Summer is right around the corner, which means road trip season is too! Road trips are a fantastic way to spend quality time with your family.
Multiple parenting articles assert that when families enjoy activities together, children learn essential social skills and strengthen their self-image. Also, they assert that strong family bonds encourage better behavior in children, improve academic performance, strengthen parent-child communication, and teach children how to be a good friend.
I believe the teamwork involved in planning and executing a family road trip provides valuable steppingstones on the path toward family bonding and personal growth.
Engage all the family in the planning of your trip.
The teamwork begins in the planning stages. When your children are very small, your team is usually your spouse. However, as young as ages 2 or 3, children can be a part of the team in the planning and execution of the road trip. In my family, we have found that allowing as many choices as possible from as young an age as possible invests and engages children in the adventure. Just remember to only give them choices you can live with. Young children are capable of assisting in clothing and snack choices, choosing items for their car bag (from your pre-approved options), and selecting from two restaurants on your list. This same thinking applies to car snacks. Depending on the size of your family and vehicle, you can individually portion snacks or have a “food manager” that keeps track of them and helps to distribute them.
Practice teamwork throughout your trip.
In a small space such as a car, everything is teamwork. Who will drive? Who will navigate? When will or won't there be a switch in those roles? Who will sit where in those backseats? Who chooses the movie (if you allow them), the playlist, the game, the snack time, or the restaurant? Who will be the toddler/baby helper? The whole family must collaborate and surrender some personal desires to make it a net positive experience.
Learn life skills during your adventure.
In addition to teamwork, activities, games, electronics, and even a little boredom contribute to the development of the life skills mentioned above. Plan a few travel games, sing some songs together from that playlist, and watch a movie or two together (Our rule for road trip movies is that they must have an appealing soundtrack to the driver). However, we must be aware that family bonding will be diminished when we are all in our own electronic worlds for the bulk of the trip. Allowing time for each child to be involved in their own activity from their car bag supports autonomy. Frankly, a little boredom is good for all of us too. We do not need to have something planned for every moment, as children and adults need those lazy moments to recharge. Allowing some time for coloring and staring is a valuable option for all.
Try activities that prompt valuable conversation.
Road trip games seem to open the door to those memorable conversations. There is a wide variety of them available for all ages. There is the traditional license plate bingo or you can make your own game that is specific to your trip. One of our family favorites, “5 Second Rule,” can be found in your app store. You can also find more fun car game options here. Even if a game does not lead to deep talks, you will learn something about each other and have fun passing the time on the way to your destination.
Make the most of your family road trip.
Let’s face it - traveling with children can be quite stressful. No matter the mode or length of travel, confining children (especially the littles) to a small space for any length of time is a challenge. Below are a few links with some outstanding ideas that I wish I had when my kids were younger. With some of these ideas in tow, a road trip can be “just the ticket” on the path to family bonding.
- How to Take Advantage of Road Trips to Bond as a Family - by Cesar Diaz
- 14 Tips to Enjoy Family Road Trips - by Amy McCready (Positive Parenting Solutions)
- 10 Must-Haves for Family Road Trips - by Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz