MomsGetReal Guest Contributor Amy Thomson

Forget bonding; family road trips are about surviving. Unless you live in the Brady Bunch, you cannot reasonably expect your road trip to go off without a hitch. In fact, you may be planning a road trip, not to spend extra time with your family, but to save money on getting yourself to and from your destination. If you are planning to spend hours or days in a car with your family, arm yourself with these essential survival tips:

Keep the Kids Up Late and Leave Early

Road TripDo you really want to leave for your cross-country trip at three in the morning? Probably not. But, if you think about it, it makes sense. The earlier you leave, the more tired the kids are going to be. The more tired the kids are, the more likely they are to sleep in the backseat. Keep your kids up late the night before you leave, and leave in the wee hours of the morning. Throw pillows and blankets in the back of the car, and let the kids sleep as long as they like. You can easily knock four or five hours out of your trip before they wake up.

For most parents, keeping the kids up late means keeping yourself up late. It’s not safe to drive on a few hours sleep, so do this: Take shifts driving. Whoever is going to drive first goes to bed early. Whoever is going to be behind the wheel for the second shift gets to stay up late with the kids.

Charge Up the Devices

It’s nice to think that the family is going to play games and sing songs in the car. The reality is not as lovely. Your family is going to bicker, argue and grow tired of each other. Before you slide into the car, make sure that your family’s electronic devices are charged. A fully-charged iPad can keep your kids entertained for hours. While you’re at it, make sure you pack the car charger and a set of earbuds for each device. There are mobile charges that you can buy that will keep your devices running on full power for your entire trip. You may think that you don’t want your kids with their faces stuck to a digital screen, but you’ll be happy when you realize how much more smoothly your trip goes.

Bribe The Kids

Teachers know the power of bribery. It’s time to steal a tip from your kids’ teachers and use a system of rewards. Buy a pack of colored clothespins. At the beginning of your trip, assign each child a color, and clip clothespins to the sun visor or to your shirt. If your child misbehaves, the clip in his color is taken off. If he is well-behaved, his clip stays firmly attached. Remove and attach the clips as needed. Whoever has a clip remaining at the next rest stop gets a treat.

Keep in mind that this system of bribery works best on small children. You’ll have to get more creative with your older kids. Then again, your older kids are more likely to behave.

Road Trip

Stop Often

Speaking of rest stops, plan these into your itinerary. Do not wait until you and the kids are tired and cranky before you pull over. Plan on stopping at least every two hours of drive time. Stretch your legs for at least 15 minutes before you get back into the car. Stop for 30 to 45 minutes for meal times.

When you plan stops along your route, you are less likely to feel as though you need to hurry to get back into the car. Depending on the age of your kids, you may need to stop more frequently than every two hours. Likewise, if you or your spouse has joint problems, back issues or eye strain, you will want to stop every 60 minutes or so.

Get the Car In Order

Don’t pull out of your driveway until your car is in order. What does this mean? It means that it is tuned-up, fully gassed, and that you have the right insurance. You never want to break down during a road trip, you will never live it down if you run out of gas, and you certainly don’t want to be involved in an accident without the right insurance. One mishap with your vehicle will ruin your entire trip.

A family road trip doesn’t have to be something that you dread. While nothing will make your road trip akin to heaven on earth, there are simple things that you can do to make sure that it isn’t the worst idea you’ve ever had. When done correctly, you’ll find that a family road trip is at least marginally enjoyable.


Author Amy Thomson blogs for car insurance. Going on a road trip with the family soon? Check out her other articles at Twitter @VroomVroomAmy.