10 tips and hacks for planning a stress-free family road trip this summer
To celebrate getting back on the road we asked Diono Parents their top tricks and hacks for a fun and stress-free family road trip.
With holidays on the horizon and road trips on everyone’s mind, we thought now was the perfect time to catch up with our Child Passenger Safety Technician, Scott, and Diono Parents to find out what they recommend as top tips for a trip the whole family will love. Here’s our run down of 10 essential tips, tricks and recommendations for how to survive your first road trip as a family this year!
This might seem obvious, but it’s easily forgotten. Plan the entire route, including any rest breaks and pit stops, way ahead of time and explain to your family. That way, everyone knows what to expect. You can even give your little ones some landmarks or destinations to look out for on the way. Although pit stops are a great idea, try and limit them if you don’t need them. Instead of saying “we’ll break every two hours” plan for a maximum number of stops, if your backseat is happily passing time the last thing you want is to break your run on the road and interrupt them!
Check, check, check again!
Have your car serviced before you embark on a long road trip. Preventing a breakdown starts with regular maintenance so give yourself plenty of time to schedule the service before your vacation. Preventive maintenance can also identify issues ahead of time so they can be corrected before they become major problems when you’re 400 miles from home. If you’re traveling during the summer, it might be a good idea to have your car’s air conditioner serviced so everyone can stay nice and cool. When you’re on the road remember to check your fuel, oil and water whenever you make a pit stop.
Leave at prime time
For longer journeys, leaving in the middle of the night will work in your favour. Your little one is likely to be sleepy so you can enjoy a few hours of uninterrupted driving and actual adult conversation. You’re likely to cover a good proportion of the journey, which means you’ve got more time at your destination. Bonus! If your journey isn’t too long (less than 10 hours) set an alarm for 5am and get on the road. This really is golden hour, you’ll hit less traffic, potentially catch the sunrise and get your day started with energy and sense of adventure.
Snacks. Snacks. More snacks.
Even if you’ve got plenty of breaks lined-up, packing snacks and refreshments avoids having to break early and is much more friendly on your budget. The last thing you need is a hangry backseat, and you never know if you’re going to hit traffic or get held up along the way, so snacks are a must-have. Be mindful of the weather conditions and temperature in the car, if it’s a super hot day and you’re planning on packing your favourite chocolate, it might not end so well… Try to think healthy and not-so-messy!
Be prepared for mess…
It’s inevitable, even with mess-free snacks. Look out for a portable bin like the Diono Pop Up Trash Bin or bring along a small waste basket from home and put it somewhere your child can easily dispose of their waste. It’s much easier emptying a basket than it is digging out all the dropped cartons and scraps from between and under the seats! Keep some disposable handwipes and tissues close by too, you don’t want to have to pull over because your back seat is wearing more of their lunch than they’ve eaten…
Okay so we’re likely to limit screen time in the home but on the road, streaming a film or show is a really great way to keep the back seat entertained (and quiet). Let your little ones agree a film, download before you go and pack earphones so they can listen in without distracting other passengers. Alternatively, check out audiobooks for the whole family to enjoy or curate a family playlist and let everyone choose a handful of songs for the journey. And of course, don’t forget the classic road trip games; the alphabet game, I Spy and word association. Whatever you decide, decide before you ride! This makes sure that everyone agrees and gives a structure to the journey.
New or novelty toys
This doesn’t need a big budget but providing your Very Important Passenger with a new toy for the journey is more likely to entertain their imagination than one they’ve played with over and over. Of course, still pack some of their favourites but something new always feels exciting so this will be a great way to inspire fun! Older kids could create a travel journal or treat them to a new paper pad and pencil set to draw their own map along the way. This could also be used as an incentive to not ask “are we there yet” for the first few hours of the trip…
Be alert on the road
Good weather means more people will be traveling using different means of propulsion. Share the road with motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians. While they have the same rights and responsibilities as other motorists, they have less protection than you do in your car or truck. Maintain extra space between you and them so you have time to react to unexpected movements. Always signal your intention to turn, change lanes or merge with traffic so others can anticipate your movement and move to a safe lane position. When turning left across oncoming traffic we have a tendency to only look for other cars and not see motorcycles. Before turning make a conscious effort to look for motorcycles heading in your direction.
Spontaneous recreation stops
Although you might not need break or pit stops, don’t rule out a spontaneous stop at a playpark or nearby recreation spot along the way. This could be a local farmyard or quirky local attraction, you’ll be sure to spot plenty and if you’ve allowed for time to spare, why not get out and enjoy a quick play and run around? 20 minutes of soccer or enjoying a new scene can work wonders to your mood to enjoy some fresh air, especially when you’ve been riding in a vehicle for a long period.
In case of emergencies…
Not “my phone died” or “I ran out of crisps” but actual emergencies such as a break down. Pack extra food, water, blankets and change of clothes. Another great idea is to pack a bottle of frozen water and / or juice pack, not only will this keep other snacks cool but it will have a longer expiration should you need it in an emergency. It’s also useful to keep a list of important numbers in your vehicle and written directions, should your phone lose service or battery these will come in handy.