I’m no stranger to taking road trips in the car. Growing up it was a part of my childhood, driving to soccer tournaments out of state and to visit family in West Virginia. With my own children I have taken trips by car up to 15 hours away. I’ve taken the trips solo and with my husband or a family member to help with the kids. This weekend we took my 3 month old with us on her first long road trip to Pennsylvania, also the first time traveling with two kids. I’ve learned things along the way to make it a bit easier. Here are my top 10 tips for road trips with children.
- Organization: I like lists to keep me on track and avoid forgetfulness. Make a list of the items you need to purchase and pack before leaving. Organize the things that you will be bringing and know how to access them while traveling. This will help reduce your stress level. To organize toys we use a Lusso Gear organizer which has multiple compartments for chargers, DVDs, and toys. This road trip we used a BRICA car seat organizer with tablet viewer for the first time. It was easy to install and made accessing diapers and wipes easy. It will also hold tablets. Be sure to include car seat safety and installation as part of your prep and organization, such as setting up an appointment for a car seat installation and ensuring any items used for packing or organization can be strapped down and as soft as possible.
Snacks and food: My son is a snacker, which means having food handy in the car and on the go helps curb a meltdown. For a long trip in the car I pack food that won’t be messy, separated in snack bags such as fishies, and bring a variety of food. I use this trunk organizer and cooler filled with ice packs, drinks, and food that needs to be kept cool. This particular organizer has the cooler that is removable, and the rest of the organizer folds down in case you do not want to use the whole thing. The cooler has a zipper to keep items secure inside. Pack a plastic shopping bag or two to use for trash each travel direction.
- Electronics: Electronics can help pass the time on long trips. This includes DVD players, tablets, PS3, and handheld devices. We’ve used a portable DVD player which requires having access to DVDs and takes up some additional room, but my son likes to use it. The easiest is an iPad or tablet for movie watching, playing games, or reading books. They have great apps with downloadable movies and shows to watch when off wifi aka stuck in the car. We like to download onto our Netflix account and Disney downloads. Be sure to remember your chargers for the car and to bring inside and charge overnight. Check all the batteries before leaving and make sure they’re fully charged.
- Books: Select a few favorite books for your kids to read independently or with you. I get car sick reading in the car and wish I could use this tip even as an adult.
- Kids music: Even driving to school or the store my son loves to listen to his music. I am old school and still use CDs most of the time. When going on a long trip I am sure to bring his music. It helps pass the time, keep him entertained, and can even help with getting the kids to fall asleep for a nap.
- Easy Access to Clothes & Wipes: The last thing you want to do when there’s a blow out or someone’s spilt something is frantically searching for a way to clean it up and getting new clothes out for them. On our road trip we used the same BRICA car seat organizer to pack diapers and wipes for easy access when we would make a stop. In the trunk I kept a separate bag with extra clothes and undies just in case they are needed. This was a separate bag from our suitcase. I also keep a plastic shopping bag as an extra garbage bag for any dirty clothes or garbage that I might have to clean up.
- Surprise Gifts: I fondly remember getting a new Barbie doll on trips to West Virginia growing up. It was a tradition that as a little kid made me look forward to the trip. While planning your trip shop for small toys or gifts that your child would enjoy. Hit up the dollar store for cheap ideas. Plan to get enough depending on the length of the trip, and some for the way home. This trip my son got little cars and drawing pads. My daughter slept most of the way (yay!) but we did pack a new rattle for her.
- Travel Games: Travel games can be actual handheld games or classic car games like I see something yellow. What’s your favorite car game?
- Bring Someone to Help: Having someone there to help is a life saver. They help you keep your cool and can tend to the kids’ needs. I’ve done trips by myself, and believe me it takes extra planning and patience. It’s fun, but more fun once you arrive at your destination. Take the help if it’s offered and carpool if you can.
- Plan for Potty Issues: Depending on where you child is with being potty trained and their age, this may or may not be an issue. For those potty trained, you’re likely to hear that they need to pee at the most inconvenient times. I prep my son as much as possible so he knows he should try to go if we are stopped. Limiting liquids is also helpful but not always realistic. If in the middle of potty training you can decide if it is worth throwing on a pull up or risking an accident. They each have their advantages and disadvantages.
BONUS TIP: Take a deep breath. Likely you’ll be needing to take lots of them. Be prepared that they will often ask you are we there yet? (It’s karma coming back at you from your younger years) I think back to the long road trips with my family growing up and how we survived each and every trip. Simplicity still works and go with whatever you think will keep them entertained…and pray for a nap.
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