Keeping your kids in check during holiday travels

Article By: Scott Marshall
Scott Marshall is Director of Training for Young Drivers of Canada.  He was a judge on the first 3 seasons of Canada’s Worst Driver on Discovery Network. Scott started writing columns on driving for his community paper since 2005.  Since then his columns have been printed in several publications including newspaper, magazines and various web-sites. You can visit his own blog athttp://safedriving.wordpress.com.


Staying focused on driving is something every driver has to do, but with so many distractions, it seems to become more and more difficult. The biggest discussion about driver distraction over the past few years has been cell phone use, but there’s one big distraction that seems to be overlooked; having our kids in the car during holiday travels.

Raising kids is fun but also challenging, especially while driving. It would often seem like an eternity for them when they last asked “Are we there yet?” even though it may have only been ten minutes. After experiencing this after a couple of drives I realized we needed a new plan to keep my kids occupied and away from distracting me while I drove.

Use the early travel time to talk about the trip and to look outside the windows at the scenery. Involve your kids with the trip and the time will fly by. Go deep inside your memory bank and pull out those driving songs you did when you were a kid. It may also help if you learn some of the kid’s songs before you leave on your trip.

If the kids are young, give them a variety of things to occupy their time. Give them books with bright pictures, a few toys that wouldn’t fall to the ground and could be attached to their car seat and games. As the kids got older, we would bring books to read, books on tape, hand held video games and music. And when I say music, I mean their music, not yours. If you give them ear buds or headphones, they can hear it and not you. Keep the items a surprise for them until you need them. In other words, don’t let them know what you’ve brought to keep them busy. The added surprise of the items will help keep them occupied for a while.

One of the things kids would often say is that they need to use the washroom. Plan those stops within your trip. Know where a rest stop would be that falls upon your route. Taking those few minutes to make a planned stop helps relieve the pressure, so to speak. This allows you, the driver, to let them know when they will be stopping when they ask. Those few minutes of stopping will also allow your kids to move around and burn off some more energy before they head back into the vehicle.

For those of us with kids, you know they always get hungry. Prepare some snacks that they enjoy and bring those along. Bringing some drinks for them will also help because you know they’ll get thirsty. Just remember, after that drink they may have to use the washroom, so plan when to give out those snacks. The job of the driver is to stay focused on driving and to remove the distractions. With this in mind, it’s partially the driver’s decision as to when the kids should begin to get these items.