This summer, as thousands of Canadian families take to the highways in search of the perfect family vacation, the backseat chorus will be a familiar one to most parents: "Are we there yet?".
With a little planning and forethought it's possible to turn long stretches of highway into an enjoyable part of the vacation. Here are 5 tips:
Tip #1: Consult the experts before you hit the road
And, in this case, the experts are your kids. Planning is essential to every successful venture and if your kids have a hand in planning your vacation the chances of a pleasant drive skyrocket.
Schedule in regular stops every two hours to give everyone a chance to stretch their legs and get rid of bottled-up energy. Young children will appreciate a stop at a playground; older children might enjoy a bit of sightseeing. Scheduled breaks balance the relative inactivity of the drive with activities that can be tailored to the ages and interests of your children.
Tip #2: Key in on comfort
If you're lucky, the scheduled road breaks might be followed by a naptime, further encouraged by the hum of the engine. Make it easy for your children to sleep away part of the journey by bringing favourite blankets or stuffed animals to cuddle up to. Let them travel in their comfortable pajamas.
Keep the backseat comfortably darkened against bright sunlight by using car window shades. If your children are very young and have favourite bedtime stories you might want to read to them, or to pre-record the stories for them to listen to as they drift off to sleep.
Tip #3: Take advantage of high tech top-ups for the trip
Pack up the high tech toys for your older children. CD players, handheld electronic games and even movie videos (you can buy a video players that plug into your cigarette lighter). Don't forget to bring extra batteries!
Don't underestimate the entertainment value of old travel favourite games like Eye Spy, Hangman, and magnetic travel games like checkers (and be sure to check out our list of 10 great travel games and activities.)
Tip #4: Plan creative play time
Pack a craft kit of books, paper, water soluble markers, crayons, pens, colouring books, and stickers for quiet time. Bring the activities out one at a time so your kids aren't overwhelmed quickly before losing interest altogether. Pick up a few inexpensive travel toys or old toys that haven't been played with for awhile — wrap them and give them out as needed.
Tip #5: Catering your road trip
This is a good time to put the "no eating in the car" rule away. Food can be a great distraction, especially if you plan it. Spread a large towel or sheet over the backseat to catch crumbs. When you reach your destination for the day, carefully pull the sheet from the car and shake out the crumbs.
Choose healthy snacks that are relatively easy to handle in the car: juice boxes, crackers, cheese, cut up fruit, raisins, cookies and muffins.
BONUS TIP: The parent mind-saver
This game works well with children who are old enough to pepper you with estimated-time-of-arrival questions. Give each child a set number of are-we-there-yet quarters. Each time the child asks 'how much further?' (apart from your own regular updates on the progress of the trip, of course), he pays a quarter for the answer.
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