If you're a frequent reader of this space, the following statement should not come as a surprise: road trips through Europe are both fulfilling and exciting. Famous passages like the Brenner Pass, the French Riviera or Germany's Castle Road allow you to enjoy driving almost as much as the stops you make to appreciate the natural and manmade beauty of the continent.
And yet, families with small children often shy away from these types of road trips, for obvious reasons. Children tend to get impatient, turning any road trip longer than an hour into a tortured game of "are we there yet?" To avoid the game and give you access to longer road trips, we've consluted with some of our battle-tested frequent family travelers for some pointers: here are 6 family travel tips to keep your little ones occupied and happy in the car.
1) Include Your Kids in the Planning
The beauty of Europe makes it easy to plan a vacation that only adults can enjoy. But believe it or not, children will not be nearly as interested in old churches or historic landmarks as you may be. To balance your trip, plan in stops that your kids want to see: a local zoo, a nice beach, or a water park. Letting your kids pick some of these stops ahead of time increases their commitment to enduring the long ride there.
2) Let Them Know What to Expect
As soon as your children know how to read a clock, you should let them know just how long it takes to get from one spot to the next. That way, you can point out the time each time they ask the dreaded question, and let them figure out just what that means. You can even buy them a local map that allows them to trace your route; periodically giving them updates on your current vacations allows them to visualize the progress you make toward your destination.
3) Play a Game
Car games never get old. "I Spy," "20 Questions," or the License Plate Game are all great ways to keep your children occupied and involved in the trip. Check out this list for inspirations on games to play in the car. To change it up and make it relevant to your trip, you can even customize the game so that it relates to the country you're currently in.
4) Bring Audiobooks
Nothing soothes a child more than hearing their favorite story read aloud to them. Unfortunately, not many people can read in cars without feeling ill, which is why most parents forego story time in the car. The solution: audiobooks of your children's favorite stories. Some of them are even interactive, keeping your kids involved and minimizing their boredom.
5) Strategize Your Snacks
Every responsible parent brings snacks on a long road trip. But have you thought about turning them into checkpoints during your road trip? Instead of waiting for your child to ask for fruit snacks or a juice box, establish ahead of and during the trip just when it will be snack time. Then, watch your kids look forward to these times, shortening the potentially long and excruciating drive between two major destinations.
6) Drive Recollection and Excitement
As soon as you leave a spot, begin to ask your children all about it. What did they like the most? Can they imagine living in that old ruin, without any of their modern spoils? What would be the one thing they would want to keep? Encourage your kids' imagination and before they know it, you will be well on your way to the next stop on your trip. And then, it's almost time to get your little ones excited about the next stop: what do they think will await them? What are they most excited about?
Long car rides with children do not have to be painful. Especially when driving through a continent as rich in history and culture as Europe, you will find plenty of conversation topics appropriate even for your youngest kids. To learn more about traveling through Europe as a family, and what cars may be your best companions on the road, contact us.
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