Surviving the spring break trek to a vacation destination requires a little creativity on your part as a parent! We parents often enjoy the drive as much as the destination, particularly when the kids are content and behaving. For us, driving means a constant change of scenery and beautiful sights to take in.
It’s a different story for children.
For kids, traveling means extended periods sitting in a car, fighting boredom and trying to find something to do. Here are a few simple measures parents can take to help their kids enjoy the journey.
Travel Early and Late
Most kids fall asleep easily in a car because they find the motion comforting. Traveling mid-morning through sunset is the most difficult for them to endure.
By traveling early in the morning and once the sun goes down, parents can relax more knowing their kids will sleep more readily. And, by getting on the road in the evening or before the sun comes up, parents can enjoy the soft light of a sunrise or sunset and how it reflects off the changing scenery.
Stop Every Hour
Kids, especially those over the age of five, are used to getting out of their school chairs and moving around about once an hour. By keeping this routine, parents can ensure their kids don’t feel pent-up and anxious.
By searching the map for historic markers, scenic overlooks, and wilderness and national forest trails — places of general interest — parents can break a long trip into three or four short trips and greatly minimize their kids’ discomfort.
Travel the Back and Country Roads
The most boring way to travel — for kids — is on an interstate or major highway. While sometimes there is no way around it, try to avoid spending the entire trip traveling on major thoroughfares. State highways and county roads typically have a great deal more to offer with respect to changes in scenery and interesting sights.
It isn’t a mistake to travel interstates and U.S. highways, but less traveled roads have a different feel altogether and should be experienced along some part of the journey.
Avoid Fast Food
Avoid eating a daily helping of fast food for breakfast and lunch. By choosing to eat at restaurants and diners that require a fork, spoon and knife, everyone — including parents — gets a reprieve from riding in the car. Restaurants take more time, are more stimulating and allow kids to get their mind off the long drive.
Although maybe a touch more expensive, the entire experience of eating at a sit-down establishment is far more rewarding.
Another option: shop in a grocery store for food and enjoy a short picnic at a municipal park or designated pull-off.
Travel With a Cooler
Having a cold drink and snack foods in hand will keep kids occupied. Again, it will also keep their mind off a long drive. Given the choice, kids will always choose to pull over at a truck stop or convenient store to grab something to eat, as opposed to spending a few minutes at a place of interest.
By bringing a cooler, parents kill two birds with one stone. The kids are occupied while in the car, and travel breaks aren’t wasted at places which are unfit for children to run around freely.
Play Music the Kids Like
Although grueling at times, listening to music the kids like will keep them content and engaged. By just allowing kids to listen to their own brand of music, parents can change their children’s perception of a vacation for the better.
There are hundreds of ways to help reduce children’s travel anxiety, everything from travel games to sing-alongs. The most important part is remembering that while travel is a means of decompressing for parents, it can conversely be stressful for kids.