Whether it’s just a few hours in the car to your vacation destination or one with frequent stops –  road trips are a lot of fun. However, they can also be stressful. Here’s a list of some top stress-busting tips for your next vacation.

Get the Kids Involved: Get the kids involved in planning the trip; they can help with everything from choosing where to go, where to stay and what to do along the way. When kids take ownership of something, they’re less likely to get bored or act up.

Take Plenty of Pit Stops: If you plan to drive for many hours a day, schedule regular pit stops. Don’t just use these stops as opportunities to get something to eat or to take a bathroom break, find places along the route where the kids can have some fun. Try out road-side attractions where kids can release some of their energy.

Pack Plenty of Entertainment and Snacks: Bring lots of entertainment — electronic games, board games and playing cards. Kids can easily get bored during long drives. Get the kids off their headphones, do the same yourself and listen to some music together. If you have time, create a joint playlist before the trip starts. Also bring plenty of snacks. Even if you’ve carefully mapped out your trip, there’ll be times when it’s difficult to find a place to eat.

Engage the Kids: Keep your kids as engaged as possible while you’re on the road. Instead of having adults sit up front and kids in the back, one grown up should hop into the back seat and interact with them. After all, one of the main reasons to take a road trip is to spend quality time with your kids.

Give the Car A Check-Up: One thing that can definitely reduce stress is knowing that the car is in tip-top shape before you hit the road. Have it checked thoroughly by a mechanic, including brakes, fluids, lights and tire pressure. Make sure that your emergency road service membership is current, and pack your membership card.

Pack Emergency Supplies: Things can happen on the road. To be on the safe side, pack emergency supplies. This includes stuff for you and the kids, such as antiseptic wipes, band aids, batteries and phone chargers, a first-aid kit, hand sanitizer, motion sickness pills and water. Don’t forget stuff for the car — flashlights, jumper cables and a spare tire.

Packing and Unpacking: For trips with lots of stops, pack smaller bags that contain what everyone needs on any given day; the toiletry bag should be packed separately. It makes no sense to pack multiple toothbrushes for everyone!

Read About the Places You’re Going and Passing: Bring travel books about your destinations and the places that you’ll pass along the way. That’ll keep them occupied, make time in the car more fun for everyone and the trip more meaningful.

Accept That Things Can Go Wrong: It’s great to look forward to your road trip, but don’t expect that everything will go exactly as planned; that’ll only stress you out when something unexpected happens. You may hit traffic or find that you don’t have time for a stop you had planned.

Split Your Duties: Instead of trying to do everything yourself, which can be stressful, you and your partner can take on different responsibilities or rotate them during the trip. For example, one of you can make restaurant reservations, and the other can figure out how to get to and from the hotel and local attractions.

Make Reservations in Advance: Many people like to be spontaneous. But, when it comes to vacationing with kids, uncertainty can also be stressful. Consider pre-booking not just your hotel, but also the local attractions you want to see and restaurants where you want to eat. When things are booked in advance, you can just relax and enjoy each other’s company.

Take It Slowly: If you want to have a stress-free road trip, take it slowly and leave plenty of time for everything. If you’d originally planned to visit two or three local attractions a day, spread them out over two or three days. Schedule some downtime every day. A good rule of thumb is that the pace of the trip should be set by what your youngest kid can handle.

Keep Everyone Safe: It can be hard to keep track of the whole family. If the kids have their own smartphones, make them download tracking apps so you always know where they are. For younger kids, write down your contact information and secure it in a safe, concealed place on their body, like sewn into a pant pocket. Always follow safe driving rules and wear your seat belts.

-Tanni Haas

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