Road trips are awesome. From the snacks, to the music, to the stuff you see between point A and point B, they are just the best. Wait…that is a description of one WITHOUT kids.
The highlight reel for road trips with kids is more like frequent bathroom stops, competing noise, complaints about length of time in the car, and generally at least one bout of car sickness. In spite of that, we still love them! Especially located where we are, there are so many great family vacations driving distance from the East Valley.
With a family of 6 it is a lot more cost effective than flying anywhere, so we have learned to embrace the road trip and all the joys that go along with it. Having learned a lot over the years of traveling by car with small kids, we know now how to prepare to make our road trip as fun for all as possible.
10 Tips for Road Trip Survival
- Never leave home without plastic bags and paper towels: every road trip starts with packing a “sick kit”…plastic bags/paper towels/baby wipes/change in clothes for all passengers (mom and dad included) in an easily accessible place. Our very first road trip as a family ended with our 18 month old throwing up all over herself, her car seat, and the back seat of the car while we sat in an endless line of traffic and all we had to try and clean it up were some napkins leftover from lunch. Novice mistake. Failure to plan is planning to fail, people.
- Charge everything: movies are a great distraction, but only work when the portable electronic devices you play them on are adequately charged. Charge your phone, charge the tablets, charge the car, charge your life, CHARGE IT ALL.
- Frequently check in on the need for bathroom breaks: assess the situation before it becomes a problem. Especially when those kids are happily distracted by the devices you so smartly charged to their fullest (see point #2), we have had many cases where we find out when the need for a bathroom is imminent and of course there is nowhere to stop.
- Rotate the seating arrangement: switch up who sits where as the space in your car permits. Sometimes a change of scenery (and sibling you are sitting next to) ensures the peace is kept. Just don’t put anyone on the roof of the car…that is generally frowned upon.
- Pack all the snacks: if your kids are like mine, a variety of snacks are a must have whether we are driving 20 minutes or 20 hours.
- Have new entertainment for the drive home (not just on the way there): Generally, the excitement of going on vacation means some natural distraction from boredom for the first leg of the trip. On the way home, a week of routine-less days and more sugar than usual typically means that dollar spot activity book they liked on the trip out is worthless on the way home. Just keep a few surprise activities tucked away under the seat until you need them.
- Ear plugs: cheap, effective, and worth their weight in gold. Use early and often.
- Engage the kids in making a trip playlist: music is a wonderful distraction. Create a family playlist before the trip and put everyone’s feel good favorites on it. A little car dancing is always a good idea.
- Dress everyone for road trip success: comfortable clothing that is also appropriate for public has always worked well for us. Flip flops or sandals that can easily be taken on and off are ideal for both comfort and quick readiness for travel breaks. And maybe overkill, but I always dress my kids the same on travel days for easy tracking. In addition, if you have a baby/toddler in tow, put them in an overnight diaper during travel time to increase their comfort and length of time between changes.
- Pick a family friendly hotel option and stick to it: knowing what to expect when you are settling in for the night after a long day of travel is SO important for road trip success. Best Western is a great option when road tripping as they have 4,000+ locations nationwide, offer all the family amenities you could need including pack n plays, adjoining rooms, and a hot breakfast, and offer a great rewards program that allow you to accrue points for use in future travel!
Wishing you safe travels and road trip sanity!