You are a brave soul if you can brave the thought of travelling with kids on a long road trip. We're saluting every single parent who intends to do it, and has done it ?
Road trips with young kids tend to have a bad reputation since they tend to be. . . unpredictable at times. Sometimes, they are adorable, cute and you just can't help it but fawn all over them day and night. But sometimes, these little bouncy balls of cuteness spawned from your very body can be the worst monsters you've ever faced ? And any parent willing to face them for a road trip more than a few hours has our total respect!
But that's not always the case. With proper preparation, a road trip with young kids can be a smooth journey for the entire family. It just needs some calculated steps and precise planning by the mummies and daddies ?
[P.S. Is this your first time travelling with a baby? Read this inspiring story about a mother and her experience travelling with her toddler]
To help you out with the planning, here are 22 tips that you could use to plan out your road trip for an enjoyable family trip while keeping your sanity in check at the same time
BEFORE THE TRIP:
1. Plan out your trip beforehandCredit: Andrew Neel on Unsplashed
Leave all your thoughts of having a spontaneous unplanned trip with the kids at the door. An unplanned trip with young kids is a recipe for disaster. Planning is crucial when babies, toddlers, young kids, teenagers, big groups, and the elderly are involved. Don't even think of planning on-the-go.
Of course, that doesn't mean you can't leave room for flexibility. A slight detour always adds a little adventure to a trip. Just have your base plan such as accommodations, routes, and transportation for the trip sorted out before you hit the road.
[P.S. Haven't decided where to for a family trip? Here are 7 kid-friendly resorts for an amazing family vacation]
2. Drive at night for long road trips or leave early in the morningCredit: @wendydauchez on Instagram
If you're going for a long drive, choose to start your day early in the morning before sunrise or late at night. This is simply because it'll give you a few hours of relaxation in the car while the kids are still sleepy or are falling asleep. As much as you love them, sometimes a good few hours of quiet can be inviting, especially if it's during a long car drive.
This is also the best time to have a proper and uninterrupted conversation with your partner ❤️ But remember, always make sure the driver is rested before a trip!
3. Have a paper mapCredit: Simon Migaj on Instagram
Not really for the sake of your kids, but more so for the adults. Sometimes, you just can't depend on technology. Your GPS signal may drop or your phone may run out of battery. Having a map makes it easier to deal with directions, especially if you have hungry and restless kids with you.
4. Map out your breaks during the tripCredit: Myles Tan on Unsplash
One of the most important things to do for any trip with children is to map all your break stops before you start your trip. If your usual road trip on the same route requires two stops, make it four when you have kids. With their tiny bladders, perpetually hungry stomachs, and restless legs, sometimes some fresh air can do them (and your sanity) some good.
Find stops that are fun and interesting for the young ones to visit such as playgrounds, museums, mosques, beaches or parks! Make them part of your road trip rather than just thinking of these places as a necessary stop ?
[P.S. Want to introduce your kid to mosques? Here are 6 tips to introduce your child to mosque and prayers]
5. Pack healthy (and non-messy) snacksCredit: @andheres2u on Instagram
You don't want to be stuck in traffic, or in the middle of an empty highway with hungry kids. Between the complaining and the whining, your sanity may just fly out the car window. Prepare some healthy, and preferably non-messy snacks for the little ones. However much you think you need for the road trip, add more! Sometimes traffic can be unpredictable (road accidents or cars breaking down) and you'll want some back-up snacks in case you run out. Some fruits, simple sandwiches, nuggets, or even biscuits can do the trick ? You don't have to keep them full, you just need them to be not hungry until you reach your next stop or your destination. And if your child is prone to sugar highs, remember to pack drinks and snacks that aren't high in sugar!
6. Be prepared for emergenciesCredit: @panda14 on Instagram
Having an emergency first aid kit is necessary not just for family road trips, but it should be essential for all road trips. Keep your emergency kit in a reachable place in the car rather than in the trunk. Sometimes, you need the kit immediately and may not have the time to scourge through the trunk to find it. Pack some essentials such as band-aids, paracetamol, painkillers, alcohol swabs, scissors, tweezers, safety pins, and antiseptic cream.
7. Eliminate the risk of car sicknessCredit: @jj_11der on Instagram
Nothing is more painful to watch than a carsick child. Especially if you can't do anything about it. Even many adults suffer motion sickness. If you know you or anyone in the family are prone to motion sickness, grab some over-the-counter motion sickness pills from your pharmacy. Just pop a pill an hour before your trip and you're good to go. But remember to get a doctor's permission beforehand, especially for children
8. Organize your packingCredit: @therunnersplate on Instagram
Wherever you may be, with long days or nights on the road, you'll want everyone to change into their pyjamas or fresh clothes as conveniently as possible. Pack in travel cubes to make your travels a whole lot easier. Assign a packing cube or two to each family member, and have them in different colours (or label them) so you immediately know which cube belongs to who. Being this organized allows you to find everyone's clothes and other items easily, rather than digging through the luggage bag.
Also, situations do happen when you have to dig out some stuff from the luggage while you're on the road. It could be as simple as spilt water on your kid's clothes, or maybe you accidentally packed your son's favourite blankie and now he can't sleep in the car. Having your things packed in cubes will ensure that there will be less of a mess in your luggage bag when you have to look for your things ?
9. Have emergency clothing in the carCredit: Sarah Doody on Unsplash
Speaking of spilt water on clothes, have a set of clothes ready for the kids in the car with you that is easily accessible ? This is especially true for younger children who may be messy eaters or are still knocking things over. If you need to change your child's shirt, it's as easy as pulling the top off and replacing it with a new one. Or if your baby still uses a car seat, or you need to change his or her pants instead, you can pull over by the side of the road for a quick change. Remember not to stand up or remove seat belts in a moving car! Safety is a priority.
10. Pack a potty Credit: @mora_angelica1 on Instagram
Sometimes your kid just refuses to wear diapers. And sometimes, that said kid just can't hold it in while you're on the road. So what do you do? Have a potty with you and your child can go in the car, or by the roadside. It's not an ideal situation, but it works ? And that's the nature of children, they are cute and lovable but yet still highly unpredictable. Remember to bring an unlimited supply of wet wipes and plastic bags too!
11. Charge your electronicsCredit: Fikri Rasyid on Unsplash
Have your electronics and power banks charged ? Asides from entertaining young kids with electronic devices (as much as we wouldn't want to, sometimes we just can't help it, right?), having your electronics charged is important for any trip! From calling your family and friends to update them on your whereabouts, contacting your hotel to find its exact location, or simply to find a pit stop to refuel and have a snack. We don't have to be constantly glued to our phones, but the internet and technology have become such an essential part of our lives that it's almost necessary to ensure that you have it with you at all times during a trip for safety concerns. Of course, you don't have to worry too much about bringing many extra batteries since most devices can be charged in the car if you have the right wires.
12. Some extra essentialsCredit: NeONBRAND on Unsplash
With kids on board, there is no such thing as packing light. Here are some items you may want to consider too:
- A spare car tyre for the road.
- Raincoats because umbrellas will require you to sacrifice one arm that could be used to carry your child.
- Sunscreen for those hot and sunny trips to prevent burnt kids.
- Pillows and blankets for the car ride for a more comfortable journey.
- An army Swiss knife (you never know when you might need one).
- A flashlight in case you get caught in a dark place (could be a simple as looking for a lost toy in the car during a night drive).
DURING THE TRIP:
1. Have an adult in the backseatCredit: Lars Plouggman on Flickr
Forego being a navigation wingman or wingwoman if you have space to sit in the back seat with the kids. It's much easier to keep them entertained (and controlled) by being with them at the back. Enjoy the cuddle time and play some games with them too. If your child is still in a rear-facing backseat, this becomes necessary since you can't see them properly from the front seat.
2. Use fewer electronics but don't disregard themCredit: Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplashed
Many parents would prefer that their kids spend less time on electronic devices, and we totally agree with that. But sometimes having electronic devices as a distraction can be useful. It could be during times when you and your partner are trying to navigate the roads without interruption, or maybe you just need a 15-minute nap. Having your child use an iPad or a smartphone for a short while can be handy, and sometimes even educational.
Also, if you're sitting at the back with the kids, this could be a great time to watch a movie together on a laptop ? Stock up your favourite childhood movies and let the kids experience them too.
3. Get creative with games and craftCredit: @michelleschmidt0413 on Instagram
Distract your kids from the long journey (and their electronic devices) by playing games with them in the car. Having a stack of UNO cards can be fun with kids who can play them, and for the younger kids, you can also use the UNO cards to teach basic colours and numbers! There are plenty of other games you could play in the car too such as I Spy
, bingo, and 20 questions! Have some activity books and simple board games (that don't require too many pieces or you might lose them in the car) to keep them entertained.
And don't forget to download everyone's favourite songs for the road ?
4. Mobile apps for planning and entertainmentCredit: Brad Flickinger on Flickr
Download some movies and games on your mobile devices for the times when everything else doesn't work! Between Netflix, YouTube and mobile games, you should be good to distract the young ones (at least, for a while).
5. Learn as you goCredit: @turning.another.page on Instagram
Why not make your road trip an educational one too? Download some audiobooks for kids (even better if you can relate it to your journey), or draw out a colourful minimap for them so they can learn how to read maps and apply it to your trip, or teach them the history of landmarks you see along the way. Learning goes a long way and young ones absorb information like a sponge ?
6. Make safety a priority Credit: @tinytinnaaaaa on Instagram
Ensure that you have the proper car seat for your child. As tempting as it may be, please do not remove your child from his or her car seat before pulling over by the roadside. Make sure that the car seat is a comfortable one too since the kid might be in there for more than an hour at a time. Remember to wear your own safety belt too!
7. Avoid driving more than 500km in one dayCredit: @highvisuals_ on Instagram
Simply for the safety of the driver, and the comfort of the passengers. Sometimes, it's tempting to drive to your far, far away destination in one day. If it's just you and the partner, why not? It'll be a great adventure and a great story to tell others. But with kids on tow? Probably not the best idea. Break your trips into parts. Try and keep within 400-500km drive maximum per day and stay at a hotel or a bed and breakfast for one night. Sitting in the car all day isn't just tiring for the parents, but it can be boring, dull and strenuous on the younger ones too. Some fresh air might be good for everyone ?
[P.S. Travelling with a big group of friends and/or family? Here are 9 useful tips for planning a large family vacation]
8. Avoid driving during peak traffic timeCredit: Alexander Popov on Unsplash
Don't spend more time in traffic than you have to. Road trips are fun, but once you get stuck in traffic and can't make it to a rest stop when the kids need to pee, all hell breaks loose! Try and avoid peak traffic hours or peak traffic days. Plan it all out beforehand.
9. Spoil them a little Credit: Jaro Larnos on Flickr
Let the young ones have fun! We want them to remember family trips as a fun event and not something to sulk over. Do the young ones want a snack from the convenience store? Why not? Occasionally, it can be a good thing to spoil them (just a little) ?
10. Limit liquidsCredit: mliu on Flickr
Keep your kids hydrated, but do not overhydrate them or you'll be making pit stops or changing diapers every 45 minutes! Don't even ask if they need a toilet break, just send them to go! Depending on where you are, finding clean toilets may not be an option either.
[P.S. Thinking of staying or visiting Kuala Lumpur soon? Here are 14 things you can do in KL with kids!]
Bonus: Accept the inevitableCredit: Giphy[P.S. Looking for more kid-friendly travel tips? Here are 11 useful tips for Muslim parents when travelling with kids]
Sometimes, no matter how much planning you do, things may still go wrong. Your child may catch a cold, you forgot to bring your daughter's favourite toy, or God-forbid you left the milk formulas at in the fridge at home! But don't stress out. As a parent, being stressed (at least a little bit) is already part of your daily life and there is no point adding on to it. You can always make do with shops on the road, or with some little adjustments during the trip. Enjoy your quality time with the family. You've earned it ?
[P.S. We know being a mother is not an easy feat. Here are some inspiring stories from mothers who faced Ramadan with young children]