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5 Ways to Survive a Long Car Ride with the Kids

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A long-distance road trip with the kids isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s often the only practical choice to get your family from point A to point B. If you’re planning on traveling with your children this Labor Day, try these tips for keeping your children happy and entertained.

1. Make sure everyone is well-rested and fed before the journey.

It often backfires to try and tire out a child in the hopes they sleep through the trip, and you wind up with fussy children and frustrate parents. Not only is this unpleasant, but it can also be dangerous.

Likewise, it’s tempting to travel through the night but many experts advise against this ― up to 60 percent of highway accidents can be attributed to drowsy driving. If you must drive overnight, do so with a partner, and make sure both front seat passengers stay alert and awake the entire time and avoid medications that can make you tired.

Bring plenty of snacks and drinks and plan on taking time to stop to eat, use the restroom and stretch your legs. Your trip might take longer this way, but it’s bound to be much more enjoyable.

2. Use screen time carefully.

In small amounts, it can be quite entertaining and make the time fly by for your children. Too much, and you’ve got a meltdown on your hands. You can relax your usual screen time rules for the journey, but don’t let things get out of hand, especially if your child has proven himself or herself prone to meltdowns after too much screen time in the past.

3. Look for travel versions of popular board games that your child can play alone or with siblings and parents.

A memory game is a good choice and hangman is easy for children to play with parents while sitting in the backseat. It’s a good idea to choose games that your child is familiar with, as the road isn’t generally a favorable place to figure out how to play a new game.

Don’t forget old favorites such as I Spy, the alphabet game or 20 Questions that don’t require any equipment to play. Before your trip, prepare yourself by packing a small bag with your travel games as well as a printed list of traditional car games ― including the rules.

4. Be prepared!

Make sure that each family member has a full change of clothes in an easy-to-access place along with diapers, wipes, Pull-Ups or any other personal care items you’ll be sure to need. Hand sanitizer or wipes will serve well to clean your hands without running water before you eat. A first aid kit with bandages and over-the-counter medicines for common remedies is also very useful, as you can’t count on finding children’s medications at highway rest stops.

Hopefully, you’ll never need it, but be sure that your car is equipped with a fully-stocked emergency kit. It might not keep your kids happier and easier to travel with, but it could save your life.

5. Take advantage of the time together to bond as a family.

Sing silly songs. Tell embarrassing stories about your childhood. A box of conversation starters can be a good way to get the ball rolling, especially for children who need a bit of prompting to engage in conversation. You might be surprised at how fast time flies when you are having a good conversation with the people that you love.

If your children aren’t old enough for “real” conversation yet, you can still have quite a bit of fun singing songs.

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