Summer’s nearly here, and that means it’s time to plan for…road trips! I have many fond memories of road trips, mostly heading up to the north shore of Minnesota on Lake Superior. This is a nice three hour road trip, but my family has also made the big road trips to places like Yellowstone National Park and Orlando, Florida. Those trips involve at least a couple of days when you have kids in tow.
Family road trips can be wonderful, but also quite challenging with kids. But planning ahead and being prepared can make all the difference to make your travel time as smooth as possible. I want to share with you some of my tips and tricks for surviving the long car ride together.
Long or short road trips can be tough on kids, but these easy and inexpensive tips can make the time pass as smoothly as possible.
First things first, make the car as comfortable as you can.
If your kids have grown out of car seats, make sure to pack extra pillows and comfy blankets. It’s really comforting to snuggle in and relax as you are making your way across the country. Sleeping kids always make the miles pass more quickly.
For kids still in car seats, small pillows and blankets will keep them comfy and cozy too.
Bringing along your kids’ favorite forms of entertainment is also essential. Handheld video game consoles and tablets loaded with games and videos will keep kids occupied for hours and take their mind off of the miles ahead. Hopefully helping you avoid the inevitable question or at least delay it, because “Are we kthere yet?” can only be answered when the car stops.
While the kids are awake, activities and snacks have always been road trip essentials with my family.
Besides entertainment of the electronic variety, coloring and activity books are a great creative option for road trips. Packing the crayons in a resealable plastic container will keep them neat and keep them from being ground into your car’s carpet. Because coloring has become very popular with people of all ages, your older kids and maybe even your spouse will enjoy passing the hours coloring.
If your budding artists prefer colored pencils, it’s best to keep them in a resealable plastic bag. Keeping the pencils or even the crayons in their boxes has never worked for me on road trips and I end up losing colors and putting the rest in a plastic bag anyway. So save yourself the trouble and learn from my mistakes. 🙂
You can stop by the dollar store and pick up a couple of baskets and caddies to keep both activities and snacks nice and neat. This will help keep things from spilling out of the car when you make those necessary stops along the way. It will also help keep snack spills to a minimum which will help with clean up when you are back home again.
Snacks are also essential to keep the stops to a minimum and feed those busy brains. The normal snacky foods are great to have on a trip, but thinking outside the chip bag is also very fun. Making trail and snack mixes with your kids before hand will get your kids excited for the trip ahead. Granola bars and crackers are also great choices. I know I always enjoy both salty and sweet snacks on long trips. Having mini marshmallows, chocolate chips, and cereal on hand is nice for quick handfuls of sweet treats. I also recommend packing fruit and cheese for a healthy snack option.
Don’t forget to pack lots of water bottles and juice boxes in a cooler so that your whole family can keep hydrated.
After snacks are enjoyed, it’s good to keep on top of mess as best as you can.
With a simple carabiner clip attached to the back of the car seat, you can keep a towel close at hand for wiping messy faces and hands. Using the same method you can also hang your child’s bag and keep their stuff in easy reach.
Having a mini trash can in the back near the kids will keep the chaos at bay. I was able to pick up a little container at the dollar store and it even has a lid which is great. Reusing plastic grocery bags as mini trash bags is awesome so that you can keep on top of the trash and wrappers that tend to accumulate during road trips.
Packing a clean-up kit is also a great idea. Spills happen – so make sure to have towels, wipes for faces and surfaces, and tissues. Extra water is never a bad idea and a little first aid kit is also a great idea especially if hiking or other outdoor adventures are a part of the plan.
A dollar store caddy is really helpful to keep the clean-up kit together and easy to pull out for those sticky spill emergencies.
Hopefully snack spills will be your only case for alarm. To keep my family from the panic of getting lost, I invested in a GPS which has saved us many times from wasted vacation time trying to figure out where we are. I do use my smart phone for local trips. But having a GPS system saves data usage, battery, and money for long road trips. Heartland America has some great GPS systems available right now.
GPS systems not only help you get where you want to go but also help you find good places to stop and take a break.
Do remember to take some breaks along the way. I still remember on our way home from Yellowstone that we stopped at a corn maze in South Dakota, and we had lots of fun running around the maze. That stop helped the rest of the ride home pass by peacefully with kids happily napping in the back seat, not to mention the great memories from the impromptu break.
Next week, I’ll be sharing a delicious recipe that can be taken with you on your fun road trips. No matter where you roam this summer, remember you are always welcome at Home with Heartland.