We love driving together as a family. Often our trips are just as much about the travel as they are about the destination. Sometimes we may just head out on a drive that ends up taking us nowhere in particular but becomes a day's adventure. Hitting the road lets you see much of the area you are traveling up close and provides the flexibility of stopping your the car at any time to experience the serendipitous. While some may dread driving with kids, if you do what you can to keep everyone comfortable and engaged the drive can be a rewarding and enriching family time.
Whether you are headed to the next town over or are making an epic trip across the country make the most of your travel time.
Stop often - Don't think of your travel as a utilitarian process that should end as soon as possible. Rather, tune into the wonders that are all around you as you head down any stretch of highway. This can be helped if you and your kids did some research before you hit the road to identify any places worth stopping at and exploring. Take the time to stop in little towns or roadside pull offs to experience the area and all it has to offer.
Be open to changing your plans - If you do take the time to stop, ask others about their recommendations of places to check out along the road. Locals and other seasoned travelers may have good suggestions of places worth seeing. Also don't be afraid to really set out and explore at a roadside stops. One of the highlights of a drive on Vancouver Island is when we stopped in a park to let one of the kids use an outhouse and ended up running down a trail to reach a waterfall before night fell. We saw the sun setting over the falls and were back on the road half an hour later.
Make the most of car time - Travel brings the family together for hours at a time with no real agenda. Play, talk and read together and make time for great discussions. As you can probably tell by all the podcast recommendations on this site, we love listening to podcasts and find that in the car is a great time to do this. They are interesting to the whole family and make long stretches of travel seem quicker without the screen time.
Be present to your surroundings - Don't feel the need to fill up all of your travel time with activities. When our kids ask what to do in the car my first response is always "look out the window". Pay attention the scenery around you, watch for wildlife and just soak in the new surroundings. Make sure to model this behaviour for your kids as well. If you'd like you can play games like scavenger hunts or I Spy to help direct everyone's attention out of the windows.
HOW CAN I GET MY KIDS TO LOVE THE ROAD (Or at least tolerate it?)
Involve kids in planning your travels. Explore maps of the area together before hand and identify interesting destinations and sites. Ask kids to choose the route they would like to take and some destinations that they would like to stop and explore. Help them get books about the destination at the library and learn a little about what to expect. Finally, have them pack up their travel kits - books, toys and activity materials to have on the road.
Hopefully your kids will be seasoned road trip pros in no time at all.