We’ve done our fair share of traveling (by car always) with our kids. My husbands parents lived in CA for 3 years, and we went to visit about every 6 months (12 hour car ride for us), and then earlier this year we went to WA state to visit some family there. Along the way I think we’ve learned some basic travel tips with kids. Things don’t always work out the way you may plan, or go perfectly, but it’s all part of the adventure. 🙂
1.Make a plan! Know your route, where you’ll be stopping, and when you’ll have your snacks/meals. Know what you’ll be bringing in the car to snack on, and when you’ll buy things from gas stations, or even restaurants.
2. Make sure to have: Plastic Bags (in case someone gets car sick … or just regular sick if you’re on the road), jackets (if needed), snacks and activities to keep them busy.
3. Activity Tips: There are so many awesome car game ideas on Pinterest. Last time we took a long time (supposed to be 12 ish hours, and took 18 ish hours … it was kind of awful), we printed off some games, and then had them laminated so we could reuse them next time. We brought dry erase markers with us so the kids could easily use them and wipe them down and trade with each other. Of course, there is always the issue of dry erase marker being used … you could do crayon as well. 🙂
4. Make stops efficient: Have everyone unbuckle (even the baby, as long as you won’t be waking them up once they’ve just fallen asleep), and stretch. Have everyone go to the bathroom as well. We do this in shifts … Dad fills the car with gas, and mom takes the girls to the bathroom, then when the girls come back, all the boys go. Grab any snacks that you may need, or if you’re stopping for a meal, try to plan to stop somewhere close to a gas station (if you’re filling up at the same time). Also take the time to clean the car up a little bit (get rid of garbage, or extra items, find lost items, etc).
5. Variety in Activity: We have a DVD player in our car which is AMAZING for long traveling, but honestly, I think we all can only watch so many movies! Make sure you have some activities that involve kids getting the minds working and thinking. Play I Spy, Licence Plate Game, Tic-Tac-Toe, Would you Rather …, etc. You can also borrow books on CD from the library, or even online libraries. You can mix things up with playing music (CD’s or Pandora, or whatever you have on your phone).
6. Bring fun things for Adults too: Make sure to bring snacks that you like, and also activities for the passenger to do. You could even bring something for the passenger to read to the driver to help pass the time for the driver.
7. Laugh it off: Unless you’re family is awesome, your trip will probably not be perfect and the kids will probably fight and be done being in the car 10 minutes in (or is that only my child? I really do have one like that …). When your patience has disappeared, try to just laugh at whatever problem is happening, and help the kids to just relax and see the silliness in the hardship.
8. Keep Track of Where you are: This is helpful for everyone. When we drove from Utah to Washington state we had about 8-10 stops we planned on making. I found a little van image, cut it out, and colored the same color as our van. Then, I used packing tape to “laminate” it so it’s last through the trip both ways. Then I took some yarn and paper and labeled our stops out in order and hooked them to the yarn. Then, our van had a piece of tape on it, and it would “travel” along the yarn with us. Then we could all see exactly where we were along the way and how many more stops we still had to go.
9. SURPRISES!!: These are fun to do. I grabbed some lunch sacs and labeled all of them. I just put the stop name on them (since it was the same trip as I talked about in #8), then I’d know when they were getting a fun surprise snack, or when they were getting a fun little toy/book we’d gotten at the dollar store, and I didn’t have any one sort of item clumped together. This is great because it entertains the kids for a little while longer once you get on the road again after a stop.
10. Have fun: Do your best to make it fun for everyone. Take the time to talk with your kids, and see how they’re really doing. Ask them what funny things happen at school, or what books they are loving reading, or what their favorite animal is. Family trips can be long and they can be a hassle. But they can be awesome and help each family grow closer together too. Create memories, and it’ll always be fun to look back on.