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My stepsons live in a different part of the country than we do, so we routinely make very long road trips with three kids, two dogs, and a small car. Here are a few tips that I have learned that make the drive a lot easier.
1. Bring entertainment. We load movies onto the iPad and Kindle before we go, and the kids have handheld gaming systems that keep them entertained for hours. If there aren’t enough gadgets to go around, there can be fighting, but if they each have their own, these guarantee hours of quiet. We also bring a few favorite toys along for them to play with, but have found that if we pack too many they fight over them. A couple of notebooks or coloring pages and crayons are also good entertainment.
2. Pack plenty of snacks and food. Not only can it get expensive to feed an entire family on the road, it isn’t always convenient to stop when someone is hungry. Pack a bag or cooler with some finger foods like crackers, raw veggies, and fruit snacks. Also, make sure each family member has a water bottle — although you may want to ration the water consumption for younger kids to avoid constant bathroom breaks.
3. Find the rest areas along the way. I have an app on my phone that alerts us as to where all of the rest stops are along our route and what amenities they offer. It’s much easier and faster to stop at a rest stop for bathroom breaks and to stretch legs than stopping at a gas station, and rest areas are generally cleaner and better maintained. Some rest areas have accommodations for pets, and some do not, so
4. Get your vehicle serviced before you leave. Nothing makes a long drive longer than car problems. Have your oil changed and get a general inspection of your vehicle before you ever leave on your road trip. Also, check your insurance policy to see if you have roadside assistance and make sure you keep the number handy.
5. Use a GPS. Whether you use an app on your phone or an actual GPS, not only will it help you stay on course, it will give you a time estimate of when you will arrive at your destination. Make sure you bring a car charger for whatever electronic device you are using so you don’t have to worry about the battery dying.
A little careful planning can keep a road trip fun, and at least bearable!