In the last year alone, we have travelled over a 40 000 km with our kids on road trips. They are a 2 year old, and a 10 and a 12 year old… And we managed to not only survive it, but we actually enjoyed it…
Except when we didn’t…
The truth be told, there are times when we just want to stop the car, push them all out and then drive away, I have caught myself even pushing the brake when I have that thought. Pretty scary! Luckily those times are rather infrequent, when you manage your drives properly.
8 Golden Guidelines
We have some guidelines that really help to make the travel time more comfortable for all!
Start your drive as early after good breakfast as you can
Get the kids to run around a bit before getting in the car, if you can
No computer games, ever! (I'll explain why below)
Make sure you stop every 1.5/2 hours, longer if they are sleeping
Have lunch a bit later than normal on the long drives
Make sure all your snacks are healthy ones
No movies until after lunch and nap time, limit it to 1-2
On longer drives, have your dinner later too
These things help us to manage the our kids on road trips better and keep us sane. We also try to break our trips up into 4-6 hour drives and throw in a morning off, if it is a multi day drive. On a few occasions, we’ve done big drives, even as much as 12 hours, but we try to avoid this wherever possible. if we have to we will sit the kids down and explain to them what we are planning and why and ask them to emotionally prepare themselves. We especially do this with the littlest one, resining her a couple times beforehand, the day before and the morning of the drive. We have found they are better able to cope with a longer drive this way.
A Typical Drive
Let me run through what a typical drive looks like and share the details with you.
A Driving Day
First up always tell the kids the night before what the next days plans are. We usually try to leave as early in the morning as possible. Everyone is generally in good mood, rested and looking forward to another destination. If we can’t have breakfast where we are, we will drive to a cafe or a rest station (petrol station with a restaurant) and eat.
Once underway from breakfast, the kids play their own games and don’t need much of Vero’s attention. Again, no computer games, so it’s reading or a board game, some drawing or just fantasy play with toys.
Vero always has a bunch of snacks in front so we don’t need to stop.
“I try to have lots of fruit and cut vegetables. Kids love to nibble on them and it doesn’t raise their sugar level which is pretty important in the situation where they can’t run around. So apples, carrots, cucumbers, beets, cherry tomatoes, rice crackers are the best this time of the drive.”
After an hour and a half to two hours, we stop for coffee (adults only), petrol and to use the toilet. We keep this stop a short stop. Sometimes the kids don’t even bother to get out of the car and they keep playing. Although they love to clean the car windows and fill the tank, we always let them.
We often turn our favourite music on. Mostly the songs that the baby likes because if we don’t she can get pretty worked up. We will all sing and “dance”. When it comes to this, keeping her calm and happy is the highest priority. There is generally 1-2, sometimes 3 times during the drive where she will start whining about wanting sit up front with mum. We just try to distract her with things inside and outside the car. It usually works, if it doesn’t we will make a stop and find somewhere to run a little.
The lunch stop is usually a longish one. We try to find a playground (bigger petrol stations usually have one). We might do some stretching as well and then we get back onto the road.
After lunch, we usually have two hours of quiet driving because the little one falls asleep. Her sleep might happen before the lunch stop. If it does then we will keep driving instead because older kids feel pretty comfortable on snacks and can easily wait. Again they will play magnetic chess, listen to music, do some reading, but most often they are napping too.
Then we will have another quick stop after the baby wakes up from her nap (toilet mainly) and get back on the road.
Only at this stage, we will turn a movie on, but only if the kids are asking for it. Basically, we delay screen time as much as possible. We choose feature films, instead of a TV series so each movie lasts for more than an hour and we can comfortably finish our drive.
Our kids don’t play computer games. We always aim to provide good quality movies. There is an easy to recognise and a big change in our kids’ behaviour (especially the baby) after screen time. That’s why we really try to make sure it’s only when we definitely need it. Generally at the very end of a long drive.
With an extra long trip, where we are arriving late in the night. We will stop for dinner and again run them a little and let them watch a second movie then it’s quiet time till they sleep.
We have only once done two long days in a row when we needed to travel 2000k in 2 days. The kids were surprisingly good, but we will not do it again unless we really really have to.
The way we normally do it is 4-6 hours a day, maybe a longer one thrown in. If we are on a long drive and have already driven 3 days, we will take a morning off. We’ve found a big push on the last day works best, if it is a 5-day drive. Mostly just to get it over and done with, unless there is somewhere we really want to stop see on the way.
Throw in some stops
We love to stop at places on our way from A to B, often finding that C, D, E, F, G (see our Terma Di Satornia stop) is what made the trip memorable! We rarely shy away from a drive that’s 2 hours out of our way for attention worthy things. Turning 3-day drives into 5-6 day drives helps too if there is a lot of cool stuff in-between.
I guess the trick is to not be in a rush. It can be a real bummer finding out later that you drove past something cool. We passed Mt Etna’s most recent eruption and didn’t stop to see the spectacle. Just because you thought you were in a rush!
IDriving with kids, when you manage it properly, is mostly wonderful. When it gets tough (the kids are brewing), stop and have a break before tempers flare and things get ugly!