How to Take a Family Road Trip with Your Elementary-Aged Kid

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I’m quickly learning that parenting during the elementary years is not as easy as I thought it would be. “Big kid” problems are cropping up, and fixing things with a hug and kiss is no longer an option. Grumpiness is starting to show up more and more, too. And now it’s time to take your grumpy elementary-aged kid on a family road trip.

Good luck. While there are some benefits to traveling past the toddler and baby stages (no one misses the crying and potty training breaks from those days), there are also new hurdles. They’re too young to put on some headphones and moodily stare out the window and ignore you for 8 hours straight. They’re also too old to believe your lie that you’re “almost there.”

Wondering how you’ll survive your summer road trip? You’ll get through it with these tips.

Forget screen time rules

Throw those screen time rules right out of the window of your moving minivan and then chuck a couple of handheld devices into the backseat. Whether you have a DVD player in your vehicle, cell phones for the kids, or portable gaming devices, get them into your kids’ hot little hands and let it be. Keeping these kids entertained is essential to surviving your family road trip. You’ll still be hit with the “Are we there yet?” questions, but it will be far less often than if they had nothing else to do but stare out a window at hundreds of miles of interstate.

Pack (and buy) lots of snacks

These kids are growing and growing and (oh my god will they ever stop) growing. Which means that they are eating and eating and eating some more. Load up a cooler with snacks and drinks for your family road trip, but also slip your kids a few dollars before the start of the trip. Letting them purchase their favorite snack at gas stations along the way will keep them happy, which keeps you happy.

Don’t feel bad about losing it

We’ve all done it. Whether it takes the form of playing the Quiet Game or telling everyone to “Just be quiet and do not talk to each other!”, sometimes you need just a moment of peace and quiet. You’re going to be in the car for hours with one another, and a little space (or at least quiet) never hurt anyone.

Taking a family road trip is a great way to fit in a summer vacation without blowing your whole budget on plane tickets. Plus there’s always at least one, overpriced sightseeing opportunity along the way. You don’t have to fear dragging along your elementary-aged kids, though. Just keep them fed, distracted, and quiet when you have to. Then go take a nap in your hotel room. You earned it.

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