Five Tips to Make Your Family Road Trip Easier (and keep everyone alive)
My family recently traveled out west for 2.5 weeks, enjoying AAA baseball, science and natural history museums, national parks and historic landmarks. We also enjoyed forgetting a sentimental Curious George stuffie in the Mesa Verde National Park lodge (thanks for sending it back, Janice!), complaints about not wanting to look out the window at any more scenery and dodged a few forest fires.
But we did have a great time! And I thought I’d share five things that helped (or would have helped and will help next time) just in time for your Labor Day Weekend travels.
Everyone knows you should have a checklist for traveling, with a reminder for everything you need to pack. But for road trips, it’s essential to include a checklist for each hotel (or camping or friend’s house) transition. Yes, you still need to do the final sweep of the room (and don’t forget to look INSIDE the bed, not just under), but you can eliminate frustrations and encourage accountability by giving each family member responsibilities for their own belongings and, as appropriate, family belongings like snacks, games or movies.
Let’s say, as an example, that 75 percent of your family loves to hike, but 100 percent of your family is going hiking. To make the experience more tolerable for the other 25 percent (and therefore, you, if we’re being honest), set expectations: We’re going to hike for about 3 hours, and some of it will be uphill. But when we are finished, we have a 30-minute drive in the car, and you can play Minecraft. Later, we’re going to do a few other short hikes. The more details the better. Use the Time Timer ® app to make it even easier. Many kids with ADHD also have anxiety, and either way they can lack confidence when confronted with new situations where they don’t know what is expected of them or what they will experience. You’re not babying your kids, you’re setting them up for success.
Snacks nourish their bodies and their bored minds. Sure, they might not actually be bored, but they think they are. Either way, try to make snacks something they can control—within reason. Create opportunities for them to choose the snack and the time they enjoy it. And, although I love bargain shopping and buying store brand, remember only real Oreos taste like Oreos.
If you will be exposing your kids to a lot of new experiences (people, lodging, geographies, etc.), try to ease the discomfort with some simple comforts from home. Maybe it’s their own pillowcase. Maybe it’s their own favorite barbeque sauce for their chicken nuggets. They are along for the ride, and they don’t always appreciate the new and different. After all, not every region of the country interprets “not spicy” in the same manner.
Choices, choices, choices. At the end of each day make time for a celebration (and even some complaining), discussing what went well and what didn’t. Try to give your kids choices for the next day that factor in their experiences from the days before. Honestly, one Albuquerque Isotopes baseball game, as enjoyable as it was, would have been enough for Mom and Dad. But when our kids said it was their favorite part of the whole vacation, we made sure to circle back to the stadium before we flew out the next day.