A road trip is great fun – you get to see sites and cities that you wouldn't ordinarily explore.
You can spend quality time and really make the best possible use of the long stretches of travel, it's relatively inexpensive when compared to other modes of transportation (such as flying or taking a train), and it affords you having a vehicle once you reach your destination (as opposed to renting one once you get there).
However, if a road trip isn't organised and planned in such a way that issues of safety, entertainment, and feasibility are all addressed, then your first family road trip may wind up being your last. If you're planning a road trip, make sure you take the following into consideration.
Discuss the Trip Ahead of Time
Round up the family and have a discussion about the upcoming excursion – how long it will take, when you plan on making stops, what each person thinks should be packed in terms of activities as well as snacks. That way everyone is accountable for being a happy traveller.
Map out Milestones
A long car ride will go by all the more quickly if you feel as though you’re making progress, so create a fun enlarged map of your trip and, as you hit different cities, check them off. Let the kids contribute by decorating the map ahead of time. You could even read up on the various areas you’ll pass along the way to spark discussion and break up all that driving.
There's a pretty basic list of necessities that you should always have on a car trip, and they include: emergency kit (with flares, flashlight, emergency cones or signals, and a heating blanket if you're in a cold climate), food (see entry below), electronic devices (GPS systems, iPods, video players, handheld games, and more), and, of course, luggage with clothing and toiletries.
Pick Minimal Comfort Items
These are the types of things that, if over packed, will end up causing more headaches than anything else, so only pack necessary comfort items. That may include two pillows and two small blankets or one stuffed animal per child.
Sure, chips and candy are fun to munch on and pass the time, but it can make passengers quickly become irritable, restless, or lethargic, which is a wicked combination when you’re trapped in a car. So pack two food containers – one with non-perishables like crackers, nuts, seeds, muesli bars, and dried cereal, along with a cooler for bottles of water, juice, fruit, and sandwiches.
Child Travel Bags
Each child in the car should have a small backpack with items that he/she gets to choose ahead of time to keep them busy on the trip. This could be colouring books and crayons, small action figures, matchbox cars, puzzles, or anything else that is compact and won't take up tons of space (and is able to be played with in a confined space).