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With Christmas just around the corner, we know that many of you will be spending some serious time traveling to visit family or friends. We’ll be right there with you, hauling our kids and all their gifts out to visit Grandma and Grandpa for a few days. Recently a lot of you have commented on how hard it is to go on a road trip with your kids, so we thought we’d share a few tips. Not only are road trips great for visiting people, but once you have “trained” your family how to travel in the car, a whole new world of adventurous places will be open to you.
1. Set realistic expectations. This is huge, because your attitude towards the trip, as a parent, will significantly influence how the trip goes. For example, we know that going to visit most of our family is an 8 hour drive. However, throw our kids in the mix and it easily becomes 9.5 or 10 hours. We know that, so we try not to get frustrated that we’re not making better time.
2. Keep your kids occupied. Yes, this is A LOT of work but so worth it. We do a lot of coloring, playing with toys (each kid gets a small backpack for toys on each trip), I Spy, and talking about the things that we see outside. Mason is now to the point where he is constantly pointing out waterfalls, unique rocks and animals and tells Chloe all about them as we drive. We’re fortunate to have a lot of our drives be through the mountains, so it’s truly beautiful (so sorry for those of you who have to drive across Kansas).
3. Food! Yes, feed those kids. In our experience, full kids are happy kids. We generally try to pick up a few special snacks on the way out of town so that the kids get extra excited when they get to eat them in the car. Some of our favorites are goldfish crackers, gummies, and crackers with cheese and summer sausage. Also, don’t forget to keep your kids hydrated while you travel. Our typical rule of thumb is one water bottle for each half of the trip. This keeps them content and prevents us from stopping for a bathroom break every 5 miles.
4. Practice. Yes, you need to practice for a road trip. It would be completely unrealistic to expect Mason to read Moby Dick as a 4-year-old. Just as ridiculous, would be expecting a kid who has never spent more than 30 minutes in the car, to be good driving half way across the country. Kids are not born knowing how to sit still, but they can learn. Oh and yes, it will take some time and probably some tears, but stick with is (unless you really want your screaming baby to control your life and say you can only drive down the street)
5. Timing is everything. If you’re lucky, most kids have a time of day when they will naturally fall asleep (naps, bed, etc). Try and time some of your drive when they will be asleep to make it easier on everyone. We almost always send Andrew to work in the morning, and the kids and I try to play really hard so that they get nice and tired. Then Andrew will come home around 1 (our typical nap/quiet time) and we load the kids in the car and roll out. It usually works that the kids (and me) are so tired that we’re asleep within 30 minutes while Andrew drives. Around 6, we stop for dinner and play a little bit, put the kids in their PJ’s and they go back to sleep fairly quickly (at least when it’s winter and dark earlier).
We are really lucky that our kids are amazing at traveling on road trips. In fact, they actually LOVE them. We also believe that any kid can be good at traveling, but it does take some real effort on the part of the parents. Traveling 10 hours to visit family is now pretty easy for all of us. Here are a few other ideas we’ve used to keep the kids happy on car trips:
-Hit up the dollar store before you leave and get a bunch of “presents”. Whenever the kids get restless, give them a “gift”.
-Go to the library and get some fun books on CD to listen to. We LOVE doing this and do it on almost every trip.
-Don’t feel bad about using a DVD player in the car. We usually take one on our longer trips and it can be a lifesaver at times. Just try not to have the whole trip be a movie fest, if you can avoid it.
– If your kids are really restless, pull off the road and find a park. It’s amazing how rejeuvenating 20 minutes on the slide and swings can be.
Good luck and happy travels!