Jill shares her secrets for relatively smooth road trips with kids. I admit I've been intimidated by the prospect of shoving our whole family in a car for more than a few hours, but this list gives me hope.
1. Set a timer for a "flexible" 30 min to one hour. Each time it goes off, regardless of the behavior occurring at that moment, provide a tiny treat. (believe it or not, about the size of five M&M's worked for us) Have a variety of fun snacks or wrapped packages (five new crayons in colored tissue paper with a bow) This trick will stop a meltdown in its tracks and give everyone a fresh start. It is the timer's decision, not yours, so kids don't feel judged. Although you can secretly mess with the timer (just getting back in the car after a break was better than just as we were getting out I found) they seem to respect the inanimate object.
2. Take new and novel toys, especially with moving parts. Take birthday blowers and other noisemakers if you can stand it. They come out and they get put back away. Toys can rotate every 30 min to one hour.
3. Make a routine. Timer goes off, treat is passed around, Mom collects the old toys. Everyone sings, reads or listens to a CD for a while, then Mom passes out new toys and the timer starts again.
4. Take 15-minute breaks every two hours. At least. Better to take longer and arrive saner.
5. Keep your home routine intact as much as possible. Morning snack, stories before naptime, etc. Even if you're in the car, a routine always helps. If the trip is longer than one day, make the days similar.
6. Stop somewhere with a pool in the evening.
7. Eat meals in places that don't require sitting still and behaving. It won't happen. Even takeout in a parking lot is better than yet another restaurant meltdown.
8. Breathe deeply and have wine with dinner. 🙂 Good luck!