Nothing says “summer” like a good old-fashioned family road trip - the highway stretched out before you, the wind in your hair, the sweet sound of your children’s voices. Those voices are just so sweet…aren’t they? After hours on the expressway and the 800th round of Baby Shark, a Big Mac churning in your belly and no rest stop in sight, those voices singing that beautiful song for the 801st time stop being so sweet (as does your mood).
But summer is here and that road trip is waiting, so don’t let the inevitable chaos and fast food indigestion deter your adventurous dreams. Pack that car up and hit the road this July with these five parenting hacks to make that trip a little less Griswold, a little more grrrreat!
As romantic as it sounds to hit the road with an open agenda, if you are traveling with kids, it’s best to save the spontaneity for later (like when they have moved out of the house). For now, do not charge off into the great unknown with children in tow. Instead, carefully tiptoe into the very well-known, intensely researched itinerary ahead.
And then you need to take it one step further and make sure to have a solid Plan B in the event your initial schedule gets foiled. Intent on spending the entire day at the zoo? Not in the middle of a thunderstorm, you aren’t, so have the back-up plan ready. No one wants to waste the day searching for something to do, debating the best option when their first preference doesn’t pan out. Roll with the punches by quickly flipping to your prearranged Plan B when Plan A goes bust.
Stock up on loads of edible goodness before your next family adventure as tasty morsels serve multiple purposes out on the road. Healthy, whole foods do a great job of staving off hunger when the next restaurant is miles away. Load a cooler with some of these kid-and-calorie-friendly options, and you might be able to skip the next Burger King stop all together.
And what snaps a kid back in order faster than a highly coveted treat? Nothing, that’s what. “Whoever stays quiet the longest gets a theater sized bag of Sour Patch Kids,” and all is silent. It’s that easy (until thirty minutes after the candy’s gone and the sugar high sets in). That half hour, though, is pure bliss when you’ve been on the road since dawn and your positive outlook has turned as sour as those gummy treats – so don’t be stingy. Pack a bag filled with all the dreamy deliciousness you can think of, but be sure to keep it under wraps. The only thing better than having a chocolate covered Rice Krispie treat is having one you never saw coming.
At some point on your 1,500 mile road trip (especially after all those candy-coated rewards), someone is going to have to use the facilities when there are no facilities to be found. This unfortunate circumstance, though inconvenient, is inevitable, so be prepared with your very own travel potty.
With lots of options and low price points, it’s honestly crazy not to keep one of these handy little receptacles in your car. And while most travel toilet choices are geared toward children, you’ll find a few adult-friendly options out there, as well; however, with a strong set of thigh muscles and decent balance, most moms and dads can utilize the kids’ versions in a pinch.
Embrace your inner child this summer by busting out the tried and true license plate game, Rubik’s Cube and pad of MadLibs on your next family journey. We survived our youth without the aid of a Nintendo Switch, and believe it or not, so can our kids. Ebay has a variety of throwback activities that will get you excited to jump right into the fun, too. Who doesn’t love a solid game of Hi-Q?
These pastimes don’t have to factor into your travel budget either. There are tons of free, printable options like the ones on TripSavvy for those lacking the money or time to order up the vintage entertainment. And don’t forget that plain old deck of cards sitting in your junk drawer. A quick game of Go Fish or War is fun and easy to teach even the littlest travelers.
This is less “parenting hack” and more parenting perspective, but either way, this final tip is the bottom line to having a great family vacation. Things are going to go wrong – they just are – so expect it. Your kids aren’t going to be perfect angels at the restaurant. Someone is going to puke in the dark of night from the backseat. The line for the Ferris wheel will take over an hour and right when you reach the front, the middle kid is going to change his mind. Ferris wheels are scary.
But if we head into our journey understanding that frustrations are bound to happen, these minor hiccups hold less power over us. When we embrace a trip that we know will have great moments but are still open-minded and honest enough to expect those not-so-great moments, too, then maybe, just maybe, we can make it back home in one mentally stable piece.
Summer is in full swing, and we don’t want to sell ourselves short by chickening out of what could be a really amazing vacation. Before we know it, that school bell will ring, beckoning our kiddos out of our arms and back to school, so make the most of this summer on an epic family road trip. With these parenting pointers and a little luck, it might just be your best adventure yet!
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