Honk if you love the holidays! Kidding. Let’s be real — the holidays can be a magical time of year, but for those of us making the magic happen, there are logistics to keep in mind that can make things … well, stressful (i.e. making sure you have gifts for everyone, trip planning, remembering to move the Elf on a Shelf, etc.). Plane travel is one thing, but if you’re on the road, you’re the pilot. How can you keep a car full of kiddos (and car seats) in one piece for hours on end without flight attendants to provide water and snacks? By being the SuperMama you are, that’s how. YOU GOT THIS! Here are a few tips & must-dos to check off your safety list that’ll make every road trip much easier on the whole family:
Top 7 Tips for Road Trip Safety
1. Make sure your vehicle is in tip-top shape
Getting a flat tire when you’re alone is one thing; getting a flat tire with a car full of littles is another. A few weeks before you’re scheduled to get on the road, take your car in for its annual tune-up. The National Highway Traffic Safety Association recommends you ask to check for leaks, badly worn hoses, vehicle recalls, and any needed parts, repairs or replacements.
2. Make sure your car seats are in tip-top-er shape
Can you wiggle your seat more than 1 inch out of place when checked at the belt path?? How’s your recline angle? Harness strap height? Three (3) of four (4) car seats are not installed correctly — yet 90% of parents think their child is not one of them. I was one of those parents.
Run through proper installation and harnessing with a certified car seat safety technician before you get on the road. Have your littles join in so they can learn what’s right too! Equip yourself for what you can control to prepare yourself for what you can’t.
3. Make sure YOU are in tip-top-est shape
Before the trip, get the best night’s sleep you can around the sleep schedules of your little ones (I know, dreaming a bit here!). Share your location with worriers at the other end who’ll undoubtedly call while you’re driving to ask. Prepare a playlist that you and the kiddos can both enjoy, and bring what you need to be comfortable in your seat (i.e. a gadget for lumbar support if your vehicle doesn’t do it for you). And, remember to adjust your vehicle seat and headrest to the proper locations so you are safe in your seat too!
4. Check the weather for your entire route the day before (and plan accordingly)
I did what most of us do — check the weather for our destination and plan around that. But, what if we hit torrential rain (or snow) somewhere in the middle? High winds? If you know you’re going to hit bad weather, try to plan your pit stops so that the whole family is indoors during anything severe. Sunny? Install some sunshades like these for the ride. And, no matter what, have an emergency kit on hand that includes jumper cables, tire-changing tools, a flashlight and road flares, blankets, water and first-aid supplies and my favorite tool in case of imminent danger, the resqme. Bonus points if you bring an external battery for each cell phone.
5. Pack enough activities to keep the littles entertained for the whole car ride
All the activities in the world can’t keep our children from getting antsy, but for your sanity, they’re worth bringing! For some easy activity ideas (and/or last-minute gifts for all the littles), take a few minutes to check out my Amazon Shop with safe, soft car seat toys appropriate for all ages!
6. Do a final car (and brain) check the morning of, before any passengers are inside
Scan the backseat for any hard, loose toys, make sure you have a safe place to secure your phone while navigating and tie down any luggage/coolers to the vehicle to avoid harboring dangerous projectiles in the event of a crash. Then, take a big, deep breath — you’ve done all this work ahead of time to make the trip as easy as it can possibly be. Nothing is perfect, but you’re close; now it’s go time.
7. Mentally prepare yourself for this trip to take longer than usual
But, don’t worry; you’ll get there. Plan to build in extra time to stop and hop out of the car every 2–3 hours (and as often as you need for feeding and changing if you’re traveling with infants). Extended periods in the car can cause major circulation issues. You may want to power through, but it’s not safe for you or your little ones to do so. Add 30 minutes to every 2-3 hours of drive time to stop, get out of the car, hit up the bathroom, let the kids run around, etc. If you are planning to travel during the night, you still need to stop and let the kids out just for a few minutes. Hopefully, they will be in a deep enough sleep that they will fall right back into dreamland after you buckle them back in. Remember — it isn’t a race and safety is THE top priority!
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