My husband and I recently figured out that we have driven over 12,000 miles of road trips with our children. Yes, we ARE crazy.
We’ve driven in snow, rain, sleet and of course glorious sunshine. I would be lying if I said every road trip was fun and without it’s fair share of drama. On one of our drives to Seattle once we reached our destination, I booked a return flight home for myself and Nolan (who was just an infant at the time) and I am pretty sure I vowed never to drive more than 4 hours in a day with my kids again. We’ve driven to Seattle and back at least 4 times since. What can I say, amnesia apparently sets in quickly when you’re a parent.
Over the last 7 years of road trips we’ve learned how to make them work and actually make them fun! Here are 10 basic tips for a successful road trip:
- Make the car as comfy as possible. Blankets for winter drives, neck pillows, etc. If your back seats recline, that’s a bonus too.
- Audio books are your best friend. I’ve gone both the Audible route as well as simply checking out audio books from the local library. There are great Dr. Seuss audio books, as well as Berenstain bears for younger kids (Audible also has a great selection of stories for kids aged 0-4). My boys, now 4 and 7 enjoy Stink Moody, Disney Children’s favorites (on Audible), and last but definitely not least The Magic Tree House collection or as they call it, “Jack and Annie”.
- Let’s not forget real books. Depending on the length of the drive I let my kids pick 3 to 4 books each.
- DVD player and a varying selection of DVDs, including shows, movies and nature documentaries.
- Coloring or game books (with markers or crayons) and a choice of a few toys (I usually give them a small backpack or bag and let them pick a few toys to bring on the road.
- Plenty of water and road snacks (be sure to include not only snackish type foods, but protein too. Also make sure not to throw it in the back or trunk of the car. Leave it somewhere you can easily access it. Ah yes and keep yourself and your partner fed too! Very important.
- Utilize rest areas, both for the bathroom and for the open space, bring a ball or something to do while out of the car. Have a race with the kids or sometimes we just do jumping jacks or have a silly dance off. You don’t have to spend a lot of time at each one, just enough to use the facilities and stretch out.
- Do NOT start off the trip with a movie. I usually start with music, then move on after an hour or more to an activity (coloring, reading, etc) and from there, audio book. I wait until the last possible minute to bust out the DVDs and I never show more than one movie a day. It’s amazing how entertained you can keep kids in the car without using movies.
- Plan your meal stops ahead of time. Yelp is your friend! We have food allergies, so finding a good place for lunch and/or dinner is always a must.
- Gas Buddy is a great app for finding cheap fuel. The Waze app will help you avoid traffic as much as possible and can list out gas stations and their prices along your route, which is super helpful!
My friend and I drove to Seattle once, just her and me, with 4 boys total. Nolan was only a couple months old. It was actually incredibly fun! We used audio books, documentaries, classic Superhero cartoons (Holy One Track Bat Computer Mind, sounds so funny when you’re not actually watching the show) and last but not least yelling, “look kids a bridge, look kids cows, oooh look guys a mountain”. Only to have them some how not be able to find what you’re pointing at. It’s pretty entertaining!
Oh and one last piece of advice: if all else fails, sing! Sing with your kids or for your own enjoyment. Even if you’re terrible at it, sing loud and sing proud!
Trust me, this is worth it…
when you end up some place like this:
Happy road tripping!