Prolonged periods in the car and car seat puts a strain on developing bones and muscles. And studies have even linked it to lower blood oxygen levels.
In order to keep the blood flowing and prevent spinal or muscle strain, everyone in the family can benefit from more frequent stops on these long road trips. For babies under 6 months especially, you should be stopping every 2 hours.
All you really need is 15-20 minutes to stretch or grab a snack...
So where should you stop?
Well that depends on what you're hoping to accomplish during this particular break.
While in the trip planning phase, you can plan to make scheduled stops in some nice locations just off the highway. Try to research some playgrounds, green spaces, or rest stops that would help give you a safe and potentially FUN place to spend a quick break.
For other more spontaneous stops you can try to find one of these on the fly or stop at a more tried and true highway staple.
Here are some of your best options when you hit the road:
Trying to make the stop quick? Gas stations are your best bet. There is an abundance along almost every exit of the highway so no need to plan. You can always fill up the tank and maybe grab a few snacks for when you head back on the road.
There are so many travel stop chains located in the US. They tend to have much more to offer than your normal gas station which is why they are a favorite stop for my family and I. Here you can find clean bathrooms, laundry stations, showers, and changing rooms. And that's in addition to the massive snack and food options, almost like a mini mall food court. Flying J/Pilot has the most locations around the US and Loves Travel Stop is another one that you can find almost anywhere.
Whether it's a fast food, fast casual, or sit down restaurant, you can always stop for a bite to eat during your road trips. My family and I like to find a restaurant that sounds good and then order for pick up so we aren’t just eating fast food on those long drives. We eat in the car, get out and have a stretch, feed and change baby’s diaper, or whatever else needs to be done all while eating something better than a McDonalds or Burger King.
Rest Area or Welcome Center
A rest area can be a really great option for breaks when you have multiple kids and older children that need to exert some energy. You can find them (fairly) often on any highway in the US and they have a lot to offer like clean bathrooms or family rooms. Many have picnic tables where you can eat a packed lunch/snack or maybe even let your littles run around on a playground.
Welcome Centers, also commonly known as visitors' centers, visitor information centers, or tourist information centers, are similar but they are more specifically located at either entrances to states on major ports of entry, such as interstates or major highways, or in strategic cities within regions of a state.
Welcome centers usually consist of public restrooms, free brochures relating to nearby attractions, lodging, and dining, a free official state highway map, staffed desks for people to ask for assistance, picnic areas, and are typically nearby to restaurants or onsite dining facilities, gas stations, and have large parking lots.
Parks or Playgrounds
Since not all rest stops have playgrounds, the best way to guarantee this would be to do a google search for a good park or playground in a town that you’ll be passing through. This can be such a great way for older kiddos to blow off some energy while you take a break yourself or even feed your littlest ones
Travel Tip: When you’re googling nearby playgrounds, have a look at the images and reviews. Try to find the BEST while you’re out for an unexpected surprise instead of just the first one you can find. This will ensure you’re having a better and safer experience during your break.
This is more likely to be off the highway but if you find yourself driving through town, don’t forget about grocery stores. They typically have clean bathrooms, unlimited snack options, extra wipes or diapers or milk if needed. Really anything you might have forgotten at home.