Wednesday, July 25, 2018

8 Tips for Making Road Trips with Kids Enjoyable

We road tripped from Indiana to Florida back in June.  12ish hours in the car each way.  I'd say we are seasoned road trippers at this point in our lives.  The kids are both pretty good travelers thanks to lots of practice.

We had the best time on our trip to the ocean this year.  Everyone did great in the car and it felt like the easiest big trip we've taken in years.  I did a lot of prep work to help things go smoothly for everyone.  Kevin always does the driving/navigating and I do all the packing/snacking/prep work.  We've got our jobs down pat.  Everything didn't always go smoothly, but we were prepared for almost anything.

As always, things went well on our trip, but there were definite lows... car sick kid, tired parents, spilled snacks, near accidents, kids fighting, etc.  Keep that in mind as you read my tips :)

They're all great tips, but #8 might be the most important.

1. VAN
We got a new Honda Odyssey this Spring and it's been a game changer.

I never knew I could be so excited about a vehicle.  Or a mini van.  When I drove an SUV both kids had issues with car sickness and we were always cramped for space.  Now we can all spread out and enjoy the ride.  It's amazing how much space there is and how many seating options there are.  The kids watch movies on the DVD player and I know much of our road trip success was due to the van.

I packed all of our favorite healthy foods so we can have what we liked without having to stress about finding a restaurant for us to stop at.  We'd still stop for gas and restroom breaks, but we had almost all the food we needed in our car.  I had a large cooler in the back with drinks and food for our condo.  I kept a small cooler up front with chopped veggies, cheese sticks and other snacks.  It was the perfect size (says it would hold 30 cans and was soft sided from Sams this year)

I also had a snack bag filled with snacks for everyone.  Make sure to include chip clips to close things up.  The side pockets held small snacks so they were easy to locate as we were driving.

I transferred some snacks into ziplocs for easy access.

The perfect little cooler - has a lift flap on top to easily get out food and three big pockets.  I did wipes and trash bags on one side, plates and snack bowls for the kids and then cups/knives on the side.  I filled it with freezer packs so there wasn't ice dripping inside.

Olive LOVED this Flip to Win Memory Game from Melissa and Doug.  There are 7 different games you can play and no little pieces to keep track off.  You just change the card inside to a different game.  She could play this independently and LOVED it.  We keep it in our car now.

We also played I Spy and looked at license plates.

The kids would also watch movies as we drove.  We'd alternate letting each kid choose the movie.  Definitely have your kids wear headphones so you can listen to some music.

Melissa & Doug Flip to Win Travel Memory Game - Wooden Game Board, 7 Double-Sided Cards

I collected special surprises for each kid for the car.  This was something we'd never done before.  I got two of each thing and then put them in bags for each kid.  I set a timer on my phone to go off randomly when I thought they needed a little pick me up and surprised them with something fun.  They LOVED this!  You should have heard their screams of delight when my phone would go off.

I did not spend much money on these items - McDonalds toys purchased for less than $1 each, Dollar Spot Sunglasses, candy, stickers, etc.  Each kid had a gift bag with their items in it and I kept them up by my feet.

The kids loved reading books as we drove.  I picked out some of our favorite ocean themed books for the car.  I didn't do any reading, but they loved flipping through them as we drove.

National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Why (National Geographic Little Kids First Big Books)

Let each kid pack a bag of favorite toys.  My kids played with these in the car and then they each had a bag of toys in the condo that they played with all week.  I think each kid had 10 items to keep track of for the week.  It made things feel more homey and gave them something familiar to play with.  

Stop at touristy things, walk some laps around the gas station and get some fresh air to keep the spirits high.  Everyone will feel better if they can do this.

I learned long ago that my attitude was contagious when we travel (and at home :).  I've worked really hard over the years to stay positive, laugh off frustrating things and to try to be flexible even when I don't feel like it.

This picture was taken at 11:30pm at a gas station.  We had hoped to be stopping for the night, but were gassing up to keep driving instead.  We stopped at three different big cities in Alabama and ALL the hotels were booked.  This went on for two hours.  Kevin finally saved the day and found us a hotel 15 minutes off the interstate.  We were all tired and a little discouraged, but I just kept joking around with the kids.

They thought it was hilarious (very Mary and Joseph no room in the inn :) that we kept getting turned away from hotels.  We grabbed some coffee, got them comfy and kept driving.  We arrived at our hotel at 1:30am!!!  Not ideal when you're traveling with little kids.  We were all exhausted, but the kids thought it was a great adventure.  Little did they know we were sweating bullets thinking we may have to drive all night.

 Do you have any road trip tips to add??  I'm always looking for new ones.

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  1. These tips are so great! I love the Special Surprises one and may have to try that! Although the longest road trips we take are the 4 hour drive from Northern NY to PA, but my kids barely tolerate it! The one thing they do look forward to is on the way back home to NY, the rest area at the NY border has the cutest little NY-themed playground with interactive games inside. It is just about halfway through the drive, so we stop and set a timer for 20-30 minutes of play time before getting back in the car. And they love it!


  2. Wonderful tips!! Same with the van - having it this year has been a game changer!

  3. Jack is all about money lately so I kept dollar bills on our trip. I'd say if you find a horse you get a dollar. After he earned that dollar I would come up with something else for him to find. He used his money to buy himself treats while on vacation which was money I would have spent anyways. I've never had to do more than 10 items on any trip.

  4. These are all fantastic tips and I agree the van is a must :) we also allow plenty of technology time which is not the case at home so they are all quite happy in the car!

  5. I'm all about not stopping, so I love packing snacks and drinks. I also plan out where we're going to stop because of hotels. We've checked in to a few with a same day reservation and have heard other people being turned away.


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