The zen guide to peaceful family car trips

Seinfeld’s famous “Serenity now!” skit was always a favourite in my family, and goes some way to setting the general tone of our family car trips growing up. 

We all seem to be searching for ways to access our inner peace these days, and I’m just going to go ahead and say this, but it does maybe seem a little bit harder to find serenity, now?

I suppose that comes down to where you are, what you’re up to, and so forth.

Today we’re talking family car trips.

In my family, our version of “serenity now” on the road was my Dad playing a brass band rendition of the William Tell Overture at full volume on our annual road trips to Wellington.  It was easiest to just go with the flow, but I can still hear the sound of those pipes ringing in my ears today as I write this article, and even today I can’t stand within 50 feet of a trumpet.

Ultimately however, it all brought us closer together.

I share these details to set the scene.  We all know how trying a family car ride can be when the chemistry just isn’t quite right.  With holidays coming up, we thought we’d take a shot at our tips for finding moments of zen on your road trip.

1.  Get planning, and get planning now

If you’ve got a long stretch of driving to get through, make sure you plan your rest stops.  

When will be the best time to make a stop for the bathroom, and are there bathrooms in that area?  If they’re public bathrooms, make sure they’re open.  This National Toilet Map might come in handy.

If you’re looking at a long trip of 4+ hours, you might like to factor in a stop at a local tourist attractions or roadside stalls so you can get some fresh air, stretch your legs and grab a coffee. You’ll also be supporting the local economy in the process! 

Little moments of zen like this add up to a fun car ride without the tension that can build up from being in a confined space with other people for a long time. 

2.  Control the temperature, stay cool

We’ve all known how hard it is to sit in a car that isn’t  effectively temperature controlled, and if you’re going on a long drive with the family, we recommend doing your best to ensure that your A/C is up to scratch before heading out on your road trip.

Depending on the make and model of your car, you may not have access to air conditioning (we get it!), and if this is the case, we recommend making good use of the cooler outdoor temperatures in the morning and evening to get through your mileage.  It’ll make all the difference and give you more time to spend at the destination.  

Another pro-cooling tip you can use is to drape a damp cloth/towel over an open window.

If you’re dealing with the opposite – colder temperatures – rug up and create a cosy vibe in the car with coffees, hot chocolates and other crowd favourites.

3.  Stay fed, not fed up!

The range of travel-friendly, healthy snacks available these days is pretty incredible. While we’re not saying there isn’t a place for pies and sausage rolls doused in tomato sauce, we are saying that maybe it’s not the best option at every small town rest stop on your long trip.  

Choose foods that will sustain you and the fam without giving you sugar highs and lows.  If you’re going to pack a bag of lollies, choose ones that the kids aren’t going to go insane for (and from!).  Fruit is perfect, easy-pack foods that will stay fresh for hours like carrots are good.  Muesli bars are a godsend and boiled eggs are also a quick win, although admittedly an acquired taste.

Lastly, stay hydrated!  Pack multiple water bottles, ensure the team has access to water and that the younger ones are drinking water, and you’ll all feel a lot better for it.

4.  This isn’t a car ride, it’s the greatest show on earth

The great thing about today’s entertainment choices is that there are plenty of them to choose from!  Whether you’ve got movies sorted for the ones in the back (make sure they’ve got headphones sorted) or other car-friendly activities for the kids (okay, probably someone’s cell phone, in reality), as long as you plan ahead, you’ll all be good to go.

Up front, podcasts are a must.  We’re also big fans of audio books if you want something a little more longform, and it’s amazing just how many titles are published on Audible.  Just make sure the subject matter isn’t too dense, or you could risk needing to replay every 15 seconds to get the details, or risk getting fatigued from information overload.

5.  A clean ride is a serene ride

Call me grandma, but truly I believe a clean and orderly environment is often the first step to having a good time.  Travel wipes can turn a ho-hum car ride into a luxury affair (okay, maybe that’s just me).  

In that same spirit, getting your car serviced before heading away with the family is a surefire way to avoid a headache or say, a simmering tension with your loved ones – they’re relying on you, after all!  My Auto Shop can help you find a mechanic to match your location and budget.  Just hop on over to our service area to get started.

Oh, and have fun!