In your 20s the term “ROAD TRIP” would have had you chomping at the bit for what you knew would be a couple of days of you and your mates getting into the best kind of mischief.  But now you are in your 30s and quickly approaching your 40s, the term “ROAD TRIP” has the exact opposite effect, sending you spiralling out of control into an all-out panic attack.  That backseat full of irritated, bored, sweaty kids has taken all the fun out of that unavoidable journey to your holiday destination.

But with a bit of pre-planning, you can minimise the stress and survive the trip with your sanity intact.

  1. Pre-portion snacks and drinks

To avoid having to pull over at every shout of “I’m hungry” or “I’m thirsty”, thus extending your time on the road, make sure you have kids sized snacks prepped ahead of time (and packed within reach). This will also avoid accusations like “they got more than me”.

  1. Pack an activity bag for each kid

Based on your child’s interests, pack a little goodie bag of activities.  You don’t have to go overboard and add to your stress, but a colouring-in book for your five year old and a few Sudoku puzzles for your 11 year old might re-establish some peace and tranquillity in the otherwise warring region once known as the backseat.

  1. Have a list of games that don’t need props

Particularly good for children that get car sick are the observation games we all know for our own childhoods. “Eye-spy with my little eye” is a good one, but here are some more to keep things interesting:

  • Count the cows- this game is simple. Count the cows in the fields on your side of the road. If you pass a graveyard, your cows die and you have to start over.
  • ABC game- take turns finding letters on road signs on your side of the road. You must go in order. Great for kids learning their ABCs and want to show off their new skills.
  • The quiet game – Whoever can stay quiet the longest gets a prize. You and your partner will like this one the most.
  • Need something a bit more complex for the older kids? Try Car Cricket
  1. Catch up

Always having trouble at home to get details out of your kids about their lives and interests? This is the perfect time to interrogate them, they can’t go anywhere! Jokes aside, this is a really great opportunity to get to know your kids without all the usual distractions of everyday life.  Rotate the kids around in the seats (booster seats permitting) and use the time to connect with them and let them feel special.

  1. Plan your breaks ahead of time and take turns driving

Check for good spots to have a break along your journey before you leave and let your kids know where and when they can expect these breaks.  This will let them feel a little bit more in control of the situation and will give them something to look forward to.  Taking turns between you and your partner to drive will not only keep you fresh and alert but will also give you both an opportunity to take turns interacting with the kids and being able to focus on them.

  1. Expect the unexpected

Car sickness can happen to even the hardiest kids, so it’s a good idea to pack plenty of salty crackers, zip lock bags and paper towel just in case.  The better prepared you are for this eventuation, the less likely it will be that you will find yourself at a service station trying to clean up any ‘accidents’. Speaking of accidents, this probably isn’t the best time to start potty-training your toddler, let them keep their pull-ups for this trip.

  1. Create a playlist

Get each member of the family to contribute a handful of their favourite songs each and play them at random.  You might have a good giggle at the transition between The Wiggle’s ‘Big Red Car’ and ACDC’s ‘Thunderstruck’.

  1. Stay on top of the mess

Rubbish will quickly take over precious space if you don’t take the time at each stop to empty out the car. Dedicate a rubbish bag somewhere in the car for quicker cleaning.

  1. Plan drive time around naps

Already know that your infant will probably want to have a two-hour nap at around 11 am and they don’t mind sleeping in the car?  Time your two-hour road trip to that.

  1. Keep them guessing

Don’t divvy out all of the activities and snacks at the start of the trip.  Keep some tucked away for when things get a bit tense.  Everybody loves a surprise to break up the boredom.