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Are you game enough to embark on a family road trip with kids and their grandparents?
The road ahead is fraught with possible danger, possible tears and head slapping moments.
But, it’s also filled with treasured bonding experiences between your children and their grandparents (and of course between you and your parents.)
Having a plan is key to making it heaven rather than hell (so is daily meditation in the months leading up to you it so you can practice letting IT go.)
You define what that IT is when it comes to the grandparents!
We checked off many lifetime bucket list experiences, grew closer, and didn’t have one bad moment. You can read more tips for planning a multi-generational family road trip in this post.
Our tips for surviving a road trip with kids and grandparents will help you reach that divine experience.
1. Do you have a big enough car?
First and foremost, this is the greatest challenge for you to solve. If your vehicle is not big enough, you may have to look at renting a bigger car, or two cars.
Perhaps your parents can drive their own vehicle, or you can rent two smaller cars if separation is needed.
Although, I do think time spent together while driving between destinations can often be the most rewarding!
Don’t forget to consider luggage space.
If this is an issue, you can buy skyboxes for the top of your car which helps. We have a Yakima Skybox which is excellent and came in handy for our multi-generational road trip.
2. Assign everyone a role
It’s great to give everyone a role to play in the car, and exploring a city. If you have multiple drivers, you’ll want to switch up the roles as well.
Give the children something they can easily manage and will enjoy doing. I’m pretty sure Savannah was Chief Entertainer and Kalyra, simply The Boss.
You decide what makes sense for your family style but here are a few suggestions:
- Chief Navigator
- Time Keeper
3. Service, clean and organize the car
A car can quickly turn into a messy toddlers bedroom when road tripping with multiple people.
So it’s essential you start with a clean and organized car and do your best to keep it that way!
- Where will you put the luggage?
- What about storing entertainment inside the car?
- What about food and water?
- Do you have a garbage bag?
Storage boxes, small trash cans, and over the seat organizers come in handy.
Have a place for everything and instruct all passengers of where things belong and their roles in keeping a tidy car.
Every time you stop the car, instruct everyone to collect any trash and dispose of it. These good habits will keep a tidy car.
Make sure you service the car before your trip. The last thing you want is car troubles on your dream family vacation.
4. Have Ample Entertainment in the car
There are multiple ways you can entertain kids in the car:
- board games – we like the miniature magnetic versions you can get of games like snakes and ladders, checkers, and clue. They’re easy to store and use in a car.
- interactive games – you know those common ones like, Eye Spy.
- coloring and reading books
- Journal writing
- iPad games and movies
We currently homeschool our kids, so we use driving times to do some school work.
If this is not you, your children can research the next place to visit and discover some fun facts or interesting things to do and see while there.
This helps them to connect to and feel ownership of the experience.
You could have them map out the journey or keep you updated on driving times and how much longer there is to go.
5. Limit devices and encourage interaction
I know how challenging this one is!
Road tripping with kids is exhausting and you’re tempted to let them get lost in movies and games.
But you’re traveling with the grandparents and kids for quality time together, and hours in the car makes for good bonding opportunities.
Allow your child to use their device but restrict their time on it. An hour on the device will give the grownups a bit of quiet time and Nan and Pop some time to snooze.
Encourage talking and interactive games in the spaces between and during rest breaks.
Savannah kept all of us entertained for hours with her game, “What would I rather?”
She’d give us two options and we’d have to guess what she’d like more. She’d eliminate all players with the wrong choice by chopping off their head.
She graciously changed her answers with each of my wrong choice as she just could not let her Mummy lose.
It was a hilarious game, which helped all of us to get to know our little Queenie a bit better! My parents formed quite the bond with our girls on our road trip.
6. Choose music everyone will love (and suits the travel)
I know this can be hard when your parent’s music tastes are so far out of your generation, and your children’s choices, you just don’t understand.
See how you can weave music into the upcoming travel experience.
As we were driving from Texas to Memphis, we put on an Elvis Presley station on Spotify, which my parents loved and had a fun sing along with.
And of course, we played New York, New York when we hit the Lincoln Tunnel.
7. Plan your stops before you depart for the day
It’s a good idea to map out the day’s driving journey before you leave, noting possible places to stop for food or a stretch break.
This saves you the headache of researching while you are driving, only to find what sounds like an awesome place for coffee just as you drive on past the exit for it.
You may even want to research any quirky or historic roadside attractions you can stop off at to bring in those unexpected and memorable travel experiences.
We decided to stop at Gettysburg for a couple of nights as it was on the way from Asheville to New York City and we couldn’t drive the entire way in one stint.
Touring the Gettysburg Battlefields ended up being one of our favorite experiences on our road trip. So be sure to allow for these experiences!
Be sure to plan for rest stops. Children and grandparents tend to need them often.
If you are road tripping in the USA, the rest stops along the interstates are always well kept and clean. My parents from Australia could not get over how big and fancy they were!
You wouldn’t get much more than a drop toilet in Australia.
8. Pack plenty of food and water for the car
We usually move so quickly after breakfast, and are on the road for such long stints, that we can be very disorganized with this road trip tip.
It does mean we waste a lot of time and money finding places to eat along the journey.
We also love to stop for coffee, which can chew up your time finding a good one! But, there’s just nothing like a hot coffee while you’re driving!
Be sure to visit the supermarket to stock up on snacks and water. Cater to everyone’s tastes and be sure you have more carrot sticks and apples than packets of chips.
They are the perfect healthy indulgent treats with my coffee.
9. What about driving times?
Well how long is a piece of string?
We have a family who are used to long drives, so we can handle more time in the car than most other people.
When we first started road tripping with Savannah in Australia, she was two and trying to climb out of her car seat within 15 minutes of leaving home.
Two hours in the car was the max we could do with her. Now that she is seven and we live in the US, she can now handle eight hours or more!
Optimally, we like to plan 4- 6 hours of driving time, with plenty of breaks along the way. It’s good to have a stop and a stretch every two hours to avoid driver fatigue.
If you have multiple drivers, I would swap after 2-3 hours.
Always add an extra hour on to your anticipated driving time. It always takes longer than Google Maps tells you when you are road tripping with kids.
Traffic and frequent accidents can delay road trips often, especially in the North East of the USA. We had at least 1-2 hours delay almost every time!
10. How to handle the whining child
We all have them! The persistent child who can be satiated in any way.
“I’m hungry, I’m bored, Are we there yet?”
I remember one instant Savannah was driving us all crazy with the persistent I’m bored Whine to wear us down and give her back her iPad.
After the 100th “Muuuuuuum”, I said, “That’s it I am changing my name,” and had a sudden idea to grab her attention through a game.
“You can’t get your iPad back until you guess my new name.”
The girls would then ask me to reveal one letter at a time of the name until they could guess it or give in.
We played that game for at least an hour, taking it in turns, laughing and having a great time. It became our signature road trip game.
It’s hard to not let the whines frustrate and annoy you but see how you can capitalize on the trauma to create something fun out of it.
Be sure to answer the important Keeping your Child Happy questions:
- How can I make sure they are comfortable?
- How can I ensure they don’t go hungry or thirsty?
- How can I give them options for entertainment?
- How can I ensure they are not too tired?
This is my always response when my children complain to me that they are bored.
“I don’t understand what you mean. Boredom is something I never experience as there is always something I can choose to do. “
Thank you Wayne Dyer for that idea! It forces them to think about that statement and recognize boredom is a choice.
Don’t solve their boredom problem for them. If they persist you can ask questions to help them find their answers.
“Let’s see what some of your choices are here in the car. You can sleep, you can read, you can chat to Nanny and Pop, you can play a game, you can play with your dolls, you can color. Goodness me, you have so many choices. How lucky are you.”
Now you are ready to have the amazing bonding experiences that travel gifts you.
These times are precious so enjoy. Don’t fear what can go wrong. You can handle anything life throws at you.
Focus instead on those incredible memories you are about to make with those you love most.
It will be worth it, and it will be divine!
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