An off-road trip allows kids to explore nature and enjoy journeying off the smooth-paved path. Read the ultimate guide to off-roading with kids to create memories that everyone will cherish.
1. Choose an Appropriate Route
Just like when you off-road alone or with other enthusiastic adults, you want to take passengers on a safe route you and your vehicle can handle. On top of that, you want to choose a route that your kids will feel comfortable on.
Some adventurous teens enjoy challenging trails, but kids who are just starting out and young children typically want gentle routes. And as always, consider the time of year and look up trail conditions. Precipitation and other natural events can drastically change the terrain. Research the environment during your planning stage and then double-check the day of your journey for any updates.
2. Pack the Right Clothes and Accessories
Pack the right clothes for you and the kids so that everyone feels comfortable and energized. When researching routes, you’ll learn about the weather to expect. Since you’re packing for day and night, bring warm jackets no matter the time of year. While you want to pack light, bring raincoats or waterproof jackets just in case of a storm. Nothing can put a damper on your drive like getting soaked. Furthermore, sunglasses and hats protect you and the kids from the sun’s harsh rays. Ensure everyone has clean underwear and socks for every day of the trip. And lastly, kids should wear sturdy footwear for hikes outside of the car.
3. Bring First Aid and Care Items
Bring a fully-stocked first aid kit to treat pain, swelling, cuts, scrapes, and burns. You can buy a pre-made kit or make your own. Bandages, gauze, athletic tape, blister treatments, bug spray, antiseptic towelettes, antibiotic ointments, and ibuprofen are just some items you should have in your kit.
Also, bring any prescription medications your group’s members need. Consider risks specific to your trip, such as poison ivy, and bring care items for those risks.
No matter where you take your trip, everyone needs to wear sunscreen. Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. An SPF 30 or higher sunscreen blocks about 97 to 98 percent of UV rays. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to know when to apply and reapply.
You’ll also want to pack plenty of water and snacks to keep everyone’s energy levels steady. Granola bars, trail mix, jerky, and peanut butter are some of the best foods you can bring on your trip.
4. Stock Car Essentials
Ensure your rig is in good condition if you bring your own vehicle. If you’re renting an off-road car, the rental company will prepare it for your trip.
Ensure you can use your GPS device without an internet connection since you might lose connection on the trail. Also, bring flashlights and basic tools in case you get stuck. Typically, when people go off-road with kids, they’re not doing it in the most remote locations. However, you still want to have the ability to get back up and moving.
You want to keep your vehicle clean, too. Keep items organized in carriers and packs. Bring plenty of trash bags and wipes to take care of refuse and spills.
5. Involve the Kids in Preparation
Kids ask questions about everything, and like everyone else, they can become anxious over situations they don’t understand. Give clear answers to their questions and build their confidence by highlighting what they already know or understand about off-road trips. You can also develop their tolerance for the journey with smaller activities like camping in the backyard or spending an afternoon at a state park.
Then, involve the kids in the trip preparation process. Show them the items you’re bringing on the trip and pictures of the places you will visit. Let them help you create snack packs. The more involved they are, the more they get out of the experience and the more confident they’ll feel.
6. Teach and Follow Trail Etiquette
Respecting the environment and other off-roaders preserves the hobby and keeps participants safe. Teach kids trail etiquette and follow the rules to model their importance and simplicity.
You might share the path with horses, mountain bikers, hikers, and other off-road vehicles in many situations. Slow down on corners to prevent collisions. Obey posted signs that warn you about the environment. Approach pedestrians slowly to avoid injuries and keep everyone calm.
Trail etiquette also extends to how you treat nature. Your group should clean up after themselves, leaving no trace. Furthermore, stay on designated trails to avoid widening the path or ruining surrounding vegetation.
7. Prepare Engaging Activities
Keep kids engaged and motivated with extra activities. Depending on your kids’ ages, their inherent interest in off-roading, and the length of your trip, possible activities include in-car entertainment and outdoor fun.
Kids can enjoy coloring books, maze books and boards, and magnetized games in the car. Alternatively, you can play a car game like the classic “I Spy.”
Outside of the car, choose activities that support your kids’ exploratory nature. Taking a hike is interesting and fun for most curious and energetic kids. Hiking activity books for kids are full of fun ideas to get kids more involved and mindful during hikes, or you could make up your own activities. For example, you could create a list of items for your kids to find in a scavenger hunt, or they could sketch some of the plants and bugs they find.
8. Take Breaks To Recharge
The final tip in this guide to off-roading with kids is to plan breaks and keep your schedule flexible. When kids laugh, talk, and point out interesting things, they’re enjoying themselves. But when they become quiet and withdrawn, it’s time for a break.
You might need to cut your excursion short and go back home or to base camp. You might need to pull over and let the kids wander around. Or perhaps it’s time for a snack break and nap. Giving the kids time to unwind will help them feel better and make the rest of the trip better for everyone.
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