10 Tips to Surviving a Road Trip with Kids
Summer is here and that family road trip you planned is just around the corner. After making the drive from Kansas to California, and California to Kansas, and back again, I am no stranger to LONG car trips. With a little bit of planning ahead you can make your car trip with kids a successful one.
I can't guarantee the windows on your van won't blow out in a windstorm--yes that really did happen, but at least you'll have warm, summer weather to insure you won't get stuck in a snow storm for 5 hours either. Yep, that happened too (on the same trip). Definitely a trip we won't ever forget. I can say that whether you'll be traveling 425 miles, 1,226 miles, or 2,499 miles, these 10 tips will make your ride a little smoother.
I'm sure you have some great ideas too. I'd love to hear about them in the comments below!
10 Tips for Surviving a Road Trip with Kids
1). Sticky Note Count Down
"Are we there yet????" "How much longer?????" "Are we there yet???" "Are we there yet????" Are you tired of me saying that? Do you want to NOT hear your kids say that every 5 minutes? Then make some sticky notes for the total number of driving hours and stick them up in the car. After every hour of driving time that passes take down a sticky note so the kids know how many hours are remaining. Make sure you remove sticky notes from the highest number to the least so you're counting down.
2) Surprise Activity Bags
A couple weeks before departure I shop around and gather up little things I can get for my kids to fill their back packs. If you want an even bigger surprise you can buy them new bags for their goodies that are designated just for travel. Basically, it's just like filling an Easter Basket (minus all the candy that will make them bounce of the car ceiling). I choose age-appropriate things. I usually shop the dollar store, thrift store, or $1 section at Target, but depending on your budget you can find stuff anywhere. I look for things that will keep them busy for a while such as:
-Sticker books - Chapter books or board books -Coloring books & new pencils
-Magnetic books - Crossword puzzles -Miniature games like connect 4
- Disposable camera - Pipe cleaners (these are fun for kids to connect and make stuff out of)
- Goldfish crackers - Raisins -
I fill their backpacks the night before we leave and I don't give them back until we pull out of the driveway. Not only does this build their excitement, but it's a great motivator for them to stop fiddling around and get in the car.
These days you can find audio books for all ages. Even my 2.5 year old was entertained until he dozed off. Search for audio books ahead of time so you can download them before you hit the road. You'll need an auxiliary chord that connects from your smartphone to your car speakers. Admittedly, I thought there was no way an audio book would keep my technology-craved kids entertained, but I was wrong. I choose a humorous story and the kids loved it. You can download books from places like Audible, Hoopla (free books you check out from an online library), and All You Can Books. All You Can Books has a free 30 day trial, which might come in handy for your trip. You can cancel the membership after your trip.
4) New Movies
Choose movies your kids have never seen before or ones they haven't seen in a long time. To save money rent movies from your library (just make sure you don't loose them). You can always extend your loan online if you're going to be gone longer than a week. Borrowing from a friend, or bargain hunting at Goodwill and garage sales are great ways to obtain movies on the cheap. No DVD player in your car? No, problem....download movies onto your iPad. You can always rig your iPad to the back of the seat with painters tape so more than one child can view the video. I have friends that do this and it works great! Who cares if it's a little red-neck, it keeps the kids quiet.
5) Plan Fun Stops Along The Way
Decide on your route ahead of time and plan for some out-of-the-ordinary stops. It might not seem like much, but a stop to see the countries largest gas station complete with authentic stuffed penguin and .50 cent ice cream cones, for example, might really break up the drive and get the kids excited about the trip. Don't forget the camera.
6) Pack Food Ahead of Time
The second worst thing to hear over and over after, "are we there yet?" is "I'm hungry." You can avoid this by packing snacks in advance. Plus, it saves on those overpriced gas station treats. My favorite thing to buy (although my husband hates it because it's a mess to clean up) is Boom Chica popcorn or Pirate's Booty. Buy several flavors and bring along plastic cups to fill and easily pass out. This is a great treat that will keep everyone happy when you pop in a new movie. And before you know it you've killed 2 hours of drive time and didn't hear a peep. Other snacks we love are:
-cuties/mandarins (they make the car smell so good) -pretzels
- string cheese - grapes
-trail mix - granola bars
I find that avoiding candy and sugar really makes a difference for my kids. We may stop and have a treat, like ice cream, along the way, but keeping candy at bay makes it a lot easier for them to sit in their seats for such a long trip.
Who says you can't turn the car into a make-shift spa? Don't have a car diffuser? No problemo. You can get an adapter and plug a regular diffuser in. Another simple solution is to rub an essential oil on the A.C. vent periodically. The blowing air quickly circulates throughout the car and before you can blink, you're breathing easy and so are the kids. Try one of these oils:
Peppermint- a quick burst of peppermint will keep you alert while you're driving.
Stress Away- that road rage getting to you? Take a deep breathe and relax with this one.
Orange- need a quick pick me up? Orange will do the trick.
Purification- too many odors in the cramped car? Cleanse your environment with purification.
8) Dance Party
Yep, I said dance party. Download up-beat tunes ahead of time that the whole family enjoys. Turn up the volume and bust a move (as much as possible) when the last couple hours are more than you can handle. The kids, depending on their ages, are likely to think you are the coolest parents in the world or the dorkiest.
9) Be Flexible
Nothing ever goes as planned, especially when traveling across the country. But even if you're not traveling that far remember to let go and it's all part of the vacation so enjoy it. You're making memories in the car just as much as you will at your destination. Give everyone in the car some grace, take lots of pictures of the car trip, roll with the punches, and the kids will follow your lead.
10) Have FUN
This goes without saying, but most importantly HAVE FUN, let loose, and enjoy being together! Happy Summer, everyone!