Road trips make for unforgettable adventure holidays with my crazy family. We usually pack up everything the night before and hit the long road before dawn while the kids are still half-asleep. This way they can get shut-eye while we make some headway en route to our destination. Many great family memories are made while road tripping with the kids. But yes, any lengthy time couped up in a car with toddlers can be challenging. Here I share some top tips for a rocking road trip with the little people! By Tamsyn Cornelius
Road trips are somewhat easier than flights! If you’re doing a flight, check out my survival guide for flying with little people. But if you’re heading on a family road trip, rest assured that you can do it at your own pace and in the comfort of your own vehicle. Firstly, the kids can make all the racket they want without upsetting the hundreds of passengers you’d expect on a Boeing! Keep things simple and be prepared to ensure a smooth drive.
Top tips for road-tripping with kids:
- Do not rush! If you feel rushed, then I can guarantee you that your kids will too. Take your time and remember that the journey is as much a part of the holiday experience! That and the fact that cars are seriously dangerous tools on the road! More people die in car accidents than on flights every year so take your time and stay level-headed so that you can all have a memorable trip.
- Safety first. Ensure that your car is in full working condition before you hit the long road. Service your car regularly and keep a roadside kit handy in case of emergencies. Also, ensure that your kids are properly buckled into a working car seat. By law, car seats are compulsory for anyone under the age of 3 in South Africa! You’ve been warned!
- Plan to stop… a lot. The beauty of a road trip is that unexpected stops can easily become a part of the adventure. With kids, you’re probably going to have to account for a few unscheduled stops… for toilet breaks, nappy changes and the like. Plan your route so that you can anticipate where and when you’ll be able to stop but leave room for those impromptu pitstops that are bound to happen with toddlers in tow!
- Make a playlist. Download your kids’ favourite songs and some new ones to learn (and sing together) while driving. Check out Spotify for some cool new artists, songs and albums for free!
- If you have a tablet or Ipad be sure to upload a few kiddie-friendly movies prior to your road trip. A good movie may keep the little ones entertained for an hour or two. Be sure to pack a mobile charger as well as headphones if you don’t want to be disturbed.
- Comfort is key. Pack blankets and pillows to make the trip as comfy as possible. Comfortable clothing and shoes are a must to limit irritability while driving. You may want to invest in a carseat pillow which is perfect for those naps in the car! Also, I always allow the kids to take off their shoes while we’re in the car, and I always have an extra set of flip-flops handy for a quick toilet dash.
- Ensure that you pack ample snacks and water to keep little bellies full and hydrated during the trip. Alternatively, plan your route to enjoy a pitstop with meals along the way. We’ve discovered some hidden gems along the road so trips always include a pit stop at some of our favourite padstals and roadside restaurants. Take into account the times you will be arriving at these scheduled stops – many roadside markets and country stalls are closed on a Sunday, for example!
- Whip out the crafts and let your children engage in a fun activity to pass the time. This is easier said than done because you want to find quiet crafts that won’t result in glue and glitter all over your vehicle. This is where Busy Bean comes in. They have put together these really awesome busy bags and quiet time activities for toddlers (aged 2 to 6) which contain educational activities and crafts that come in a compact little zipped up bag… A lifesaver on the long road! We may even do a review of some of their goodies in future… keep a look out on the blog in upcoming weeks!
- Keep things organised! You may want to invest in a play and snack travel tray or car backseat organiser such as these nifty ones available from 4akid. This particular car backseat organiser includes a nifty cooler bag and waterproof interior for easy access to snacks and drinks. This is ideal for craft storage and the tray provides an ideal surface for your little ones to enjoy playing games, crafting or eating snacks!
- Research some fun car travel games or invest in some toys for the trip. My kid’s love playing ‘I spy with my little eye’ but this can get old on a long drive. Google some new ideas such as the ones we found here. I also love the idea of hiring toys that your kids can enjoy while on vacation. Tambino’s boast a wonderful toy box filled with a variety of fun age-appropriate toys that you can rent while in Cape Town! How cool is that!
- No mess, no fuss. Be sure you have toilet paper or wet wipes handy to clean sticky fingers or toddler spills during the trip (and for those all important toilet pitstops) and be sure to pack a few storage containers for open cookies, leftover food and the like. Young kids may also experience car sickness, so take the necessary precautions. Small sips of water can help, as well as cold air – so open a window or blast the aircon to offer some relief.
- Depending on the age of your kids, you may want to pack a travel potty to avoid any accidents in the car. This is a life-saver for a toddler who has just started potty training! Remember to pack extra clothing (and especially underwear) with easy access in case of any potty accident! I’m also loving the idea of a portable potty for the car such as this multifunctional one called ‘Roady’ available from Carina Baby.
Stick to the speed limit, have a safe journey and remember to pack a camera to capture the memories!