Traveling on the Road with Kids
A FEW weeks ago, I wrote a road trip article for Sun.Star Weekend Wheels and one of the tips I dished out drew a sharp rebuke from the wife. “Bring lots of chips and candies” was my advice to keep them preoccupied and their spirits -- and sugar levels -- high. “You should have suggested something healthy like fruit and veggie snacks,” she said. In hindsight, she was right. Now, I’m the last person anyone would seek advice about healthy food, so I’d rather skip that part -- there’s always Google -- and stick to road trip tips I’d be confident enough to impart. Here are a few of those tips, with kids in mind:
Get plenty of rest before the trip
For longer road trips, especially at night, expect your kids to doze off. The driver, however, can’t afford such a luxury. One way to keep awake and stay alert -- and many adults take this for granted -- is to get sufficient rest prior to the trip. And just before the long drive, treat yourselves to a hearty meal to keep your energy levels up. And don’t forget the healthy snacks.
When in doubt, visit your doctor
Again, I’m not qualified to dish out advice on specific health issues, which is why it makes sense for you to visit your doctor for that purpose, just to make sure. You’re expected to have your car checked up for the road trip, so why not you, the driver, not to mention the one in the passenger seat? Remember, road trips can get draining and mentally taxing -- especially when the kids are on beast mode -- so the driver’s fitness must never be compromised.
Prepare water bottles for everyone
“Keep rehydrated” is one advice many take for granted. But this El Niño season, the heat can get unbearable, putting you and the kids at risk of dehydration (ask your doctor). So, stock up on water and drink lots of fluids on and off the road to keep your road trip crew rehydrated. Of course, everyone would be peeing a lot, but that’s pretty much a minor inconvenience that having to deal with dehydration in the middle of the road trip.
Get creative on the road
I read from a blogger mom about coming up with games for kids while roadtripping. Riddles, puns and similar brain games will keep them entertained while you deal with hundreds of kilometers of road, some of which will cut through desolate forests or mindnumbing monotonous flatlands. During our return trip from Sagada in 2013, one of my kids decided to preoccupy herself by counting Iglesia Ni Cristo churches -- the distinct architecture must have caught her fancy -- starting in Nueva Ecija. With an overnight stop in Manila, she counted roughly 40 churches by the time we reached Matnog in Sorsogon, Luzon’s southern tip.
Keep those gadgets and powerbanks handy
Some parents opt to leave gadgets behind so that their kids may truly experience rural living and commune with nature to the max. Fine, except that when you’re riding a car, you have barely anything to do. So, even if you’re driving fast, time at times could still crawl achingly slow, and chances are, the kids would tire of the brain games and get restless. In that case, your trusty gadgets loaded with game apps, with powerbanks at hand, can keep them preoccupied. Of course, you can always impose the “No Gadget When Outdoors” policy.
Make money matter
Don’t keep your money in one place. Make sure to stash some backup cash. And although even the most remote areas have ATM machines, don’t count on it, as these could run out of cash or become unavailable. Give older kids some emergency cash and brief them about when to use it (definitely not on ice cream).
Don’t forget your checklists and playlists
Each child should have his or her own checklist, including for toiletries, personal effects, meds and vitamins. Make sure to double check the contents of your emergency and first aid kits. And here’s one list that would keep your spirits high on the road: playlists. If each kid gets to contribute a road trip playlist, make sure all of them get their fair share of “airplay.”
Have a Plan B to your Plan B
So you’ve made a checklist and itinerary and run through them a number of times. That means this should be the most perfect road trip ever, right? Wrong. Don’t expect everything to go smoothly, so it pays to have a backup plan to your backup plan. Here are things to consider: the unpredictable weather, vehicle breakdowns, heavy traffic, even ailments, among many others. Also, assess your kids needs, abilities and limits and draft your plans around these.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
While you can plan all the way to Plan E, don’t make the mistake of going obsessive compulsive with the details. Instead, keep each plan simple and sensible, like keeping a short list of accommodations should you get left behind by the ro-ro vessel. Don’t discuss worst-case scenarious with your kids. The last thing you’d want as passengers are children who have freaked out and all of you aren’t even there yet.
Have a nice trip!
And that’s no lip service. To make the road trip really enjoyable, make the kids look forward to the destination. When their spirits seem low, tell them about the beautiful beach that awaits them or what adventures the foggy mountains have in store. Become a child yourself and share their excitement. Now go.