When travelling with kids, better planning will help you survive any road-side meltdowns

Travelling with kids in a car is something many families dread. I can’t count the number of times people have reacted with horror when I say I’m driving my kids anywhere further than four hours away. But truth be told, driving with kids can be easier than flying, which we also do a lot. Driving provides flexibility and freedom and allows for last minute changes and ice cream right when you need it. 

Here are my top five tips for taking your kids on the road.

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Clean the car before you leave

It seems like a simple thing, but starting a road trip with a clean car allows you to pack the car up more efficiently.  Also has a bonus of helping you confirm you aren’t bringing anything crazy into a different jurisdiction. (Seriously, remember to declare every item of food, down to the fruit leathers and baby food if you are crossing into the USA).

Make sure car seats are secure

This is one that seems obvious, but before you embark on a long drive, making sure your car seats are still properly installed is crucial. There will be jostling, from the child and potentially siblings. If you have non-integral window shades for the back seat, now is also a great time to make sure they are secure and in good working order.

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Stock the car

DVDs, books on CDs, iPods with playlists in case you don’t have satellite radio; whatever it takes to occupy them at mile 90 of farmland and counting. If your kids don't get motion sick, you may also want to include sticker books, colouring sheets and car bingo papers. Just make sure they take some breaks and look up, just in case. Pro tip - Red Box DVD dispensers are at most highway stops in the States (look for Walmarts or Walgreens or check their online map). For under $2 you can rent a new-to-you DVD and return it to any other Red Box along your route. In other words, you can pick up Guardians of the Galaxy 2 in Georgia and return it in New York.

Let them chose the snacks

Plan to let your kids go wild in bulk candy store and have them choose their treats; knowing they can have some otherwise off-limit treats is a great motivator for good behaviour. Just remember to limit their intake - eating a stomach full of gummies and then sitting in a hot car for hours is a recipe for disaster. I always try to steer my kids towards dry snacks that are less likely to cause stomach upsets (think pretzels, dry cereals, and popcorn).

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Be ready to stop

Pack your patience and remember that the trip is supposed to be fun! The kids see a great ice cream store? Stop and take a break. The sign says longest single-span bridge in America? Get out of the car and enjoy the view. The stops will slow you down, but you’ll have fewer screaming kids and a happier trip overall.