For some parents, the idea of a long family road trip brings on feelings of dread. Such excursions have gone awry before, and while they hope this next trip will be different, they’re not optimistic. They picture a lot of complaining and bickering and exhaustion before they even arrive at their destination.
If this sounds familiar, here are some strategies to try the next time your family is heading out on an adventure, whether simply going to Grandma’s house or venturing across the country.
Set Behavior Expectations Ahead of Time
This is an often overlooked step, but sitting your kids down for an open-hearted discussion about what you expect from them and what they can expect from you and the trip you’re about to take can alleviate much aggravation.
Try to communicate when you’ll be stopping for snacks, how much time (if any) you’ll allow them to watch a movie or utilize digital devices, how long the trip will take, and the route you’ll be taking. Encourage them to think of ways they can plan to enjoy the ride.
Enjoy the Journey
You’ve likely put a lot of thought into what you’ll do when you arrive at your destination, but don’t discount the opportunity that the journey itself presents. If you’re traveling over a distance that will require some stops, identify enjoyable places along the way to linger and enjoy as a family. It doesn’t have to be just about food and fuel, and you may not have to be in such a hurry.
Rather than maintaining focus on the destination and just plowing through the trip, begin enjoying the experience the moment you set off. After all, life’s a journey, not a destination.
Create Individual Travel Binders
Give each child a binder loaded with supplies to create during the journey. It can serve as a part on-the-go-scrapbook, part vacation activity book. Keep everything in one place by adding different blank papers, a three-hole pencil case full of colored pencils and dry-erase markers, stickers, and sheet protectors. Pocket inserts for collecting postcards and treasures along the way are also fun.
Find online printables that relate to your destination. Insert maps and activity sheets into the sheet protectors for use with dry erase markers. Encourage free creativity as your children experience new things. If they have their own cameras, they can design pages that will feature future printed pictures.
Other fun activities are license plate and state bird checklists. You can also make your own list of landmarks you’ll see along the way.
Listen to Audiobooks Together
Rather than having the kids disconnect from you and watch a movie with their headphones on, or allowing everyone to be individually focused on their devices, try listening to an audiobook as a family. This is a great way to introduce your kids to excellent literature.
Additionally, everyone will be able to focus on the story while not missing what’s happening out the window. My family has enjoyed many, and “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis is still our favorite.
Stock the Car
Be sure you’ve got all you need for a smooth ride, including a well-stocked first aid kit, a flashlight and batteries, plenty of drinks and snacks, books, a place to throw away garbage, hand wipes, paper towels, pillows, blankets, favorite stuffed animals, and any other comfort items that will help your kids along the way.
Sprinkle In Some Buffer Time and a Boatload of Patience
As you map out your itinerary, be sure not to schedule every minute so strictly that veering off schedule will cause you and your family angst. You will veer off schedule. Some things will not go according to plan.
If you allow for plenty of extra time, you’ll be open to serendipity and the experience will be a calmer and more enjoyable one for all. Kick perfectionism to the curb and enjoy the blessing of this time together with your family.