Before I had my son, I pictured vacationing with kids much like the picture above. Once I had my son and attempted the 11-17 hour drive to some of favorite vacation destinations, I quickly realized that picture is FAR from the actual truth! It takes so much planning, work and redirection for long car rides with kids to achieve “happy time” moments. I have compiled some of my favorite tips to help even the newest parents
survive enjoy long road trips with kids.
1. Choose hours that your child can sleep whilst you drive. We tend to leave around 1am let him sleep through the night. Be warned in doing this you will be exhausted the next day and need to rest while your child is up and energized. We take turns driving through the night. Less traffic and a smooth ride for us.
2. Bring along a Travel Bin…These things are LIFE SAVERS trust me!
3. Pack a Snack bag!! I don’t know about you but I get cranky when I’m hungry. So avoid unnecessary whining and spending with a simple reusable bag and load it full of snacks.
4. This about takes the cake as far as important tips for going on long drives with your small children. Every few hours (maybe whilst you are refueling) let them out! Yes, find a grassy patch and let them run, explore. This five minute stop will have them refreshed, exhausted if you encourage running around. You stretch your legs and they need to stretch theirs. Plus it really help change their scenery and gives them an outlet for energy because as we all know hey have TONS of energy!!
5. Make sure you STOP when your kid has to go to the bathroom. I have been on trips where families would NOT stop and just kept telling their child to wait. Let me just say this ALWAYS ends badly. Either you will have a melt down or they will have an accident in their pants only causing more grief.
6. Have a trash bin in the car! We have one that attached to the back of our seat and it is WONDERFUL! Found ours on Amazon.
7. Give them a map of your journey. My son loved this so much when he was younger he now collects Maps at travel stops.
8. Read or listen to books on CD/Tape. I personally cannot read whilst riding in a car BUT my son loves to do it.
9. Let them watch a movie on a portable DVD player.
10. Play car games. We often play “I spy” , Harry Potter “Would you rather” or “Travel BINGO” you can print out different games just do a quick search on Pinterest to find some that suit your child and family.
11. Let them enjoy their favorite shows on Netflix. You can stream it on your photo, tablet, ipad you name it! I do not like doing this but if it is a ling drive or we are in traffic I would rather he be occupied then causing a fuss which can be very distracting if you are trying to focus on traffic or bad weather conditions.
12. Let them bring a game system. Again I do not usually allow him to spend hours on his Game boy (picked it up for $5 at a yard sale!) but we do bring it along and let him enjoy some time with it. Since he never uses it unless we are on a long trip I feel like this is a treat for him.
13. Pack a collection of “just in case” items. Bandages, Tylenol, Wet Wipes, paper towel roll, grocery bags ( we use this for trash), Zip lock bags, sunscreen, extra extra snacks.
14. Bring sandwich bags. My son collects things. He has always done it so I allow him to store his treasures (usually rocks) in zip lock baggies.
15. Along with the toys, snacks and emergency just in case items also pack a blanket and pillow. We also have a “Seat belt pal” that attaches to his seat belt. He can cuddle with it and usually falls asleep on it with out hurting his neck.
16. Explore travel destination Welcome centers. They often have fun kid things to do while you stop, refresh and use the facilities!
17. Talk to your child while driving/riding. Often times I hear people say kids are to be seen not heard. I love hearing my son gibber away. When he gets old, I have to say I’ll miss that little voice in the back seat so talk to them.
18. Reusable bottles are your best friend. Avoid spills as much as you can!
19. Get head phones…. Headphones avoid the “kid song hell”. I love Disney songs as much as the next person. Let’s face it, I am not a on repeat “Let it go” song kind of person for 12 hours straight. Headphones are AMAZING in my book!
20. Play the “Who can be silent the longest game”. Hahaha, Love this and by the way I always loose this game…go figure!
21. Take deep breathes. Seriously, Mom, Dad out there take a deep breathes!!!
22. Re-direct. Long car rides get the best of us. Try not to get upset with one another but re-direct the energy on something positive and diffuse situations.
23. Have a go bag. We place one set of clothing each in a bag for those just in case moments we need a change of clothing. Someone gets sick, has an accident you name it. Much easier to take form a small bag then unpack our suit cases.
24. Plan for bad weather. If you were stuck in your car for 33 hours do you have the essentials? This happened to us when we hit a bad snow storm. We had no warning and it really tested the limits of what we could handle. You just never know so always plan.
25. The best tip I can honestly give you is plan ahead. Do not wait until the day of to do all of these things. Taking a child on a long trip requires a LOT of patience better to be as prepared as you can be.