How to Avoid Car Craziness: 4 Tips for Fight-Free Travel with Kids

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From the day you bring your baby home from the hospital, strapped carefully into his new infant car seat, little lamby blanket tucked gently around him, cars have been part of his existence. Some kids love car rides, some don't. Get some quick tips to prepare for the smoothest possible road trip with kids.
Tips for Road Trips and Car Travel with Kids, family of four ready for road trip in minivan
Be Realistic
When you're tearing your hair out about car rides, remember that:

  • Kids need to move their bodies; it's not optional, it's a biological need. Between car seats for little ones and seat belts for bigger ones, car trips can be a challenge.
  • Car rides can be boring. Making it worse is the fact that many kids, maybe most, can't read or focus on something small like a drawing without getting carsick. That leaves talking, word games, singing, and socking your sister. (You can see how this would be a problem.)
  • For brothers and sisters with tensions between them (and that's kind of a redundant statement, isn't it?), sitting right next to each other, confined, can feel almost unbearable. That's why car fights between screaming, pinching siblings are so common.

So, are there solutions to these problems? No solutions per se, but there are ways to reduce car troubles. Read on to learn more.

Tips for Road Trips and Car Travel with Kids, rest area highway sign
Plan Frequent Stops
  • If you're on an extended car trip (more than a couple of hours), stop frequently.
  • Plan breaks ahead of time by marking them on the map, about 45 minutes apart, and stopping, even if for five minutes, for a stretch break.
Tips for Road Trips and Car Travel with Kids, brother and sister siblings in car backseat
Separate Siblings and Bring Entertainment
  • Separate siblings with pillow barriers.
  • Entertain kids with CDs and kid-friendly music playlists. Music is wonderful for changing the mood when the mood needs changing.
  • Try word games. Find an object out the window beginning with each letter of the alphabet. Try a round of 20 questions. Even little ones can play "I Spy" and other simple car games.
  • For older kids, an iPod, eReader, or other gadget works wonders.
Tips for Road Trips and Car Travel with Kids, young girl traveler
Pack Goodies and Snacks
  • Goody bags of toys, surprises, and game suggestions are helpful. Allow kids a new treat once an hour, or, when desperate, once every half hour.
  • Avoid sugary snacks, sodas, juice, and candy as much as possible. Why hype the kid up any more than he already is?
  • Rely heavily on food. I don't mean meals (you'll need mealtime as a chance to stretch the body), but healthful snacks. Bottles of water are a must, as well.

When all else fails, try to travel at night and let the kids doze.