(Article contributed by Jessica Cribbs. Read more about our writers here.)
When I tell people that I drive cross country (from California to Michigan) with my kids every summer, they laugh. “Youʼre crazy. I could never do that. How do you do it!?”
Road trips with kids are not only possible, but probably one of the most memory making experiences you can have with your kids. Ok, every moment isnʼt going to be full of sunshine and rainbows, but I stand by my firm belief that car trips with your family are spectacular.
Before you do pack up and head out, feel free to read these 5 tips I have for you.
5. Prevent Motion Sickness
This is the part where I tell you to drug your children. Iʼm only half joking. I, myself, am a terrible passenger in any car due to my innate ability to vomit and make people never want me to be in their car again. Car sickness is the worst. Well, probably the worst part of any road trip for people like me. Preventing your kids from getting sick is key.
Depending on the age of your little ones, there are a couple of options for managing car sickness. And Iʼm going to interject that you should always talk to your pediatrician before listening to the advice of a blogger. (Just so you know, Iʼve talked to my pediatrician and Iʼve driven across the country with my kids 16 times. 16. Not a typo.) Hereʼs my tip: Benadryl.* This pink antihistamine is like gold when it comes to prevention. Every day I drive, the kids know they get 1 teaspoon of the pink stuff before we leave. Now that the kids are getting older, my doctor has suggested managing their car sickness with a half dose of Dramamine or something similar, but my first choice is still Benadryl. Benadryl, be warned, sometimes has the reverse effect on kids. For some, it makes sleepy. Others it wires with more energy than they had before…and you thought that wasnʼt possible. It is. However…no car sickness. There are of course, other methods, such as the travel wrist bands and ginger treats. But for me and my family, car sickness has ben managed with a regular dose of Benadryl.
4. Snacks, Movies, Snacks & More Snacks
Road trips are the time you throw all of your food rules out of the window. All of them. I mean it. Donʼt get all “you have to wait another hour” or “You JUST ate, you canʼt be hungry” stuff. Road trips are the time to say, ”Here, just keep this extra apple, fruit strip, bag of goldfish and ginormous box of cheese puffs close by.” Now let me be clear. I do not condone feeding kids junk. Iʼm not a fan of junk. But, I am also NOT a fan of losing my mind. You can get creative with snacks, healthy or otherwise, but be sure you have plenty. I mean so many, you will get back home from the road trip with enough stuff to put in the cupboard. Do not get stingy on snack foods while road trippin.ʼ Same thing goes for the movies.
Borrow new movies for the road from friends, get $5 deals at the store. Get a series like Loony Tunes or Little House. I donʼt do a lot of screen time in our home, but that rule is squashed the minute we leave. Having said that, I do chose to have down times where the movies go off so there are no distractions. It wouldnʼt be a road trip if you didnʼt completely ʻboreʼ your kids by making them stare at the terribly beautiful scenery out of the window.
3. Hit The Dollar Store
One of my go-toʼs when traveling in the car with the kids is having a secret stash of emergency toys. I let my kids pack a backpack to keep by their feet throughout the duration of the trip and it has their mp3, clipboards, pencils, crayons, books, travel board games, etc. But what it doesnʼt have are the really inexpensive toys and games I secretly bought at the Dollar Store before we left. The Sanity Gifts. Sometimes, I even wrap them. It can be anything! You can gift wrap a stick, call it a magic wand and tell them to be Harry Potter for the next 30 minutes. Make it a surprise thing theyʼve never seen and itʼs magic. Pun intended. Iʼll grab new books, markers, paper, Mad Libs, small figurines, anything. If you are in a long period and nothing is satisfying them, ask them to hold out for 30 minutes, set the timer and reveal a new surprise! Those 30 minutes just buys time because, letʼs face it, thatʼs all youʼve got in a car with kids. Time.
2. Set Your Expectations Low
I mean it. Low. You and your spoused plan to hit the 400 mile mark today? Letʼs just call that a “nice idea”. You may hit it, you may not. And if you do hit it, youʼll probably have to stop every 2 hours or less for potty breaks, stretching of the legs, changing of the diapers or just to take a break from each other. Hereʼs the truth, most of our kids are not accustomed to riding in a car for a long period of time. Know that going in. Give them a grace period where you know theyʼre going to whine and complain and say theyʼd rather be at home. It just is. But…when they get used to being in the car, (and sometimes itʼs the second day), it gets exciting. Oh and donʼt expect that the kids will be happy and not fight. They will. Donʼt expect that you wonʼt lose your temper. You will. This is like going into battle when youʼre sleep training or potty training or asking the kids to try new foods. Just be patient. It will work out okay.
I mean it. Place your hands on the car or directly on your husbands’ face and say ʻHeavenly Father give me patience and understanding for the sounds, screams and noises my children will surely make. May they not drive me to threaten to pull the car over. May my spouse and I not argue over which way to turn. Give me strength Lord to endure the questions and the siblings fighting and the people tailgating. Lord, let there be no vomit and if there is, please help me to remember to have a bag close by. Father God, be with us today as there may be tears and tantrums and leaky diapers. Lord, be with us and guide our path safely.”
All joking aside, prayer is our number one go-to. As I drive cross country every year with my kids, I am floored by the number of roadside memorials we see that mark the place where people, sometimes in groups of 3 or 4, have perished. Take every one as a reminder. Safety is key. Donʼt drive distracted or tired. The co-pilot (and that could be you) should be responsible for everything with the kids. Let the driver, drive. (That could be you.)
I find myself praying continuously throughout our trips. Have I lost my temper? Yes, I sure have. Have I lost my voice screaming at my kids? Iʼd be lying if I said I didnʼt. Do I learn something about myself every single trip. Yes, I humbly do.
This country is big. Itʼs so beautiful. Get in the car and take a trip.
Pray for safety. Pray for patience and most importantly, pray that God reveals something to you about yourself and your family you didnʼt know before. God wants to use your family time to bless you. Even if it is to discover that you all secretly love cheese puffs.
*Make sure to consult your pediatrician about the best way to manage car sickness in children.
Photo credit: Emily