Spring Break is upon us and I know many of you are preparing for a family road trip this time of year. Do you remember traveling before kids? It was so easy. I remember how my husband and I would fly to our destination. On our flight we would read a novel, watch a movie, and enjoy a glass of wine. What sweet, joyful, and relaxing memories. Travel with children is a slightly (completely) different experience.
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First of all, have you seen the cost of flights? Flying may be doable with just two but the cost of flying for a family of four (or five or six or more) is most definitely not in the budget for most folks.
To Save Your Sanity During a Family Road Trip You MUST Prepare in Advance
In terms of your family’s finances, family road trips are a much smarter way to travel. But in terms of your sanity, family road trips are only a smart idea if you’ve properly prepared for them.
I vividly recall our first road trip with two little ones in tow. It was a complete disaster! We were totally unprepared for the needs of our smaller travelers.
Since that trip, we’ve gotten a lot more organized when planning our road trips. I’ve come up with several tips to help parents survive those long road trips.
Here’s my list of 7 Survival Tips for Your Family Road Trip:
1. Give Each Child a Snack Pack
This is essential and first on my list since this is usually how I get my kids in the minivan in the first place. If it’s a really long road trip I pack some extra snack to refill their packs during the trip. We use these bento boxes to pack their snacks. I place the snack pack in the car seat along with a spill-proof water bottle. As soon as I say the magic words “your snacks are waiting for you in the car,” my kids are motivated to get the show on the road.
2. Give Them Something NEW
The next road trip tip is to buy each child something new that they only get to open up on the road. I start talking about this with my kids about a week or so before our scheduled trip. The best new item is something that will keep your child entertained in the car for an extended period of time. You can find some great ideas for toys to take on car trips on Amazon.
3. Let Each Child Pack Their Own Bag With Car-Friendly Toys, Books, and Games
Getting your kids involved in planning the trip by allowing them to pack their own bag with favorite items to play with in the car is a great way to get them invested in the trip. My kids each have their own little backpacks that they get to fill up with their favorite car-friendly items, like trains, cars, super hero figures, books, and art supplies (crayons, coloring books, paper, etc.). Clearly, I have little boys so your list may be slightly different.
4. Bring a Basket of Special Treats
We always travel with a basket of my children’s favorite treats, like goldfish crackers, fruit snacks, granola bars, applesauce packs, juice boxes, and graham crackers. This treat basket is a very important tool for you to have on any road trip. Let me be clear, these snacks are pure bribery, folks. Desperate times call for desperate measures. When your children are bickering, whining, or refusing to get back in the car after a planned break, you can bribe them into good behavior with the choice of a treat or two.
5. Plan Your Breaks
Planning your breaks is essential. I recommend one stop every 1-2 hours. This may seem like a lot but those little legs needs to run around, use the potty, and get some fresh air if they are to make it through the road trip without turning into little monsters. Trust me, it is not a whole lot of fun to be driving in the middle of nowhere with a screaming child who “really, really” needs to use the bathroom and the next stop isn’t for at least 30 miles. Make your children try to use the bathroom on every planned break. Bribe them with treats if necessary! Movement is also key. We do jumping jacks, run in circles, and have dance parties at every stop. It’s a lot of fun!
6. Download a Movie and Some Apps on the iPad
The iPad or your favorite tablet is your friend on long road trips. While I would love to say that my children sit happily in the back seat playing with their toys, reading books, or playing games the entire trip, the truth is that they get bored, just like we do, and a fully loaded iPad is going to save your sanity. The only caveat with this tip is that the car can get very noisy when more than one movie is playing in the background. Wireless headphones are your answer.
7. Keep a Mom’s Special Bag of Toys, Books, Games, and Music
My last tip is for mom (or dad) to pack a bag of interactive activities to do with the kids in the car. Some of my favorite items are:
- Laugh Out Loud Jokes
- Spot it! On the Road game
- License Plate game
- Travel Bingo, and
- Mad Libs on the Road.
If you keep these tips in mind when planning your family’s next road trip, you will be a much happier, and saner, parent.
Wishing you happy and safe travels!