How to Make Long Car Rides Fun and Bearable for Children and You Too

By: Tim Shank


Going on a long car trip with your children can be challenging no matter what their age. Young children and older children have trouble sitting still for long periods of time and can become bored, cranky, irritated among other things. The trick to help prevent this from happening is to prepare well in advance and be a step ahead of them.

The first thing you need to do is throw away the tight schedule of how long you think the trip should take. For instance, a seven hour trip to the beach is no longer going to take seven hours. You can expect it to take nine to ten hours depending on your child's age. Babies need to eat on a certain schedule, toddlers need to stretch their legs and children who are just learning to go to the bathroom on the potty need more trips to the potty. Be prepared to stop and just add that into the time. Look for malls, Target stores or other places that you can stop along the way where children can run and use the rest room.

Pack plenty of snacks and drinks. If you know that your toddler likes a mid-morning juice or an afternoon snack, you can potentially avoid having to stop for these things if you keep them at hand. If you are just 30 minutes from your destination and they are getting hungry for dinner, a small snack can hold them off until you check into your hotel or park the camper.

If you have a DVD player in your car, take along their favorite movies, the ones that you know will hold their attention. If you take trips on a regular basis, you might want to consider purchasing a DVD player for your car. You can also buy a new DVD for the road, but come prepared with others that they like just in case they aren't thrilled with the new DVD.

If it is a trip that will take over 12 hours, consider dividing the trip into two days. Perhaps you can leave in the afternoon, stop for dinner and get a few more hours of driving time in while they sleep. You can wake up the next morning, refreshed and ready to take on the hours of travel that you have left. If you can get up in the morning, jump out of bed and walk out the door, you can get a couple of hours of driving in before you stop for breakfast.

Bring along books, magazines, toys and car games to occupy time. Older children can play games such as the license plate game where they try to find a license plate from all 50 states. Make the toys accessible so you can easily swap them out.

The best way to make it through a car trip with children is to be prepared, be patient and be flexible. Turn the trip into an adventure and part of the vacation itself. Stop at attractions along the way. Take time to let everyone stretch their legs. Bring along plenty of things to occupy their time. If you can follow all of these tips it is sure to be a more pleasant trip for everyone.

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