Let's Roll!

How to Make Road Trips Stress Free for Mom and Dad

Article by Dawn Thornton

Photography by Ben Shanks and Provided

Originally published in SOFU Lifestyle

Since mid-March, half the world has sacrificed absorbing sun rays and sometimes their sanity, by not leaving their homes or neighborhoods due to the current Coronavirus pandemic. For months, hotels were closed, beaches were banned, and cars were parked, while we stocked up on masks, sanitizers, wipes, and any cleaning products left on bare store shelves. Now that many of us aren’t as apprehensive to escape our four walls and embark on a road trip, there are a few things that could make the adventure more memorable and less maddening.

1.     Include the kiddos

Permit the little ones to participate from beginning to end. Even toddlers have opinions, and specific ones. Selecting their favorite things or soliciting their opinions on decisions allows them to feel included and partially in control.

2.     Keep it comfy

No matter the time of day we get on the road, my daughter loves to slide into her most comfortable pajamas that are roomy, airy, and cute. Being confined to a booster seat for hours won’t be fun, so what she wears is important. When she’s not in her PJs, a loose shirt and stretchy pants takes their place. She is past taking daily naps but always takes advantage of the monotony of riding, to catch some Zzzs. That means she’ll also need her neck pillow and a plush blanket to snuggle.

3.     Snack time

After the shut-eye, a snack and drink are usually on deck. Alternating healthy snacks like raw carrots and granola bars with potato chips and chocolate cookies is a fair compromise. This method should help lessen meltdowns surrounding the candy the children will beg for and minimize the sugar rush while confined to a vehicle. It also helps to prepare the driver’s edibles first so their eyes stay focused on the road and their hands aren’t fumbling about.

4.     Bathroom breaks

If a bathroom break is needed, opt for a popular hotel on the next exit instead of a sketchy gas station. Hotel bathrooms tend to be cleaner, and their grounds may have grass for running and light play when everyone needs to stretch their legs. You might even be able to grab a sucker at the front desk. Don’t forget your mask when going inside.  

5.     Easy entertainment

Consider packing a screened device but relax the rules for 90 minutes (the typical length of a child’s movie). Surprising them with a new flick may even score more points than the junk food. But don’t just make it a free-for-all with the electronics; swap out the handheld gadget for crayons, construction paper, and a sketch book when the movie credits begin to scroll.

6.     Settling in

Once the children are content, both the driver and passenger can get comfortable. Give the driver first dibs on the radio so they’ll enjoy being behind the wheel. The passenger can grab a good book, listen to a music playlist, or whatever piques their interest. It may even be as simple as engaging the driver with captivating conversation. If the trip is lengthy, be prepared to take the reins if the driver grows tired.

7.     Declutter the car

Take time to declutter the vehicle prior to leaving home. Only take items you need for this particular excursion. Non-useful items can accumulate and become overwhelming, sometimes causing anxiety. Remember to nab a few small trash bags from home for easy clean-up of scrap paper, snack bags, and candy wrappers.

8.     Pack your patience

Lastly, the most important item to always remember when preparing for a family road trip, is to pack plenty of patience. We all know that everything goes right none of the time. Be prepared to be unprepared. There will inevitably be delays, setbacks, blow outs, and meltdowns. But even those become cherished memories too.

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