By LIZ BRUCKNER
Planning on hauling the kids along for your next weekend away? Good news: travelling with kids needn’t be a sanity sucker. Plan ahead, be prepared and channel some inner zen for the inevitable refrain, “Are we there yet?”
1. Pack a bag of fun
Fill a backpack with goods specifically chosen for each child. Load it with paper, crayons or pencils, a few favourite books, stickers, toys, a pack of cards and three or four new (or old and once-loved) wrapped toys. Keep the bag with you and strategically unload it in timed intervals to keep kids entertained while en route.
2. Time your travel
Whenever possible, try to plan your road trips to start just before your child(ren)’s nap or bedtime. Doing so not only means they’ll be more likely to sleep on the way, if you fill their bellies before hitting the road, they’ll be less likely to want to stop for grub as you go.
3. Bring no-mess snacks
On long-haul road trips with a kid or two (or four) in tow, no-mess foods like raisins, pretzels, vegetables, and crackers and cheese are your friend. (Also your friend: wet wipes, napkins and paper towels. Don’t leave home without them.)
4. Schedule regular bathroom breaks
Stopping for a washroom break every two hours is a good rule of thumb for children three and up—even if little ones don’t feel the urge to go. Encourage them to try each time you stop and you’ll lower the risk of having to pull over 10 minutes after leaving a potty pit stop.
5. Play no-pack games
As any parent who’s driven for consecutive hours with a wee one knows, having an arsenal of game options up your sleeve makes the kilometres fly by. Two games that occupy for hours and fit the bill:
- Scavenger Hunt: Enlist your kids’ help in locating specific sights, like a car with a bike or kayak attached, or a truck with a dog hanging out the front window. Up the fun ante by giving them a quarter for each sighting they spy.
- Alphabet Words: Start with the letter A and look for signs or billboards with a word starting with the letter. Once found, move on to finding words starting with the letter B and so on until you finish at Z.
6. Embrace audio
When you can’t handle reading another story aloud, look to audiobooks. Either download them from a site like Audible.com before your trip, or head to your local library and have kids choose a classic, family-friendly tale or two.
7. Search out a park
Some kids are content to play games, eat snacks and watch the world go by on road trips. Others, not so much. Here’s where parks come in handy. When you recognize your child needs a break, pull over at a school playground and give them a good 10 minutes to run wild.
8. When all else fails, go electric
If you’re after a quiet trip, pack a mini DVD player or a handheld game system to keep kids occupied. And for the sake of your sanity, don’t forget the headphones.
9. Bring bedtime favourites
Whether your child conks out five minutes into a car ride or refuses to sleep for hours at a time, bring their pillow, blanket and bedtime stuffed animal can go a long way toward making road trips more comfortable for everyone involved.