In June and July, AAA is featuring road trip information on AAA TravelViews, as well as on Facebook, Twitter (#RoadTrip), Google+ and Pinterest. This week’s focus is on road trip travels with children.
When it comes to vacation, I’ve heard people say getting there is half the fun. Whoever said that hasn’t traveled in a car with someone under the age of 5.
Sure, there might be some enjoyable moments along the way, but a 45-minute nonstop crying jag in an enclosed space like a small SUV can put a damper on your getaway before it even begins. Some advance planning can help get your trip off on the right foot.
Leave at the Right Time
Deciding when to leave depends on several factors. What time is check-in? When is traffic the worst? When will attractions be open along the way?
When traveling with a little one, my plan of attack is based on how I can get the most sleeping time in the car. On short trips, leaving at naptime might be the best solution. Driving more than six hours? Try leaving in the middle of the night. Sure, you have to wake up the little rascals at an odd hour, but more than likely, they’ll fall back asleep once you get on the road. If you’re lucky, they might sleep until daylight.
If your drive is more than 8 to 10 hours, consider breaking it into two days and staying overnight along the way.
Know the Road
The bladder of a child waits for no man. This is one of the most challenging parts of traveling. Today, most travelers rely on their GPS to tell them where to go, but I also take along the good ol’ AAA TripTik. It tells me where to find rest stops along the interstate and whether there is gas, food or lodging in the next town.
The most important calculation every parent needs to master is the number of miles to the next rest stop divided by the amount of juice boxes consumed. If you find your math a bit off, the rule of thumb is when you find an acceptable restroom, go, go, GO!
Do not let your children tell you they just went or they don’t need to go. This will result in an emergency stop somewhere, or worse, an accident. If there is an accident, it’s best to …
When your child has an accident, gets sick or spills, there is nothing worse than unpacking your trunk and opening your suitcases in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant to find a change of clothes. Use large, clear plastic bags to pack one complete change of clothes for each passenger in the vehicle.
Mom and Dad might think they don’t need one, but if your clothes get soiled in the clean-up process, you don’t want to reek for another 200 miles.
Other good items to have readily available are baby wipes, paper towels, an old beach towel, a jug of water, an automobile air freshener and plastic shopping bags (to keep the messy clothes until you can wash them).
Did I Mention Be Prepared?
Before becoming a parent, I mocked people who had minivans with DVD players in them. “I’ll never do that.”
Does anyone have a fork so I can eat my words?
I don’t hesitate to bring the portable DVD player along with Dumbo, Dora and Donald Duck if it means that we’ll have an extra hour of contentment during the drive. When that gets old (or the battery dies), have some other car games, books or favorite songs in mind to pass the time.
Know When to Stop
This message is especially important for dads. I know you want to find the best route and get to the destination in record time, forgoing bathroom breaks to do so. Sorry to tell you, but you’re going to have to wait a few more years until Junior has outgrown his Captain America Underoos.
Do some online research before leaving to find out where there might be a fast food stop with a playground or a rest area with room to run so the kids can blow off some steam. Pack healthy snacks that your kids enjoy for these stops. You don’t want to rely on a rest stop vending machine that could be out of order or, worse yet, stocked only with sugar-filled cookies and cupcakes. This is the last thing you want to feed your children before strapping them in for a few more hours.
Above all, the best things to bring along are patience, a good attitude and a sense of humor. After all, this is the start of your vacation. Relax and enjoy the ride!
Have any tips to make traveling with children enjoyable for all involved? Please share them in the comments!