Road trips with little kids can be a daunting task but it’s not impossible and with the proper planning and preparation it can actually be a mildly pleasant time. The key is to fend off boredom and reduce the amount of times you are asked “Are we there yet?”
We have taken several road trips from Connecticut to Florida (24 hours driving time) and a trip from Florida to northern Michigan (36 hours) with our little kids. Here are a few of the ways we have found to make the trips more enjoyable.
I’m not talking about the epic TV show with The Hoff, I’m talking about taking advantage of the fact kids can sleep upwards of 12 hours a night. One of the best ways to travel is when they are asleep. Assuming you don’t want to give them a glass of Benadryl before you leave, driving through the night is the best way to have them sleep. This might not be for everyone. You certainly don’t want to fall asleep yourself while driving your family but if you are a night owl or you and your spouse can take shifts then it might be a great option. You can also avoid a lot of traffic this way.
Get a stockpile of your child’s favorite movies to show to them. That is a great way to keep them entertained for roughly 90 minutes at a time. If your vehicle doesn’t have a DVD player you can invest in a portable one. They are becoming quite inexpensive these days.
This could also be an alternative for a portable DVD player. You can load movies onto a tablet or a smart phone and they can watch movies on that. They could also play games and listen to music. At this point anything to keep them from asking “are we there yet?” for the 300th time.
Bring some books. If your kids can’t read yet, they can look at the pictures or you can read the books to them.
Bring a few of their favorite toys along for them to play with in the car. Let them be involved with picking out which toys they want to bring along.
If you have a lap desk (or some other hard surface they can put on their lap) then they can color or write.
This is not the time to worry about 3 balanced meals. Go to the store and buy bags and bags of snacks. It’s amazing what a properly timed snack can do to calm an antsy kid. (Letting them eat 6 pounds of gummie bears in 20 minutes is a bad idea for several reasons, so have SOME discretion here) You also wouldn’t want to bring snacks that make you thirsty since you don’t really want your kids drinking a lot of liquids unless you want to stop at every gas station along the way.
There are quite a few apps that can help you on your road trip journey. I’m fond of the one that lets me know when rest-stops are coming up so I can know if we will make it, or if I just need to pull off and find a gas station. There are also apps that help you locate restaurants and gas stations and scenic attractions. Spending a few minutes to load these up beforehand could save you some frustration later.
Not only can you play games on your smart phone but there are some classic road trip games like “find the alphabet on billboards” that you can play with your kids to help pass the time. You can also play 20 Questions or bring along some travel edition games.
Break the Trip into Segments
Depending on how long your trip will be, you might end up eating Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner on the road. Game plan what you will do from breakfast to lunch. Maybe that will be movie time and a game of find the alphabet. Then you stop for a lunch break. Then between lunch and dinner is reading some books, coloring and a game on the tablet. Then stop and enjoy dinner and stretch your legs. Don’t be afraid to take extended breaks at meal time and find a place where the kids can run around. McDonald’s or Chick-fil-a’s with playgrounds are the perfect destinations to let the kids blow off some pent up energy. Understand you won’t get there quite as fast but which is better? An 8 hour road trip that everyone hates and is grouchy or a 10 hour road trip where everyone has a good time?
Bring an Actual Map
Kids love to see where you are and note the progress you’re making. Plus it gets them familiar with reading maps at an early age and slows the “are we there yet questions” if they can easily see you aren’t even half way.
Going on a road trip with kids is certainly a different experience than going on a road trip with your friends or significant other, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a bad experience. With the proper planning it can build life long memories and cultivate a love of traveling in your kids. So how about you? What other things have you found to help you on your family road trips?
As always, if you have enjoyed this, I’d love for you to vote for me as a Top Dad blogger by clicking the image above. One click equals one vote. You can vote once a day. Thanks so much! Have a fantastic weekend!