With the holidays approaching quickly, you might be planning a road trip to visit with friends and family during your vacation. Whether it’s a shorter journey or a multi-day adventure to get to your destination, it’s important to plan ahead for all of the aspects of an efficient road trip. One important aspect of this is planning your stops and breaks throughout the journey for plenty of safety reasons. But what’s the best way to do this? Here’s our guide on how to plan stops on a road trip…especially when traveling with kids!
How to Plan Stops on a Road Trip: Planning Ahead for Safe Travels
As with any car trip, safety is the number one priority for a perfect road trip. Here are our tips for preparing safely for a long road trip.
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Safety First: Tips for a Safe Journey
The first step for planning a road trip is to make sure that you and your vehicle are ready for the journey ahead. This would include getting a tune-up for your car, checking your fluids and tires, making sure all car seats are properly installed, considering roadside assistance like AAA, and mapping out your route. While mapping out the route, it will also be important for you to mentally prepare yourself to know that it will likely take a bit longer to arrive at your destination than your GPS or Google Maps predicts, so plan your itineraries accordingly. Why? The two-hour rule.
How Often Should You Stop for Breaks on a Road Trip?: The Two-Hour Rule
Kids, even the happiest of riders, have their limits when it comes to staying in a car seat. It doesn’t take long for discomfort to set in, making it essential for parents to be aware of their child’s well-being during extended car journeys. That’s where the two-hour car seat rule comes into play—a guideline that ensures both safety and comfort for your little travelers.
Car seats are meticulously engineered to strike a balance between crash protection and proper positioning. However, spending extended periods in a car seat, even if it’s seemingly comfortable, can pose risks, especially for newborns. The semi-upright position can strain developing bones and muscles, and also become uncomfortable over time for your little one. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) emphasizes the importance of taking breaks during car trips. These breaks serve as an opportunity to not only stretch your legs but also to attend to your baby’s needs. Whether it’s feeding, changing, or simply cuddling, these breaks are vital for your baby’s well-being. This break allows your little passengers to move around, preventing circulation issues and ensuring a more pleasant journey for everyone involved. It’s also important for grown-ups to have these movement breaks as well for circulation and to help you stay awake and recharge!
How to Plan Your Stops on a Road Trip
Once you have your route mapped out, you can plan your road trip itinerary and take a look at where you can take your breaks. While rest stops can be great when pulling off the highway, you might not want to stop at one each time you have to take a break, just to shake it up a bit. You could find local attractions, state/national parks, or playgrounds. Here are some things to consider when choosing where to stop:
This one is probably obvious, especially when you have little ones in the car with you. Pro tip: keep a changing pad in your trunk just in case there’s no changing table (or no clean changing table) available. If you have a shy toddler, you could also consider a travel potty. This one is great because it can stand alone with a bag inside or it can fold and be placed on a toilet for your little one.
Another obvious one– find a place to fuel up with gas or charge your car. If you’re taking the scenic route, it’s definitely important to plan where to stop for fuel before you leave!
Snacks and Drinks
While I recommend packing snacks and drinks from home (and storing them in my favorite lunch box cooler and snack pouches), sometimes a special treat can lighten the spirits of our kiddos. Mom also might need a hot cup of coffee!
Green Space for Activities
This is a game changer when it comes to road-tripping. Get your kiddos moving when they’re out of the car! Sure, it might add to your drive time, but getting some energy out can be beneficial to everyone. Here are some of my favorite toys and activities for outside of the car:
Sometimes it’s nice to get out of the car to share at least one meal together while you’re on the road. Look out for a family-favorite restaurant or fast food spot to enjoy.
Lighting at Night
If you’re stopping once it gets dark out, it’s important to stop somewhere where there is plenty of lighting for safety. Nighttime is usually the perfect time to stop at a rest stop on the side of the highway.
If you need to stop and sleep for the night, you can plan your lodging ahead of time or while on the road. Find an easily accessible hotel, inn, or even a campground on your route where you can rest up, take a shower, and get ready for another day of travel ahead.
You’re Ready to Go!
Now that you know the importance of planning stops on your road trip, you’re ready to pack up, pile into your car, and hit the road! Don’t forget to stop at least every two hours, fuel up your car, and get some movement in. You’ll be happy and healthy once you reach your final destination!
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