Road Trip Hacks for (and from) ADHD Families
“Provide car-friendly activities to keep them busy. Once, my preschooler spent more than an hour stapling hundreds of staples into pieces of construction paper.”
Fresh air, roadside attractions, loose itineraries — it’s easy to understand why road trips appeal to families living with ADHD. However, the reality of car trips often involves exasperated parents, bored or overwhelmed kids, constant bickering, and weird smells.
Is it possible to plan a road trip that successfully keeps parents calm and kids with ADHD engaged, enthused, and busy? ADDitude Readers think so. They shared their travel tips and lessons from the road. What is your family’s secret to road-trip harmony? Share your stories in the Comments section below.
“Involve them in vacation planning from the outset. Then give kids a job — being the photographer or selecting a lunch spot or making a reservation — every day of the trip. Having responsibility and something productive to do makes a difference.” — Anonymous
“Team up with another family with similar children. I used to do it alone. Then a mom friend and I took our neuro-divergent boys to Yosemite together. It was a transformative experience. We do it yearly now, and it’s amazing. Everyone is happier with a buddy.” — Anonymous
“I bought one of those multi-piece fidget toy packages for around $20, and I bring out multiple new toys during road trips, but only one at a time.” — Anonymous
“Low expectations. Take your expectations and lower them, then lower them a little bit more.” — Anonymous
“The most important element of a successful trip is the sleeping arrangements. If my daughters have a comfortable place to sleep with their own space or room (like in a rental home), everyone gets more rest. It doesn’t matter what the vacation is or where it is as long as the sleeping arrangements work out.” — Anonymous
“Car toys. Provide lots of car-friendly activities to keep them busy. One year, I was amazed my preschooler spent more than an hour stapling hundreds of staples into pieces of construction paper! Also, stop often. We had a reciprocal zoo membership and discovered there are many amazing zoos all over the country.” — Anonymous
“We listen to podcasts and audiobooks in the car. My kids will sit in the car for hours and hours listening to a story they help select. When they were younger, we’d put a big bin of books between them, and they would page through books for hours — books have always been a go-to for our boys.” — Anonymous
“My best tip for traveling with young children with ADHD is to give them the map and make them in charge of getting everyone to the next stop. They become so absorbed in the job that you don’t have the problem of trying to wrangle them — they get to wrangle you instead!” — Anonymous
“We all feel relaxed when we swim. When we plan a vacation with a rental home or hotel that has a pool or is close to a lake or the ocean, it is always a success.” — Anonymous
“Have a rough schedule but be flexible about stopping or taking things off the to-do list. Don’t try to do too much at a time. Get the kids invested in the decision-making; let them help guide what you do for the day.” — Anonymous
“When we took a road trip from Winnipeg to Vancouver Island, we found a heavy stuffed animal was very helpful for son.” — Anonymous
“When my boys were little, I kept a stocked backpack at the ready. It had coloring books, blank paper, small dry-erase boards, and a zipper case filled with crayons, pencils, and dry erase markers. I put snacks in the front pocket and a water bottle to wash off the dry-erase board in the side pocket. I was always proud of my mom invention!” — Anonymous
“The hardest trip was when we missed a flight, ran through an airport, and then had a three-hour road trip. It took us 36 hours to get to our destination. What helped was constantly communicating to the kids that everything would be OK, and we were all going to be together — no matter what. Children do not need to experience fear of any kind while traveling.” — Anonymous
Road Trip Hacks: Next Steps for Parents
- Read: Our Family’s Favorite Road Trip Game
- Learn: Prepare to Have Fun
- Find: Fun and Functional Fidget Ideas for the Backseat
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