How To Survive A Family Road Trip

"Are We There Yet?"

Last summer, my husband and I chose to drive from Toronto, Ontario, to Halifax, Nova Scotia, with our two daughtersthen aged twelve and nineteen. It was one of the most memorable and awesome summer vacations that we had ever experienced as a family. Along with being able to capture the historic beauty of Quebec, we also visited New Brunswick and PEI for the first time. After spending time with friends in Halifax, we were awe-inspired by the breathtaking Green and White Mountain ranges, as we drove back home through Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Never having experienced a family road trip before, I wasn’t sure how everyone would adapt to spending so many hours on the road, but planning ahead really paid off, and we can't wait to do it again. If you're planning a road trip with your family anytime soon, here's what you might like to know:

Consider the age and temperament of your children. Travelling as we didwith two older children who are quite capable of entertaining themselves and each othermade our trip that much more enjoyable. I don't think it would have been quite the same if we had made the same trip when they were much younger. Although, travelling overnight so that young children can sleep the hours away may make getting to your destination easier. There are cons to this, though. For one thing, you may feel exhausted from driving without getting a night's sleep, and the beauty of your surroundings will be lost.

The journey is really just as important as the destination. If you plot out stops and points of interest along the way, then the final destination becomes the place that you are spending the most amount of time at, but is not that much more important than all the special stops along the way. If you journey over several days and don't need to be somewhere in a hurry, then you're more likely going to appreciate every place you stop at. And dont be afraid to make slight diversions along the way, if something special catches your attention.

Involve your family in the planning stage. If your children do research on the internet, for example, about special places they'd like to visit, and if you integrate these stops along the way, they will feel that their needs have been equally considered. Then, the vacation truly becomes a family vacation.

Take lots to occupy them in the car. One of the great things about car travel is that you don't have to worry about your luggage being a couple of pounds overweight. You also don't have to worry about other restrictions, such as products that are not allowed on board an aircraft, for example. Other than the portable DVD and other electronics, how  about a knapsack of kid travel necessities and creative car activities, such as a paper and crayons, stickers, and maybe even a small lap tray to place the materials on. This knapsack can also be taken in and out of restaurants, for example, too.

Other than material items for the kids, think about games that require nothing more than thought and imagination. Counting the number of red versus blue cars, for example, between point A and B, or playing a memory game, such as "I went to the market . . ." are great ways to pass time.

Help your children know in advance how much time between stops, so that they don't ask, "Are we there yet?" every half hour. Older children, who understand time and can read, can be provided  with an itinerary, including approximate time planned to be on the road. Children can also be helped by showing them how to read a GPS, so that they can see at a glance how much time remains until they can stretch their legs or visit another place of interest.

If you typically drive a smaller car, consider renting a mini van for the time you're going to be away. A van, which allows you the luxury of extra leg space, extra luggage space, and extra elbow space, may even mean that the children are less likely to fight with one anotherboth physically and verbally.

Place a small garbage can or hang a small garbage bag by the front passenger seat, so that you can keep the interior of your car (or van) organized and clean. You're less likely to misplace items if you have everything organized and throw out litter or items you no longer need right away. Then, when you stop to fill up with gas, for example, you can dump your garbage into a larger bin and start fresh again.

Most importantly, take lots of time planning and researching a road trip, so that you know where and when you are coming and going. Treasure each stop and inhale every moment along the way. Don't rush the trip, but plan the scenic route, so that you can experience the beauty of your surroundings.

Safe travels!




Sara Dimerman, Psychologist, is registered with the College of Psychologists of Ontario and provides counselling to individuals, couples and families. She is one of North America's most trusted parenting and relationship experts and is the author of three books -  'Am I A Normal Parent?',  'Character Is the Key' and 'How Can I be your Lover when I'm Too Busy being your Mother: The answer to becoming partners again.' Learn more or listen to advice from Sara and her colleagues by searching for “helpmesara” podcasts on iTunes or by visiting Follow Sara on Twitter @helpmesara