On the way down to Chicago last weekend for #BBSummit12, I passed by Wisconsin Dells. Seeing all the water slides made me think it would be awesome to take a family trip there, so I timed the drive time on the way back home. 4 hours is totally doable, and I think Levi would have a blast.
I was asking my friend Carly about it. She’s a freelance writer and often works on travel pieces, and she offered to write a little guest post for me on the topic of car rides with kids!
Comfortable Family Road Trips
Road trips have this sense of mystique about them, especially in the USA, where they're pretty much iconic. There's a liberty to it – jumping in the car and simply taking off. But anyone who's taken their kids, however well-behaved, on a long car journey, might be doubting exactly how “liberating” a family road trip might be. Don't abandon the dream just yet, though – from warding off car sickness to finding the best cheap car rentals, here's some advice from a family road trip veteran:
Preventing motion sickness
Carsickness is common, but if you don't get it yourself, you might not realize that your child does – until it's too late. It happens when the body, sensing the car's movement, gets confused because the eyes are focused on something not moving, inside the car. Scientists believe that this conflict of sensory input makes the body think it must be poisoned, hence the nausea. Drivers tend not to suffer from it, because they're always looking out, and have the least obstructed view outside the car.
Make sure that passengers are watching the view outside and not reading or watching DVDs. Keep the car cool, either using air con or simply having the windows open, and make sure everyone stays hydrated.
If someone does get sick, stop and take a break if you can. Sucking on a boiled sweet or drinking a fizzy drink should help. Having them close their eyes or trying to sleep can also help. Have a stash of bags and wipes in case of accidents, but keep these out of sight – if one of your kids has been sick on previous journeys, the sight of those sick-bags might just set them off again. Let anyone who really suffers from motion sickness sit in the front passenger seat, if they're old enough.
Keeping your passengers entertained
Crucially, without making them carsick – so this has to involve things that are outside the vehicle, rather than inside. Leave the books and portable DVD player for when you're stopped. Audio storybooks are an excellent solution, and can often be borrowed from your local lending library or a friend. If you're renting a vehicle, make sure it has a CD or tape deck, or take an MP3 player with speakers and a spare stash of batteries. Car games are also useful – I Spy, for example, or The Alphabet Game, where players must look for words (on signs, building names etc.) in alphabetical order.
Consider an RV
You need to be brave enough to drive a larger vehicle, but driving holidays with kids can get pretty claustrophobic in a car. If your brood is large and lively, or if you've just had a baby, an RV will give you more freedom to take care of everyone when they need it, and will give you all some space on the road.
It's tempting to drive for one… more… hour just to make it to the next town, or the target you've pinpointed on the map, but if you have kids with you it's much better to stop early and relax, than risk overtiredness and the accompanying grouchy moods.
Keeping basic costs down so you can afford the luxuries en route
If you are travelling by car instead of an RV, a little extra research can make all the difference between a pricey rental and scummy motels, or affordable rental and decent accommodation (and hopefully some fun attractions, too) en route. A car hire comparison website will make the job easier, and – if you can – avoid renting during days when you're not actually using the car, which may mean using more than one company.
Do you have any family road trip tips?
This post brought to you by Car Hire Market.