Guest Blog Series – We’ve asked travel experts to offer their tips and tricks to planning the best European road trips. This guest blog post was contributed by Dominique from the popular travel blog Easy Planet Travel. Read on to learn how to plan the perfect family road trip.
Can a road trip with young kids be fun?
Some might say no, but I say yes. Why? Because I already had my fair share of road trips with my little girl, as a baby and now as a toddler, and yes, it was quite fun!
For example, we did a 5-hour ride in a tuk-tuk, in Sri Lanka, under the burning sun, with our 3-year old, and we have enjoyed our ride, even though it’s probably the least comfortable ride anyone can ever get! Last month, we traveled by car from Quebec City to New York City, a 9-hour drive, and everything went perfectly.
How is that possible? With planning, almost anything is possible. That’s what this guide is for, to help you plan and experience a pleasant road trip with your young family.
First, you need to pack the right gear to make the ride as smooth and fun as possible.
The most important thing to pack is, of course, your child’s car seat! It has to be installed properly so your precious little one stays safe for the whole ride. When renting a car abroad, you can of course choose to bring your own or you can choose to reserve a car seat with your vehicle. Child seats and boosters are available through most suppliers in Europe for a one time rental fee. Be sure to request your child seat or booster at the time of your reservation to ensure that it is available at the time of pickup.
Other important things to pack: water, snacks, a first-aid kit, baby wipes, tissues, antibacterial, your phone charger and your kid’s favorite blanket and toys.
I would also suggest a tablet with your toddler’s favorite shows and movies. Even though I always restrain my kid to a maximum of 15 minutes of tablet use at home, during a long road trip, I let her watch more. We have to choose our battles. A happy toddler makes a happy road trip!
Moreover, a basic car safety equipment, extra clothes, an external battery to charge your phone and your kid’s tablet, and your toddler’s favorite toys can come very handy.
If you are traveling with a toddler, think about bringing a portable potty.
Pillows are always a good idea, to get everyone comfortable. Also, bring a small garbage bag, motion sickness medicine, a ball to throw at rest stops, plastic zip bags to hold everything from errant game pieces to leftover snacks, and a night light to make your hotel room less dark at night.
Finally, think about what you might need in a rush, and keep these things within reach. For example, keep an extra change of clothes (for spills), jackets, hats, sunscreen and mosquito repellent on top of everything in the trunk of the car.
Tips for When You’re On the Road
First things first: get a good night’s sleep before you leave for your road trip. Or start driving when your little one is supposed to go to bed at night, so you will able to log some miles when he’s sleeping.
Stop often for little and big breaks. You will need to stretch, and your kid will need to burn off some steam. Plus, everyone will need a bathroom stop every now and then. So why not stop at a shopping mall on the way? Or a roadside attraction? A park? A rest stop? That’s where the ball you brought will come handy.
The secret to road trip success is planning. Be aware that 20 minutes after your lunch stop, your toddler will need to stop again for a bathroom break. Look for good pit stops along the way. Traveling with a baby? Plan mealtimes for when your baby is awake and alert. With toddlers? Search for kid-friendly restaurants, with an outdoor area. Older kids? A travel journal can keep them busy.
If you are traveling with another adult, why not split the driving task: one person can ride with the kids in the back to entertain them, tell stories, play and distribute snacks.
What kind of entertainment? You can read aloud to your precious little one, sing her favorite song, play with sticker books, magnetic storyboards, drawing boards, and other toys that don’t involve lots of small pieces or make a mess. For example, a baking sheet can be used to play with magnets and doubles as a playing surface so crayons and toy cars don’t easily roll and slide away.
Fussy kid? Why not ride with your child in the backseat. Your company may be enough to ward off any trouble. You are riding with more than one child: separate siblings in different rows of your van, or if you are in a smaller car and have room, stick pillows between your kids to give each their own space.
It’s also a great idea to book your night at a hotel that as a pool, so the transition between the long exhaustive road trip and bedtime will be smoother after a little play time in the water.
One thing is for sure: it will probably take you longer to reach your destination than if you were driving only you and your spouse in the car. But always remember that road trips are just like life: happiness is a journey, not a destination. So consider your road trip like an adventure, and you will enjoy it a lot more!
Pin these tips and start planning your family road trip!
Dominique Lessard is a travel junkie and a social media influencer. Along with her husband, Clinton and their little girl Emma-Kate, they travel around the world, and have already been to 30 countries. They believe in experiential travel, connecting on a deeper emotional and more personal level, through adventures and nature experiences abroad. Easy Planet Travel is providing travelers all over the world tools, guides and tales to help them through their own journey.
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