can be so useful if you’ve got kids of any age. Here are nine brilliant strategies to keep the peace on family road trips. 

1. Plan scenic stops along the way.

“My partner and I drive down to Florida with our two-and-a-half-year-old multiple times a year. We make sure the road trip feels like the vacation and not just how we get there,” Kara D., 28, tells SELF. That means plotting in some walking, hiking, and stretching stops with scenic views throughout the trip. That means maybe finding a waterfall along your route and stopping there instead of at a highway rest stop, even if it means driving a little bit out the way. “If you make the stops quick and effective but still memorable, it makes a world of difference in everyone’s mindset,” Kara says.

2. Bring simple “art supplies.”

Molly A., 36, keeps her two kids busy in the car with the simplest art supplies: Post-it notes and a pen. “Draw, stick all over the car, repeat,” she tells SELF. The kids have something to do, and you don’t have to worry about potential spills or intense clean-up later on. Molly also brings along lap desks and coloring books as another form of entertainment.

3. Strategically hand out the toys.

Amy L., 42, brings a small collection of fun items on road trips but waits to dole them out until her kids are over what they’re already playing with. “If you give them all to the kiddos upfront, they aren’t as fun,” she tells SELF. Some things her family loves: Little Dover Books maze books, word searches, Wiki Stix, coloring books, Magic Ink markers and the accompanying books, magnetic travel board games, and lacing toys. She avoids sticker books, though: “I do not want to clean that up.” Fair.

4. Plan a scavenger hunt.

“My kids and I travel often, and I engage them by doing scavenger hunts,” Cathy O., 42, tells SELF. They make a list by researching things they might see on their journey—like cows grazing in a pasture, for example—and then they check off things as they see them, she explains. “It gives them some buy-in and also a bit of competition to keep them motivated.”

5. Download all the audiobooks and podcasts.

Before you leave, download some audiobooks and podcasts so you’ll still be able to listen to them even if your service is spotty where you’re driving. Molly suggests using Spotify (they have a whole Disney library) and also checking what your library offers. “I let each kid choose a few, and they would get so excited when it was their turn to pick,” she says. Another pro tip? “Preview everything and make sure you like it too!” 

6. Plan drives around their sleep schedule.

Sometimes, not messing with your little one’s sleep schedule is the best way to keep everyone—including parents—happy. Liz C., 30, has found that the best way to road trip with her baby is to drive during bedtime. “For long trips, we bump up dinner and bath time an hour or an hour and a half, depending on when we want to leave. We put her in PJs, read a book, and then hit the road.” Corie N., 30, has done the same. “We were both tired when we got home, but at least she was well-rested!”

7. Pack strategically.

This is especially important if you’re planning to stay at a hotel for just one night along the way. “If your road trip will include a one-night stop for the whole family in a hotel, I suggest packing one small bag with the items you’ll need,” Amy says. “It makes it so much easier than fishing out everyone’s bag and hauling them all in and out.” Or, think outside the suitcase. When her kids were younger, Colleen C., 56, would pack each kid’s clothes in a three-drawer storage container. “I would load them right into the back of the car and it was like a traveling dresser. It kept things organized and contained versus suitcases or duffels spilling all over the floor. And no unpacking necessary once you arrive!”

8. Don’t feel bad about using electronics.

If it keeps them happy and occupied, and keeps you as relaxed as humanly possible, then you don’t need to feel bad for using technology to your benefit here. If your kids all have their own electronics, just make sure to get them their own headphones, says Amy. It’s really the only way for everyone to do their own thing and maintain peace. Another electronics suggestion: Caitlin S., 34, sets up an iPad on the back of the seat so her child can watch videos on it.

9. Synchronize bathroom breaks.

The best way to not get a request every 30 minutes for a bathroom break? Get everyone on the same schedule. “Every rest stop includes a potty break for all to synchronize our schedules,” says Amy. Even those who claim they “don’t have to go.” And during those stops, try to get rid of some pent-up energy. “When possible, we stop at playgrounds for meal breaks and we do running, jumping, and stretching too. I’ll say things like, ‘Okay, I’m going to time how fast you can run from this tree to that picnic table five times! Go!’” In her experience, there’s a lot less fighting among kids when everyone’s a little tired out.

This article is presented by Volvo.

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