Road trips are tailor-made for lasting memories: hopefully, not all of them will be of junior poking his older sister incessantly in the back seat. Whether it’s a long weekend at the end of summer to get that last bit of fun in or a fall break trip through the countryside to see the fall foliage, here are some good tips for your next road trip with kids to help keep them entertained—and everyone safe on the road.
When planning your trip, get the entire family involved! Paper maps may seem so yesterday, but they can be a great tool to help the younger kids get a grasp of where they’re going. Pull out the colored markers and help them pinpoint the route and ask for their input on landmark, restaurant and hotel stops along the way. You can help yourself along with apps like Field Trip and Roadtrippers. Another, Roadside America, specializes in offbeat attractions.
Get a tune-up. Consumerreports.org has a great list of 10 things to check before you hit the road, including a bumper-to-bumper car checkup at your mechanic. Make sure your battery terminals are clean and inspect the tires, brakes, etc. An emergency car kit is also key: first-aid kit, fire extinguisher, warning lights (hazard triangles or flares), tire gauge, foam tire sealant, spare fuses, jumper cables, flashlight, pen and pad of paper, auto-club card, pen and pad of paper, and make sure your jack, lug wrench and spare tire are in order.
Proper rest? It’s more important than you think! Driving can be exhausting, so everyone is going to need a good night’s rest before setting out. Take time to plan what you’re packing and load your car properly. Kids can take naps in the back seat, but a drowsy driver can be fatal: according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, drowsy drivers are a factor in nearly 17 percent of fatal crashes, with one in ten drivers admitting to falling asleep behind the wheel at least once this year. If possible, switch off with another adult every few hours to stay fresh. Also: try to do most of your driving during daylight hours—if the glare from the sunrise or the sunset bothers you, consider taking a break until the sun is no longer in your eyes.
Make sure you have the right car seat. Not all car seats fit all vehicles, or all kids. If your child is under the age of 12, check the SaferCar.gov site to make sure you have the right kind of seat. Even if your kid is already big enough to fit in a seat belt properly, the back seat is still the safest one in the car. If you’re unsure about the child passenger safety laws in your state or those you will be traveling through, visit DrivingLawsAAA.com.
Keep. The. Kids. Occupied. Not only will it help you keep your sanity—it will help keep theirs, too! Electronics still top the list (and so do audio books!), but don’t discount activity books (especially ones with references to your destination), card games, maps, sketch pads, etc. Let each kid choose a few things to bring along in their own backpack. Consider giving each kid an inexpensive digital camera, as well, so they can take pictures of each other, at stops and, who knows? You might have blossoming shutterbug in your back seat!
Bonus tip: Take your bikes, if you can. There’s no better way to get to know a small town or a beautiful countryside than by bike! (Just don’t forget extra tubes and a pump!)
Whenever and however you hit the road, take along your SkyMed International membership in your glove compartment. Should you or a loved one suffer a critical illness or injury away from home, we can help get you, your minor children and your vehicle back where you belong.