A lot changes when you have kids, even your time in the car. Perhaps your car used to be your safe space, a place where you could listen to your favorite music while enjoying the fresh air. But now it’s full of kids' music, snack wrappers, and incessant chatter. Whether it’s a 10 minute drive to school or a 3 hour drive to grandma’s house, a car ride with kids can feel like a battle. So how can you survive, and maybe even enjoy, a car ride with kids?
Here’s your ultimate guide for surviving a car ride with kids.
Plan and prepare your car ahead of time.
Like everything, preparation is your key to success. Starting with a clean and organized car will put you in a good mindset and help ensure that you have everything you will need. Vacuum the floors, wipe everything down, and have a little garbage pail or bag at the ready. If you start your trip clean you will have an easier time keeping it clean. If you start with chaos, it will beget more chaos. Even if you are just running errands, there are certain things you should always have with you:
- First aid kit. Because when you have kids, anything can happen.
- Snacks. More on this later, but this is imperative when it comes to car rides.
- Drinks. Again, imperative.
- Emergency kit. Flares, a charger, jumper cables, whistle, etc. A roadside emergency kit from Amazon will have everything you need for the unexpected.
- Entertainment. Another cornerstone of traveling with kids.
- Cell phone charger. You don’t want to be out with kids and risk not having a phone.
- Blanket. Whether you want to take it on a picnic or have it to snuggle up with if it’s cold, a blanket is a great thing to keep tucked in your trunk.
- Tissues, paper towels, and trash bags. Chances are you will need one or all of these things at some point when driving around with your kids.
Kids get bored easily. While you may enjoy the scenery of driving around, chances are your kids will not. This doesn’t mean you have to play Baby Shark on repeat (although this is a valid tactic that may get you through a rough patch). Here are some ideas for kids' entertainment, depending on their ages.
Hopefully your baby is a car sleeper. But if not, they may be comfortable with soothing music or a podcast. A mirror will provide them with some entertainment, but for a longer trip a busy board that attaches to the car seat may be a good investment.
Toddlers and Young Kids
Practicing repeat after me phrases, animal noises, counting, and letters are all great ways to entertain young kids. Singalongs are also the most classic car entertainment for toddlers. If they are old enough to color, bring along a clipboard and coloring books (you don’t need all the colors of the rainbow though).
As kids get older, they may be able to read and listen to music independently. If they require a bit more stimulation, play some games such as travel bingo, I Spy, the license plate game, and Mad Libs. Encourage them to interact with you or their siblings at least a little bit. Car time should be a time for bonding as well. Talk to them and enjoy your time with them. Soon you will long for the days when they would sit in the car and just talk with you.
You should have a few tricks up your sleeve in case of an emergency meltdown. Stopping at the dollar store for a few new toys or books that you can pull out as needed is a great way to keep your kids entertained before things go off the rails. You don’t want to bring so much that they are overwhelmed or consistently waiting for the next toy to come out, but bringing a few new things will keep some excitement going.
Snacks are one of the most important components of any trip in the car. The right snack can prevent an epic meltdown and keep your kids fueled. It’s good to have a variety, from pouches and other shelf stable snacks to fruits, veggies, and string cheese. Keeping a small cooler will help keep these snacks safe and fresh. And don’t forget the water! Kids can forget to drink when they are sitting around, so encouraging them to drink out of their favorite bottle or sippy cups will keep them hydrated. Look at your route and where you will be driving ahead of time so that you know where you can stop for refills or if you should bring a jug of water with you.
Plan bathroom breaks.
With the snacks and drinks come the bathroom breaks. If your child is still in diapers, be sure to have a bag packed with diapers, wipes, creams, and a pad you can change them on if you need to stop suddenly. If your child is potty training, it’s a good idea to bring a foldable potty training seat so that they are more comfortable in strange bathrooms. A change of clothes is always good too, just in case. Having a roll of toilet paper and wet wipes never hurts either!
Plan some stops.
If you plan on being in the car for a while, plan some stops along the way. Kids get restless and antsy (rightfully so) when they are cooped up, so plan to stop at a park or have a picnic along the way. This will give your kids some time to run around and get their energy out while also giving them something to look forward to and break up the time on the road.
Plan for it to take a little longer.
If you have kids, you already know that it takes longer to get out the door than ever before. And it also takes a bit longer to get places. Pad your drive time accordingly, giving yourself an extra 5 or ten minutes for a 45 minute or hour trip, or an extra hour for a 4 or 5 hour trip.
That’s how you can survive–and hopefully enjoy–a car ride with kids.
Cars can be stressful places when you are cramped in, especially if it’s for a longer period of time. But being prepared and learning how to make the most of your situation will make the experience enjoyable and memorable.
We all hope to make memories that last a lifetime–not car payments that last a lifetime. If you are stuck in a bad relationship with your car loan lender, contact Auto Approve today to see how refinancing can help you!