We are constantly driving places. We have family all up and down the east coast that we like to go visit and of course we like to discover new places. There are so many places within driving distance of your house, all you have to do is hop in the car and go find them! Traveling by car is great because you’re in control to stop when you want, you are only limited to the space you have when it comes to packing, and when you get to your destination if you don’t want to unpack everything you can leave some things in the car. Obviously some places it makes more sense to take a train, or a plane or a boat, but whenever it’s practical I like to drive. I’ve figured out that for my kids the most we can drive without stopping is four hours. We can make it to a lot of places in four hours! But what about a longer trip? Well keep reading and I’ll share the little tips and tricks I use when we go on a road trip.
New Toys– Having a special toy that your kids have never seen before is really exciting and the newness of it will help it not to lose its appeal. It doesn’t have to be anything big; maybe a new coloring book or a new travel game or a new toy that has several pieces for a younger child. Having a toy to open also makes road trips more exciting and more of a novelty. It’s something you can build up the trip with too! Who doesn’t want a present on road trip day??
Old Favorites– Each of my kids have toys that they play with frequently and I know they love. I always try and grab at least one for each kids to have a go to toy that I know will keep their attention for a little bit of time. Having a go to toy is a safety crutch for me that I usually try to use as a last resort. I generally try to distract my kids for as long as possible, and then when they start getting antsy I give them one toy at a time. You may need to make a quick pit stop to do this for younger kids or if you have a road trip partner they can be in charge of doling out the toys.
Let the Kids Pick– I also always let Little Big Guy pick a toy or two from his current stash. He generally isn’t great at picking things that will keep his attention for a long time but it’s nice for him to feel included in getting ready for the trip. I’ll let him pack his backpack with a few toys and then when I remind him that he picked that toy he seems to like it a bit more. And every minute in the car without a screaming kid is a success to me!
Generally I don’t like to eat in the car. It makes me nervous that someone is going to choke. I’m probably just paranoid. If snacks are a good motivator for your child and you feel comfortable eating in the car, then by all means use what works for you! Kids love snacks and treats! If you don’t like to eat in the car, then at least bring water. But only give small amounts at a time or otherwise you’ll be stopping all the time for bathroom breaks. I’ve found that it’s best to bring a small bottle and then when it’s out it’s out. My kids have started to get better at rationing their water for the trip instead of just drinking it right up which decreases whining and potty breaks. It’s a win-win.
You can always pack a picnic to eat at a park off the highway or a rest area. We like to pack up snacks so once everyone starts to get hungry we can get out the car, run around, eat some food and recharge to get ready for the rest of the trip. Our family gets super grouchy when we’re hungry so it’s in everyone’s best interest to bring some food. Having your own picnic packed is nice because then you don’t have to wait for a restaurant that everyone agrees with or wait in line/at a table for food. Especially if you’re spending all day in the car, I don’t like to make my hyper active son have to practice his table manners. Picnics are much easier for our family.
Plan your Route
I love to plan so this really works for me. If I look at where we’re going and points of interest in between it helps the journey run so much more smoothly. When you know there’s a rest area in about an hour, or if you know a really cool park is coming up in just five minutes it gives your family markers to make it towards the destination. When the kids start asking “are we there yet?” the answer may be “no” but at least you can tell them what you are near and what you’re about to pass. All the toys and snacks and entertainment in the world won’t keep my kids happy in the car for more than four hours, so I try to find a family friendly spot every four hours. Even if we just get out and play for ten minutes, it helps so much to let the kids get some of their energy out. And while I’m all about getting to where you’re heading, you have to realize road tripping with kids is all about the journey. I’d much rather take longer to get somewhere with happy kids than to have everyone screaming and fussy and save an hour.
I Spy/Scavenger hunts/Alphabet game– Depending on the age of your children, little games like this can be life savers. Not only are the kids entertained, but they are also taking in their surroundings. What better way to enjoy the journey!
Music- Putting together a playlist with everyone’s favorite songs on it can go a long way. We’re that family you see rocking out in the car as you drive past. The driver is singing and everyone else is using their totally awesome car dance moves. We don’t all agree on music (seriously the ABC song isn’t one of my favorites) but everyone gets a turn to listen to something they like. We either let someone listen for an hour or we just have the most eclectic mix of music you’ve probably ever heard the whole trip.
Podcasts/Books on tape– Maybe music isn’t your thing. That’s ok, there are podcasts! It’s like watching tv without the pictures. They’re amazing and you can find one about anything so check them out if you haven’t already. Or if your family enjoys books, a good ole book on tape is always a good way to kill some time.
At the end of the day, the most important part of a road trip is getting to the destination safety. If at any point the kids get to cranky, or you get to tired, it’s ok to pull over. It’s ok to stop. The place you’re going will always be there. Your sanity may not! Sometimes you just have to push through the whining, but never let it overwhelm you. Also, when playing games and singing songs, the driver’s main focus should always be the road. Never let entertaining the kids take first priority. Safety first!
Does anyone have any go to car trip tips that I missed? What is your favorite road trip memory? I’d love to hear about them and plans to get out to go on more! So get in the car and go enjoy some everyday adventures!