traveling with kids

Whether it's over the river, through the woods, or to grandmother's house you go, traveling with kids is a challenge. We offer some tips on how to drive safely with kids while keeping your sanity in the process.

kids and distracted driving

Parental disclaimer: kids are the best. With that out of the way, we can safely admit that when it comes to driving with kids, they can also be a major distraction.

Not that you need stats to back up what you already know, but the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that pint-sized passengers can be 4 times more distracting than adult copilots, and traveling with infants can be 8 times more distracting.

A little preparation and strategy can go a long way. And with that in mind, use these driving tips to stay safe, sane, and punctual.

for best results, plan ahead

When setting out for a long road trip, pack the car the night before. That way you can avoid stress while getting everything ready before your departure.

Travel during bedtime

If you're up for it, drive while the kids are getting some shut-eye. Leave in the evening or in the wee hours of the morning while they're still sleeping. Obviously, you'll need to make sure you're up for the drive, and avoid driving tired.

Give yourself plenty of time

Traveling with small children will take longer. So, rather than rushing, embrace the long drive. Plan 20-minute breaks every 2 to 3 hours to let the kids stretch their little legs and release some of that boundless energy.

stay focused on the road

Multitasking may be good in the office, but in the car it can lead to trouble. If your kids need something and you're minus a copilot, pull over to a safe spot away from traffic. If you can't safely pull over right away, wait until you can. You might have to deal with a little meltdown in the meantime, but safety's worth it.

Don't turn around

The road requires your full attention. Even a quick glance back at the kids could lead to trouble. So instead of turning around, use your rearview mirror to check on them. And if the wee one's in a rear-facing car seat, a mirror attached to the head restraint can help you keep tabs without completely taking your eyes off the road.

distract the children, not vice versa

Keep your kids from going stir crazy (and driving you crazy) in the car by keeping them busy. Give them something to play with, like a favorite doll or video game (you can read them your favorite Shakespeare after the car is parked).

Feed 'em, Seymour

Little kids, like grown-ups, can get fussy when their bellies are empty. Avoid hunger-related crankiness by bringing along some healthy snacks.

Play travel games

A simple car game such as "I Spy" or counting cows or out-of-state license plates will help keep your kids engaged and calm.

safety first when driving with kids

Just by reading this page, you'll be mentally prepared for the inevitable distraction while you're on the road. And while it goes without saying, make sure everyone's buckled up. Keep older kids in seat belts at all times, no matter how many times they've asked, "Are we there yet?" And ensure younger children are properly buckled into their correctly installed car seats — they won't do any good if they're improperly installed.

Need a quick review? Check out our tips on car seat safety.

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