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Any family with kids of a certain age knows what it is like to head off on a road trip.
When it was only you and your partner, the worst it could get was a heated argument over which turning to take. However, modern day sat-nav has put a stop to all that, (and maybe saved a marriage or two in the process).
Yet no such technology has come about that stops a child from puking over the back seat, or needing the toilet when you 50 miles from anywhere.
Tablets, and electronic games may have replaced the groan inducing suggestion of ‘eye spy’, and to some degree they have made travelling with the kids easier.
However, despite all the available flashy distractions, the idea of long journeys with children in tow will often fill an adult’s mind with dread.
But it doesn’t have to be that way!
If you want stressful road trips to be a thing of the past, follow our top 10 list. A little preparation goes a long way.
Talk To Your Kids
Before you embark on this epic journey, fill your children in on the plan. A day or two before you depart, make them aware that you’re all going on a bit of adventure.
If they are of an age to understand, show them the map of where you’re going. Trace the route so they feel more involved with what’s to come.
Also, warn them that it will involve a long day (or maybe more) in the car.
It will probably mean more questions while you’re on the road, but at least they are engaged and not kicking the back of your seat in frustration.
What’s at the end of the rainbow?
While it might not always be possible, if you are taking your children on a long journey, the end result needs to be worth it (for them) in some way.
Obviously trips to visit relatives or going on holiday should fit the bill. But if it’s just because you have a convention to go to and couldn’t leave the kids behind, you’re going to have to placate them in some way when you get there.
Whether that’s taking time out to go to an adventure park, or something else suited to them, make sure they have their fun too.
Children remember certain experiences with the aptitude to the proverbial elephant. If you drag them across 12 states just to walk around a large industrial hanger showcasing plumbing accessories, they will quite rightly kick up a fuss next time you mention ‘road trip’.
Lower those expectations
When we say lower those expectations, we mean within you.
The more prepared you are for a horrible journey, the better you will feel when it is only moderately bad, (and the fact is, following all of these points will ensure you have a trip that is actually pretty good).
Music & Movies (And plenty of batteries)
While listening to the best of Barney and Friend’s on loop may well make your ears bleed, it will be preferable to that of a screaming child, or the sound of two kids squabbling.
Having your little one’s favourite music on standby is obviously a leaf from family road trip 101. And with the availability of modern tablets or in car DVD players, having copies of your kid’s favourite movies will be another life-saver.
Shrek 1, 2 and 3 will take up almost 6 hours of road time for instance. And will actually make you laugh quite a bit too.
A full child is a happier child
Before you hit the road make sure your children are well fed.
Furthermore, ensure that there’s a decent amount of savoury snacks packed. Lay off the sweets as a child in the back will scoff through a pack of jelly-beans quicker than you can say, ‘sick bag’.
Also, knowing you have sweets in the front will lead to inevitable tantrums about wanting more.
Schedule in a proper stop for lunch and or dinner while on the road, and make sure you have plenty of wipes, nappies, changing of clothes and plastc bags to put all the soiled items in, (I’m sorry but it will happen).
Make sure you have plenty of water too, to keep everyone fully hydrated. (Try to minimise the sugary juice and the inevitable rush that comes from it.)
Games, Games, Games Galore
Some kids may groan if you suggest playing some of the old school verbal based games, however the fact you’re engaging with them will often hold their attention for a little while.
An easier alternative is to have the tablet loaded to the brim with fun games they can play on their own.
These days the average 2 year old knows the mechanism of swiping a screen. Even if they are two young to actually fully realise what is going on, handing them a tablet or phone (that you can afford to be dropped or thrown) will keep them occupied enough for you to have a 10 minute respite at least.
You do not need to entertain them the entire way
Children do not require your attention and efforts to entertain them all the time.
Games and music and videos will take care of things for a while, but so can staring out of the window, or even low and behold a decent length nap.
Try not to feel the pressure. If you’re on edge, your child will be too. The journey can be fun if approached the right way. Being as chilled as you can be, (should) rub off on your kids.
And let’s face it, your child is going to blow up into a tantrum at some stage of the journey. You are better off saving your energies for those occasions instead.
Break the rules
No, not of the speed limit to get there faster. On a road trip it is perfectly okay to break the rules that you might otherwise have at home.
Whether that’s allowing for a large milkshake during the fast-food lunch stop, or more hours of movies than you would normally allow.
Maybe it’s letting your child fiddle with your gadgets when you wouldn’t normally. If you let it be known that it’s just for today only, you will certainly have a happy child for the duration they are allowed to do what is normally off limits.
These little exceptions will go a long way.
Take a deep breath
Closely related to the fact you shouldn’t feel the pressure to entertain them the whole way, at times when you can have a moments thought to yourself – take a deep breath.
Relax, watch the world go buy and enjoy the act of driving like you used to before the brats in the back came along.
And as the end result should be more than worthwhile, keep your eye on the prize and your mind in a good way.
Know your limits and that of you’re kids
Finally, you have to be realistic.
One child may love getting on the road, another may have the attention span of 2 minutes and hates being buckled in a car seat.
If the latter is the case, it may mean you should think of alternative forms of interstate travel until said child gets a bit older.
The train or maybe a plane might the way forward, at least that way they can roam around a bit more.
If that’s just impossible, regular stops or leaving them with the neighbor maybe the order of the day.
At least if you know what to expect from them, you can plan and prepare for the worst.
So that’s our list. Hopefully your next long journey will be a little easier as a result. And if it really is a terrible trip, you should at least try to rest in the knowledge that one day they will leave home, and you can enjoy the road just like you used to.
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