Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Mom’s Guide To Making Family Road Trips Safer, More Enjoyable & Less Stressful

When it comes to taking family road trips, this time of year - the festive season - is the most popular time for packing up the car and driving halfway across the country to spend time with your nearest and dearest. Of course, part of celebrating the holidays is traveling to be with your family and friends, something which you most probably enjoyed doing pre-kids. (Adult road trips can be a lot of fun, can’t they?)


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However, now that you’re a parent, you most probably dread family road trips. The never-ending toilet breaks because everyone needs to go to the bathroom at different times, the constant moans of ‘are we there yet?’, and the arguments caused by boredom can make family road trips incredibly stressful. The problem with getting stressed out while traveling is that it can make your journey less safe. Did you know that one of the main causes of car accidents is a lack of concentration? So it’s important that on car journeys, the driver is not distracted by bored or arguing children. (We’ll talk more about this below.)


Although traveling a long distance with kids in tow does come with some level of stress, it doesn’t have to be a nightmare. How enjoyable your family road trips depend on how organized you are when it comes to planning them, as well as the steps that you take to make them more enjoyable. With that in mind, below are some tips and suggestions for making family road trips more enjoyable, less stressful, and most importantly, safer.

Plan your route in advance


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When it comes to taking a road trip, there’s nothing more stressful than trying to navigate the route while driving, especially when you have little ones in the back making all sorts of noises. So it’s best to plan your route in advance, to ensure that the journey goes as smoothly as possible. Even if you plan on using a satnav to get you to where you want to go, it’s a good idea to also print our travel instructions, just in case your satnav stops working, or you lose GPS signal. This might seem unnecessary, but when you are traveling with kids, the last thing you want is to end up getting lost and having to spend ages trying to get back to the route that you were meant to be on. So, like the Boy Scout’s say, it’s always best to be prepared.


Ensure everyone is safely belted in


One of the most important things when it comes to travel is safety - safety should always come first. With that in mind, it’s important to ensure that before you start the journey, everyone is safely belted in. It’s also important to make sure that you are aware of the rules and regulations in place in terms of car seats. The law states that babies and children under four-years-old must ride in a car seat at all times. Then, once they turn four they can then travel on a booster seat - they must use a booster seat until they turn eight-years-old, weight over 80 pounds, or are taller than four foot nine inches. In order to be safe, your children’s car seats must be undamaged. If you are in need of new car seats or booster seats, it’s important to take the time to read up on the best ones. The good news is that websites like Baby Seat Reviews, make it much easier to find the best and safest car seats for your kids, so they’re worth taking the time to use to do your research. As well as safety, it’s also important to take comfort into account. If you want your children to be comfortable on car journeys, picking a car seat or booster seat that’s comfortable and well-designed is a must.


Pack each child a ‘car bag’


To help keep your kids entertained in the car, pack each child a ‘car bag’. Fill this with all sorts of fun activities to keep them occupied, as well as a selection of snacks and drinks. For activities, a coloring book and pencils, word searches, Sudoku puzzles, crosswords, and small toys and games tend to work well. Travel versions of Connect 4, Who’s That, and Monopoly can be ideal for keeping little ones occupied while traveling. Little toys, such as toy cars, mini dolls - anything small really - are ideal for keeping your little one’s busy while on journeys. It’s also a good idea to pack each child a lap tray so that they have a surface to lean their coloring on, and also to eat off of. As for travel snacks, anything that’s in a packet and won’t cause mess is ideal. Dried fruit, flapjacks, crisps, crackers, yogurt coated raisins, etc. all make ideal travel snacks. As for drinks, water is the best option, as fizzy drinks and sugar-packed juices can cause kids to become hyper.


Find ways to burn their energy


Why do kids have boundless amounts of energy? 15-minutes in the car and they’re like jumping jacks. To help your little ones burn up some of their energy, pack activities for when you’re at the service station. When you get out of the car for a rest break, give the kids some activities to help them burn some of that energy. For this, skipping ropes, chalk for drawing hopscotch lines, bouncy balls, hula hoops, and footballs are ideal. Encourage your kids to spend 10 minutes being active - this should help to reduce the amount of energy that they have and make the rest of the journey more enjoyable.


Put rules in place


Kids screaming or being too loud while in the car is incredibly dangerous as this kind of behavior can distract the driver. Before you head off, explain to your kids that this type of behavior will not be tolerated and that there will be punishments should it occur. To encourage your kids to behave while in the car, make a travel star chart and give them a start for every 10 miles that they behave for. Then, at the end of the journey reward them with a little something - only if they have behaved, of course. This doesn’t have to be anything big; it can be anything, from a small toy to a sweet treat - it doesn’t matter what it is, just as long as it’s a reward.


Play road games


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Road games are a good way to keep your little ones occupied while on a journey. However, after a while kids tend to get bored of them. To make playing road games more enjoyable, incentivise them. So, say you’re playing the number plate game and trying to find a vehicle from every state. Each time a new state is seen, give the child that spotted it a star. Then, at the end of the journey, the child with the most stars gets a prize. Incentives make playing road games more enjoyable and should make the kids happier to play these types of games for longer.


Schedule stops in advance


Before you head off, make sure to plan out where you will be stopping. Make a list of all the places that you plan on stopping on the way, and how far apart each place is from the last. That way, when one of your little ones asks when the next stop is going to be, you’ve got the answer. Of course, it’s also a good idea to put together a list of all the rest stops on your route, so that if there’s a bathroom emergency, you know where the nearest services are and don’t need to panic. Sometimes, kids all of a sudden need the toilet and then it’s a mad panic to find somewhere to stop before an accident occurs. So knowing where all of the nearest rest stops are is a must - there are lots of apps that map out all of the services on a certain route, perhaps one of these would be worth downloading?


A tablet can be life-saving


If your children have tablets, make sure to pack them. Tablets can be life-saving for car journeys as there is so much that your children can do on them. From playing games to watching movies and reading books, tablets are great for keeping the kids entertained. If you have a family tablet, download some movies onto it and let your kids share it while you travel. To avoid arguments, it’s probably best to say no game playing, use the tablet just for movies. It’s also a good idea to buy an in-car charging cable, so that should someone’s tablet die, you can recharge it.


So there you have it, a mom’s guide to making family road trips safer, more enjoyable and less stressful. Admittedly, it’s impossible to take all of the stress out of family road trips, but by taking note of the tips above, you can make trips that little bit better and reduce some of the stress that tends to come with them.

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