He’s touching me! I’m hungry! Are we there yet?
If you’re a parent, you’ve heard these brain-deadening questions a million times. And you’re mentally preparing yourself to hear it a million more times on your upcoming summer road trip.
There’s got to be a better way to tackle a road trip with kids, right? Right! Follow along as we steer you through the steps for planning the perfect road trip with kids in tow.
1. Map the route.
No one—kid or grown-up—likes getting lost. Before you head out, be sure you know where you’re going, what the weather will be like along your route, and whether you might need to take a detour to avoid road construction. Pre-planning gas stops is also a good idea.
Getting up to speed on your route—and tracking it on your smartphone, GPS or even a good old-fashioned map—can help ensure a smooth ride for you and your kids.
Plus, when they ask, “Are we there yet,” you’ll have a real, confident answer—in miles or minutes! You can even help them learn a new skill by handing them the map and asking the same question.
2. Fill ’er up.
Here’s an easy one: before you hop in the car, make sure the gas tank is full. You and your kids certainly don’t want to be stuck on the side of the road because you’ve run out of gas.
Plus, running out of gas can damage your car. When a car runs out of gas, the fuel pump can fail, since it needs fuel for both lubrication and cooling.
3. Pack snacks.
Nothing makes kids crankier than hunger. Bring along some easy-to-eat snacks, like bananas, apples, nuts, trail mix, crackers, and snack bars to curb your kids’ appetites. You’ll also want to ensure you’ve got enough bottled water to quench everyone’s thirst, too.
4. Plan for pit stops.
Chances are, you’ll need to take at least one potty break along the way (especially if you’re sipping a lot of that bottled water). Don’t be a road warrior and think you can reach your destination without stopping, even if just for a few minutes.
Not only will a pit stop allow time to visit the restroom and perhaps grab a bite to eat or a cold beverage, but it’ll give all of you a little pause to stretch your legs and relax. At the same time, you can fill up the gas tank and check the overall condition of your car—including the tire pressure.
5. Check your tire pressure.
Changes in temperature, mileage, and terrain can make your tires’ inflation levels less than ideal. But the right tire pressure can help your drive go smoothly—even when the kids’ behavior is rough on your patience.
Check that your tire pressure matches the recommended tire pressure in your vehicle manual, and monitor your tires throughout the road trip.
Why bother checking tire pressure more than once? Because fluctuations in temperature can also cause fluctuations in tire pressure. In general, tires lose or gain 1 PSI (pounds per square inch) for every 10-degree change in temperature, and both under-inflated and over-inflated tires can cause problems on the road.
6. Put the brakes on backseat bickering.
Well ahead of your road trip, lay down some ground rules about in-the-car behavior. Make it clear that family feuding won’t be tolerated and inform the kids how you’ll deal with it if it does happen.
If fighting erupts among the kids while you’re driving, resist yelling. Instead, pull off to the side of the road when it’s safe to do so. Stay quiet until everyone in the car is silent. Once the noise has stopped, resume driving.
If you’re already on the side of the road and the kids are still at it, safely get out of your car and wait until you hear no arguing. Then, get back in the car and get back on the road.
Bottom line: Be patient. Your destination will still be there. You just might arrive a little later than you thought you would.
To incentivize harmony in the car, remind the kids of your expectations, praise your kids when they do behave well and incentivize them with “travel points” (redeemable for a treat or toy upon arrival).
7. Expect the unexpected.
Unfortunately, not every road trip goes smoothly. There might be some bumps in the road. Maybe one of your kids gets carsick. Or perhaps you wind up with a flat tire.
Don’t sweat it! Instead, plan for the unexpected by knowing who to call for roadside assistance if your car breaks down, or you get locked out of it. Also, make a DIY sun visor extender in case you find yourself driving into the sunset for a few hours—your skin and eyes will thank you.
And if car troubles lead to an unplanned overnight stay at a motel that’s far from your destination, don’t get discouraged. Think of it this way: every unexpected detour is a great adventure in the making.
8. Go for the games.
Few things make a road trip go faster than playing games.
Road trip activities can be as simple as road trip classics like “I Spy” and “The License Plate Game.” A kid-friendly storytelling podcast like “Wow in the World” or “Story Pirates” is another great way to keep the whole family entertained. Wanna take it to the next level? Turn up your kids’ favorite tunes for some in-car karaoke!
If you prefer to keep the noise level to a minimum, keep your kids occupied with digital games on their tablets or smartphones.
Whichever path you choose, try to make the drive as fun as possible. After all, a road trip can be pretty dull without some fun and games!
9. Get a checkup.
While it might be a good idea for you and your kids to get checkups at the doctor’s office before you hit the road, what we’re talking about here is a checkup for your car.
One of the professionals at the closest Tires Plus can ensure your car is in tip-top shape for a road trip by checking the battery, tires, and other components that can derail a road trip if they fail. Best of all, a Tires Plus courtesy check is free, so stop by today! We’ll keep you cruising in the driver’s seat.