Surviving a Road Trip with Young Children

Now that COVID-19 restrictions are easing throughout Canada, many of us are making plans to travel again—at least within the country.  Traveling with young children can be intimidating, especially if you’re preparing for a long car ride.  My kids and I frequently drive over six hours away to visit family, so I’ve had plenty of time to sharpen my skills.  Here are some tips to make your next road trip with kids a little bit easier:

Leave as Early as Possible

I like to leave as early as seven in the morning when we go on a long drive.  Get everything you need ready the night before and get up before the kids to get yourself completely ready for the drive.  Then wake the kids, give them breakfast, and get in the car right away.  I even let my kids go in their pajamas!  Not only will you arrive at your destination earlier, but the kids will be more inclined to nap on the way.

Pack a Bag of Fun Activities and Comforting Items

Each of my kids has a backpack full of goodies waiting for them when they get in the car.  Go to the dollar store before your trip to pick up some new colouring books, notepads, and stickers.  Mess-free sensory toys like stress balls or light up wands are also a great option.  Adding new items that your children have never seen before creates excitement, and will keep them busy longer than if you only grab items they are already familiar with.  I also add a few of their favourite books, a stuffed animal, a cozy blanket, water bottle, and a sleeping mask.

Snacks, Snacks, and More Snacks

I try to stop as little as possible during the drive.  Too much getting in and out of the car increases the overall time of the trip and eventually makes the kids frustrated.  For this reason, I pack all of our food from home and only stop for bathroom breaks.  Sandwiches, apple slices, bananas, goldfish, pepperoni sticks, cheese, granola bars, and nuts are all favourites for my family.  I like to choose finger foods that won’t make a huge mess and are relatively healthy—although there is nothing wrong with rewarding (or bribing) kids with a treat, too much sugary junk on a long car ride risks upsetting little tummies.  Don’t forget to bring a pack of baby wipes to clean up sticky hands and faces on the go!

Passing on Screen-Time

I try to limit the amount of screen time my kids have, so I don’t pack tablets or other electronics for the ride.  Although using screens to distract children is definitely easier (and sometimes absolutely necessary!) it feels so much better that my kids have learned to tolerate long drives the way I did with a child—looking out the window, playing driving games, reading, and chatting with their family.

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