We take a lot of road trips with our kids.
We like to travel. We like to get out of the house. On a lovely Saturday afternoon, we like to (as my husband jokingly says) do something other than stare at our iPads and scream at each other (not really…but kinda).
So we drive.
Everything from day outings, weekend getaways, to full on cross country road trips, we’ve pretty much done it all with all three of our children.
I would say we take at least one day trip, with several hours spent driving in the car, per month, sometimes more depending on the time of year. We love it and our kids love it. It’s how we spend a lot of quality time together as a family. We end up making lots of valuable memories that our kids will remember their whole lives. It’s something that’s very important to us and always has been.
I think it helps that we’ve always done this, ever since each of the boys was a baby. They’ve always kind of known how to ride in a car. We trained them young.
But starting them young or not, there are still some things that make a significant difference between a smooth-rolling car ride, to a rough, get-me-out-of-here, are-we-there-yet scenario.
Here are a few tips to road-tripping with kids – from baby to older child.
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1.Bring snacks. Lots of them.
You literally cannot have enough. In quantity or variety. Now is not the time to be “healthy” or worry about the fact that your child just ate their body weight in Cheetos.
Trust me on this one, and just pack the good stuff. You can thank me later.
2. Bring sticker books, coloring books, or books to read.
My kids love to read, and the car is a great place to do it.
One of our newest favorite finds are these Melissa and Doug watercolor books. Simply fill up the pen with water, and that’s it. There’s no mess, they’re very entertaining, and the best part is once the cardboard page dries, you can reuse it again and again!
3. Bring a DVD player and a few movies.
Thankfully, the van we bought last year has a DVD player, which is great for this family who regularly travels. So if you have a built-in DVD player, I don’t think I need to tell you that now is the time to use it.
However, we STILL bring along our portable DVD player. We have three kids after all, and sometimes they don’t all want to watch the same thing. It just prevents a lot of potential unnecessary bickering and whining.
I have a CD case full of DVDs that stays in the car, so when worst comes to worst we always have plenty of movie options on hand.
4. Bring a Bop-It, Air Simon Game, or another travel-sized game.
Now I’m the first to admit, games that make sounds of any kind can very quickly become very annoying. But when used in moderation, they can also be a sanity saver. (Can anyone say oxymoron?)
Either way, we own both of these toys and they are great to pull out in a pinch on a long car ride. We even own the travel sized Bop-It, because come. on. How can you not?!
5. Play the ABC game
We used to love playing this with our parents on road trips when we were younger! I don’t know if other family’s played this, too, or if it was just us, but it’s a lot of fun and an entertaining way to pass time. Plus it’s really easy to play!
The rules? Each person in the car starts at the beginning of the alphabet. Search on license plates, signs, anything you pass while on the road. When you spot the letter A, you move on to letter B, and so on until you’ve found all the letters in the alphabet. We have played individually, where each person keeps what letter they are on secret until the end to see who found all the letters the fastest. We have also played together, where we all search for the letters at one time.
A very basic game that even young children can play!
6. Play I-Spy
7. Crank the tunes
Playing music – LOUDLY – in the car is not only something that all my kids love, but it has also calmed all of our kids as babies. As older kids they love to sing along. As babies, I think the volume was enough of distraction to calm them down.
Again, we are a very musical family (mostly thanks to my husband!), so I know this might not work for every family, but it’s worth a try!
8. Bring pillows, blankets, and/or stuffed animals for sleeping/resting.
9. Recline your children’s seats prior to starting the drive.
I’m not saying recline them all the way back. I doubt that’s the safest way to travel long distances.
But DO recline them a little bit – including the seat holding the car seat – before you start to drive. This is SO helpful in preventing the “head bob” if/when your child falls asleep, and is also much more comfortable.
10. Don’t be afraid to make plenty of stops.
…said to all dads everywhere.
I know, because my husband practically refuses to make any stops of any kind the second we are all seated, strapped in, and road trip bound. It drives me absolutely batty because, let’s see, we have a 2, 5, and 8 year old. Two of the three have bladdars the size of a walnut, and the other one screams incessantly if kept in his car seat for more than 1.5 hours (I mean, can you blame him??).
In my husband’s defense, he doesn’t want to “waste time”. He wants to get to his end destination as quickly as possible so as to not draw out the unnecessary screaming, crying, and/or loud noises of all types.
Sometimes (and by sometimes, I mean every time), you just need to take the 5-10 minutes to stop so everyone can be happy.
So please, for the love of all things holy, just stop the car. Let your kids get out, run a few laps, and (gasp!) go to the bathroom. It will make things SO much easier on everyone involved in the long run.
Hopefully if you have a family road trip planned in the near future, some of these tips can help you out a little bit – and keep the trip itself a tad more enjoyable.
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