We packed our two young boys, two fluffy dogs, my pregnant self, and my adventurous husband into our mostly roadworthy minivan. We drove from Canada to Texas and continued heading south. We spent three months exploring Mexico and didn’t stop until we hit the west coast and decided to go north. After all, it was time for us to head home and have a baby!
“That’s a lot of driving!” you say. Why yes, yes it was. But, we had a few tricks up our sleeves and revelations along the way. When writing these tips, I had Mexico on my mind. But, you could apply these eight great road trip tips to any destination.
Break the driving into 4-hour segments
My kids can handle being in the car for about 3 hours. After that, they just need to get out and move. There were times when we drove 6-8 hours, but it was a long haul for everyone involved!
Seize every opportunity to stop for food and snacks
It’s all about the food! Keep a bag of food on hand and stop for snacks whenever possible. (Especially since you won’t always know if food will be available when you need it.)
Stopping for food allows everyone to get a cool drink, stretch and rejuvenate. Take advantage of road-side fruit stands and mini markets. We also love the Mexican version of food “to go,” which involves people offering you delicious snacks when your car is stopped at a light (or at the roadblocks they created!)
Let them out to pee whenever possible
If you don’t seize the opportunity to pee at every identifiable public toilet, you will be sorry. Very sorry. And since you will never find enough of those said toilets, and because your children will swear they, “Don’t need to go!” please repeat after me. “ I solemnly swear to ALWAYS, without fail, keep a wad of toilet paper in my pocket.” You also might want to read up on the latest version of, How to Poop in the Woods. Just trust us on this one.
If they are sleeping – drive like a bat out of hell and ignore items 1-3 above
Enough said. Unless you have an emergency or extremely tired children, never, ever stop the car when they are sleeping. Instead, remember these are your moments of bliss, so bask in the peaceful silence and enjoy the scenery. Now, about that scenery…
Never take the scenic route – they don’t care and you WILL pay.
I know it is tempting. You want to enjoy the journey, soak in the landscape, and remark on the flora and fauna as you continue your vagabond adventure. But, really, your kids just want to be out of the car.
Luckily we discovered this fact early in our trip. We had been driving in the Mexican desert for about 5 hours and were enjoying the shapes and impressive size of the beautiful Saguaro Cactus. My son suddenly shouted, “Hey look, there’s a cactus!” We looked at each other with that jaw dropped, nose scrunched look, the one that says, “Huh?” and we had an epiphany. They don’t see 98% of the scenery!
Try to secure your next sleeping arrangement before dinner.
At the end of a long day, it feels so good to know where you will hang your head. Your kids will want to jump on the bed a few times, play hide and seek in your new room and eat. If you found a place with a pool, they will want to swim in it – immediately. So, leave some time in your evening for eating a good meal and settling in.
Stay in one location a minimum of 3 nights
Kids need a break before you ask them to get back in the car for another day of driving. You need to give them enough time to experience temporary amnesia and forget that they hate driving. Yah, well, it never worked for us. But, we dare to dream.
Set realistic expectations
If you follow any of these suggestions, you will quickly realize that a typical four-hour journey will morph into a full day trip. Realize this is all part of the fun. It’s not about the destination, it’s the journey – right?
Do you have any tricks that keep your family happy on a road trip? Please share!