Road trips can be fun…or nightmares.
We’ve done a lot of day trips. Those are like practice for real road trips.
We drove from Atlanta to San Antonio with a preschooler for our first PCS.
We had to travel from San Antonio to Illinois with an infant and preschooler for a funeral. Breast feeding and diaper changes during a long road trip is…stressful.
We drove from Destin, FL, to Galveston, TX, with a screaming baby who would not be soothed for anything. We tried everything. She just wanted to be held and out of that carseat.
We drove from Utah to Georgia over several days before PCSing to Germany.
We traveled from Atlanta to Ohio with four kids and two cats when we returned from Germany.
The key to road trips with kids is to be prepared.
Talk to your kids and explain what they should expect. Tell them and show them the route and how long it will take.
Bend the rules a bit during a road trip. Allow some things you ordinarily don’t at home – like screens and video games or special snacks. Load the tablets or laptops with books, videos, games – download beforehand from online sites or the library.
Throw the schedule out the window. If you expect it to take a certain number of hours to get there, tack on a bit. It will take you longer than you expect.
Plan stops every couple of hours to let off steam and use facilities. We love rest stops or parks with playgrounds and open nature spaces. We often plan to have picnic meals.
While it may seem like a great idea to drive overnight and let the kids sleep, it’s not always possible nor do they always cooperate, and then your sleep schedule is messed up.
If possible, consider seating arrangements. I often tried to sit near my babies and young toddlers to help them and soothe them when necessary. Older children can help younger ones too.
Stay calm. Meet needs. Stop often to refresh.
What to bring on a road trip with kids:
Be prepared in case something goes wrong. It most likely will.
- a change of clothes that’s easy to get to (for everyone)
- first aid kit
- spill clean up kit – for bodily issues or drink spills. I like using reusable wet bags for messy and wet clothes.
- calming essential oils for tantrums. We’ve used them during long trips and they really work!
You’ll want healthy ready-to-eat items that are easy to clean up. Offer a new snack every hour or so to keep it interesting – not everything all at once. It’s fun to keep snacks in little plastic cases or reusable baggies.
- clear or light-colored drinks…or just reusable water bottles for everyone.
- fruit – ready to eat or cut up in bite-size
- veggies – small, bite-size or cut up
- fruit snacks or gummies
Long hours in a small enclosed space can be boring and tiresome. Keep lots of items available to keep them occupied! Offer a new activity every hour or so to keep it interesting. Travel trays are a great investment. Also, teach and play car games! We went on road trips as kids and didn’t have portable electronics, so we had to occupy ourselves with car bingo and songs.
- Books – either Kindle or real
- Audio – Books on CD are still fun! Audible has lots of audiobooks. Cracker Barrel has a good selection.
- Video – tablets, laptops, or players with shows, movies, and games.
- Activity Books
- MagnaDoodle, AquaDoodle (maybe), Etch a Sketch – These were a HUGE HIT with our kids.
- Wikki Stix
- Bag or Toob of small animals
- Silly Putty (maybe) or Play Dough – you can make your own with calming scents
- Magnets – there are lots of fun alphabet or theme sets or you can use a little magnetic tray
- Pretend play sets- purse, doctor bag, maps, compass, toy camera
- Comfort toys: Don’t forget the favorite blanket and snuggly!
Alex didn’t have much wiggle room as we drove from Utah to Georgia!
What are your travel tips for traveling with kids?