How to actually conquer meltdowns on Spring Break
Family road trips are supposed to be refreshing, strengthen family bonds through shared adventures and experiences, and create memories to cherish. But what do you do if your memories of past trips are tainted by squabbling, whining, and downright crabbiness due to too much in the vehicle “togetherness”?
If you've ever found yourself one meltdown away from canceling family road trips forever, you need to know how to actually conquer meltdowns on Spring Break before you even set out…
Meltdown conqueror # 1
Wrap and sneak “riding surprises” onto the trip. Having a little surprise for children can be an instant boredom buster. Items like a small toy they’ve wanted, a new movie, or a new book are ideal. Hide the wrapped packages where you can reach them without them realizing the presents are there. Then spring the surprises when boredom (or bickering) reaches a peak.
Meltdown conqueror #2
Stick to water. To minimize pit stops, skip drinks that cause them. Unfortunately, this is pretty much all beverages except water. Even the sugar in milk can cause potty emergencies. For the adults, also avoiding or minimizing coffee and tea can help eliminate excess stops.
Meltdown conqueror #3
Schedule a special stop. Short rides don't need a long break but anything hitting the 6+ hours mark might. Plan to stop about midway to your destination and get out for a while. Visit a tourist stop, find an activity, or even stay overnight in hotel. Cutting your ride into two sections bolsters everyone's fortitude and energy to press on.
Meltdown conqueror #4
Banish sugar and salt. The kryptonite to traveling long distances, allowing kids to snack on sugary items will backfire on you. It might appease crabbiness for the short-term but the temporary high sugar gives is followed by a crash that causes even worse irritability. Not only that, but sugar increases the need for restroom stops, adding to both travel discomfort and time. Likewise with salty snacks. They only increase the need for lots of liquids to flush out all that salt.
Meltdown conqueror #5
Invest in a (good) vehicle power inverter. A high-quality power inverter that turns your vehicle’s cigarette lighter into a power strip for electronics can be a life-saver. Unless you're only going to charge cell phones occasionally, the “power struggle” and bickering when handheld device batteries run low becomes very real, very fast. This is one device I'll actually encourage you not to go too cheap on. If the inverter isn't rated with enough power to run a laptop and a gaming system – don't waste your money. You'll wish you'd bought a different one. Expect to spend in the neighborhood of $45 for this sanity-saver.
Meltdown conqueror #6
Give them an earning opportunity. Self-policing on a family road trip sound like a dream? Offer a chance to earn spending money for great attitudes and no whining. Take away from what they've earned if attitudes slide. What they have left when they get there is their own to spend.
Meltdown conqueror #7
Leave late at night rather than in the morning. Hit the road late evening (or even after dark), rather than early morning. Night driving gives multiple benefits to family road trips, including lighter traffic, quieter road conditions, fewer construction slowdowns, and fewer stops for food and the restroom – all adding to faster total travel time. Not only that but arguing and complaining is all but eliminated since kids are likely to sleep quite a bit of the time. Just be cautious that the driver doesn’t also get sleepy, such as no one driving without at least one other adult awake, and fitting in a nap before leaving.
Meltdown conqueror #8
Plan actual family time. To break up the ride, plan specific time periods (maybe an hour or so) of “no distractions, no devices”. During that time period, no one is allowed to play with any toy, including electronics, read books, or do other individual activities. This time is for actual family interaction time. Play road games, discuss upcoming activities, go over important details, tell stories. Breaking up the time provides family bonding time with a side of boredom-busting.