Can Car Travel with Kids be Fun?

Imagine if you will a family of four deciding to take off on their summer vacation. They are going to travel by car. And they expect to have a good time, even when they are in the car.

It can happen but it takes some planning.


I have a friend with four children. When she gets in the car she assumes everything will be fine with the children, and it is. Another friend gets in the car saying, “I just know this is going to be a nightmare,” and usually it is. Children will most often exceed our expectations.

So decide that the trip will be fun. Look forward to it. This not only gives you extra energy to make it work, it lets the children know what you expect.


Planning is essential. Instead of worrying about the trip, plan. Travelling with children involves certain strategies, accommodations and structures. The trick is to plan the trip with the specific needs of your children in mind. It’s also a good idea to involve the kids in the plan. Get on-line and check maps, take a look at the tourism sites for places you will be visiting, ask them kids which spots interest them and if possible add their choices to the trip.

Developmental Needs

Babies and toddlers cooperate beautifully when there is no disruption in eating and sleeping patterns. So, you will have a much better holiday if you plan your trips to accommodate their mealtimes, naptimes and bedtime

If you have older children who can read without getting carsick you are a winner. Technology is great and allows the kids to listen to their own music or browse at will. However you should negotiate before you leave what technology the kids will use and for how much of the time because you don’t want to create an environment in which each family member spends the whole trip in his or her own world and there’s no communication.

Maps are a great investment. They let the children know where they are, where they are going and they love to trace the trip. Whether you are using tour books or internet resources; children can be recruited to research motels, campgrounds, restaurants, and tourist attractions along the way.

Turn all trips into a bit of a field trip (but don’t lecture the whole way!!!). However, you can make it interesting and exciting.


Food and Exercise

On a multi-day trip, getting the whole family up, dressed and out in the morning is as big a problem on the road as it is at home. We had a sure-fire method for handling this. We would serve the children juice in the motel room or at the campsite while we quickly dressed, packed and hit the road. We stopped for breakfast an hour or so later. By this time the kids were ready to eat a good breakfast. Children don’t have the patience to sit quietly while their parents enjoy a cup of coffee. Our strategy was for one adult to take the kids out for a run immediately after the meal. The other stayed for a quiet cup of coffee. We alternated this arrangement. In this way each adult had an occasional quiet moment alone, and the children got exercise before getting back in the car.

Lunch was picnic-style so the children could run. The menu invariably included meat, cheese, rolls and fruit that could be nibbled on the fly. If they didn’t eat, we didn’t worry; they’d had a good breakfast.

Mid-afternoon was cold drinks and exercise time and we always stopped early in the evening. Because schoolyards are easier to find than parks, we took the children to the local school for a good run before dinner.

The trick is simple. Plan your family vacations realistically. Children need regular exercise, have short attention spans and need frequent food, drink, and bathroom breaks.




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