How can I reduce the stress of the family road trip with my kids?

Michele Borba

The family road trip is as Americana as apple pie. So how can parents plan a family road trip with their kids, reduce stress, and fondly remember it all their lives?  There are some ideas to try:

Set Car Rules

How many times do parents have to say: “Keep your voices down!!!” or “Take Turns,” while travelling with their kids?  Clear expectations help reduce flare-ups, so set rules for the car and then explain them to your kids before starting that engine and pulling out your driveway. Typical car rules are: “Indoor voices. Seat belts. Hands-to-self. Pick up your mess.” Even better, post your rules in the car on a small white board as a “friendly reminder.” Your best discipline ploy for a severe kid behavior infraction: Pull off the road (after checking your rear-view mirror) and turn off the engine. Once your kids know you mean business, it’s amazing how quickly they resolve their squabbles. (Especially if they see you reading a magazine and figure out that they may be not be moving for a while until they do).

Arrange No Cost, No Fuss Family Travel Games

A key to keeping kids’ behavior in check is fighting off those dreaded “I’m boorrrred” cries. That means keeping the kids occupied without you having to jump over the front seat to do so. This is a great time to introduce all those family road trip games you played as a kid like the License Plate Game (pack a U.S. map and start a family contest to see if you can find a license plate per state) or I Spy which are especially great for extra-long driving stretches.

A must for any car trip is a cookie sheet. (No kidding!) Pack one per kid because they have multiple uses. You can stack and store them easily under the front seat, and then pull them out and convert them into instant tabletops to play card games like Old Maid or Fish, color, write postcards to friends or even snack on as trays. Most cookie sheets are magnetic, so kids can play magnetic games on them without worrying about pieces flying all over the car, and their rims keep all those smaller cars, blocks and crayons from slipping off.

The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries

More About this Book

The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries

Today show's Michele Borba's cures for difficult childhood behaviors In this down-to-earth guide, parenting expert Michele Borba offers advice for dealing with children's difficult behavior and hot...

Continue Learning about Parent-Child Relationship

Why are my children acting out now that I’m back from the service?
Challenge AmericaChallenge America
Children naturally tend to “act out” or test boundaries whenever there’s a change in family status. ...
More Answers
How do I talk to my child about their emotions?
Catherine Mogil, PsyDCatherine Mogil, PsyD
You can begin talking to your kids about their emotions by talking about four basic feelings: mad, s...
More Answers
How can I establish morning routines with my kids?
Lynne KenneyLynne Kenney
You might wish to define a separate routine for each child or keep them all the same, depending ...
More Answers
How do you discipline your child without saying No?
Catherine Mogil, PsyDCatherine Mogil, PsyD
An important parenting strategy is redirecting rather than saying No, Don't, Stop, and Quit. Redirec...
More Answers

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.