By Cammie Jones

Road Trip! It sounds so fun and exciting. However, when it comes to riding in a car for more than an hour or two with small children, the thought of it can increase your blood pressure by a zillion! If you want to survive a long trip with your kids, then read on for some great ideas to keep those little sweethearts occupied.

1. The Obvious – Electronics!
Even if you are one who likes to limit and control how much time your child watches television or plays on his or her tablet or Ipad, this is not the time to strictly enforce those rules.  A trip with young children is all about peace and survival. So, whip out those DVDs, load a few good movies onto their mobile device and do whatever it takes to keep the “Are we there yet?” statements to a minimum. Don’t forget the headphones!

2. Snacks (but the right ones, of course)
Getting bored in the car also means the complaining will start. Make sure to have plenty of healthy snacks in the car to dole out as needed.  Apples, individually packaged snacks, trail mix and small waters will help. Try to limit the sugary snacks and sodas so that your child’s blood sugar level will be level. Don’t forget a trash bag, napkins and wet wipes to keep everyone and everything as neat as possible.

3. Games, Games, Games
There are many travel games to play to help pass the time.  Travel bingo, Uno, Old Maid and really any card game will make the ride a little more enjoyable. If you don’t want to add any more stuff to an overpacked car, a good old-fashioned “I Spy” or “The License Plate Game” will work too.  Whoever comes up with the most states after an hour will get a small prize, which brings me to #4.

4. Surprises
As a child, we would travel 14 hours to visit our grandparents, all the way to Wisconsin. This was way before DVD players, tablets or cell phones! My mom would give us a “prize” every hour or so. It could be a new set of crayons and coloring book, silly putty, a small snack bag of M & M’s or anything that interests your children.  Prizes help encourage good behavior and your kids will look forward to counting down the minutes or hours till the next prize.

5. Name that Tune
Have each child choose a radio or XM station to listen to or a personal playlist that the entire car can enjoy. Pick who gets to share their pick first and allot a time to listen to it together. This will add some interest to the ride and allows everyone the chance to enjoy the music they like best.  You can set some ground rules ahead of time about length of time on each child’s music choice or more important things like clean, family friendly music only.

6. Sleep!
A little Dramamine is okay to give your child if naps are a must, especially if you are traveling early in the morning,  late at night or if your child is just not a good traveler. Of course, it’s always a good idea to check with you pediatrician’s office first. Be sure to set up a comfortable spot for your child with her favorite pillow, blanket or sleeping bag to mimic a peaceful place to rest. Trying to keep noise to a minimum will also help set the tone for quiet time.

7. Short Stretch Breaks
No matter the type of entertainment you are planning, taking short breaks to stretch your legs is very important. Stop at a rest area to use the facilities and let the kids run around a bit. Pack a picnic lunch or snack that you can enjoy outside of the vehicle. A little fresh air will help everyone regroup and get refreshed before climbing back into the car to hit the road again.

8. Learning Tools
This may sound boring, but why not print out a map of your trip from the internet and as you pass each city or major river, have your child mark it off the map? Many moons ago, on a long road trip to Baton Rouge, my child’s first grade teacher did just that. As we passed from state to state, we had a sheet with fun facts and information about that state and what rivers and capitols each were known for. It definitely helped pass the time and the kids learned a little bit too!

Remember your children are only young once so this too shall pass. Humor is something that will keep everyone in check and your blood pressure at a normal rate.  Just sit back and enjoy the ride.

This article appears in the May 2018 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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