We've all been there - overheating car, screaming kids, miles from the next town, with a GPS that keeps telling you to "turn right at the next intersection", despite the fact that it looks like a goat track going nowhere - in short, the motoring meltdown from hell. While there's not much you can do to avoid car breakdowns or sick children, there is plenty you can do to make sure everyone arrives at your destination with their sanity, good humour, and all bodily appendages, intact.
My husband after a bad road trip. Don't arrive at your destination feeling like this. Image from Morguefile.
There's an old military adage known as the 7 Ps, more often euphemistically referred to as the 5 Ps: Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance (you can either figure out the missing 2 Ps yourself or check here for enlightenment). And if it's good enough for a military campaign against the enemy, it's certainly good enough for road trips with kids, God bless them.
Tip 1 - Know Where You are Going and How to Get There Seems kind of obvious, huh? But taking the time to plan your route will save you many headaches. You can use Google Maps where you can input your starting point and destination and have a route planned for you or check it out on your satellite navigation system of choice. Better yet, involve the kids and sit down with your street directory or maps, and have a fun, geography lesson where you can all laugh at amusing place names (Nar Nar Goon or Wonglepong anyone?) and get a real feel for the journey.
Tip 2 - Plan Your Rest Stops Now, this doesn't need to be done with military precision, but think about things like the ages of your children, how often they will need run around time or toilet stops, where can you stop for a much needed caffeine hit, and when you may want to change over driving duties. Don't be caught with having to stop on the side of the road when you can plan a mini-break in a shady park with facilities. Your eardrums and their bladders will thank you for it.
I'm not a list-maker as a rule but we'd never get to our holiday destination with everything we need if I wasn't like Santa - making a list and checking it twice. Encourage your kids to make lists too, subject to your supreme right of veto, of course. It helps them to feel involved at the start.
Tip 2 - Check Requirements For Your Accommodation Does your beachside unit supply bedding and towels or will you need to supply your own or rent them? Does it have full cooking facilities? Do they provide hair dryers, or cots for the little ones? Ask the right questions and know the answers so you can pack appropriately.
Tip 3 - Pack a separate bag for an overnight stay If your journey requires an overnight stay pack one bag that has the pyjamas, toiletries, and change of clothes needed by everyone in the family. This will save you pulling out carefully packed luggage and searching every bag for toothpaste, hairbrushes or the teddy bear that Miss Three needs to get to sleep, only to have to pack it all back in again.
On The Road
Bananas are great portable snack food. Image from Morguefile.
From a road trip point of view, snap-lock bags have to be the greatest thing since disposable nappies. Use them for packing small snacks of fruit, nuts, muesli bars etc. and having some treats is not a bad idea on a long trip. But everything in moderation so make sure you control when they're handed out. Sugar-induced highs and long periods in a confined space are a recipe for road trip rage.
Tip 2 - Drink
Confine in-car liquid refreshment to water in spill-proof containers. Take a small cold bag with other beverages like juice or milk that can be easily accessed on your pit stops. It's also good to have a thermos with tea or coffee, so that it isn't necessary to stop at a shop when the call of caffeine hits you.
Tip 3 - Activities
By all means have a DVD player for entertainment over long, possibly boring sections of your journey. But have some rules about DVD times, game times, song times and quiet times, that everyone understands before you set out. Be a little flexible - this is supposed to be a holiday.
Use snap-lock bags for decks of cards, small toys, travel versions of games like Connect 4, colouring or puzzle books and pencils. This is another good way of getting kids involved by allowing them to select the contents of their special bags. Mark each bag with the child's name to avoid confusion.
Play games that involve everyone and don't be too serious about them. Games like Twenty Questions, I Spy and the number plate game may be old but they can still be a lot of fun. And don't let the fact that your four year old can't spell stop you from playing I Spy. Some of the most fun we ever had on road trips was trying to guess "cloud" from "something beginning with M".
You can find some great ideas for games or activities at Mom's Minivan. You can even print instructions and game boards. From our personal road trip experience I have to make honourable mention of the car cricket game, which kept our kids amused on many trips.
Arrive safe and happy at your holiday destination. Image from Morguefile.
So, there you have it. If you follow these tips you can go a long way to ensuring a Peaceful, Positive, Painless, Pleasant Pilgrimage to your own Particular Paradise. Now, there's a new spin on the 7 Ps.