Traveling with kids on a long car trip — we've all been there. Before you've even crossed town lines the, "Are we there yet?" starts getting asked or, "How long until we get there?"
So how do you cope? Follow these tips to help ease the process and maybe even have a little fun along the way. Getting there really is half the fun!
So many families are focused only on packing and the details of their trip they forget to plan for the actual car trip with kids. As you plan your agenda and packing list, start thinking about each of your kids and their age/stage and decide what is best for each to keep them happy and occupied during the travel portion of your trip.
Snacks, Snacks and More Snacks
No one loves snacking more than kids, and hungry kids on a long car trip is a harrowing thought. Make sure you pack your snacks last so they are easily accessible. Snacks should be healthy but appealing and not something that can get crushed or smashed, so this means fruit like apples, cheese sticks, or crackers and pretzels in a box. And don't forget the water (try to avoid sugary or caffeinated drinks) so the kids stay properly hydrated.
Fun Surprise Toys
Traveling with kids means boredom. I like to go to the Dollar Store or even some craft stores have small fun little toys and games to keep kids occupied. Travel versions of games are available, but I especially like the small travel size of a magnetic drawing board like Magna Doodle so your kids can draw and erase and stay occupied. Make sure to choose one that has the magnetic pen attached to the unit.
Books on Tape
The tendency for families is to give kids an iPhone or game device to keep them occupied during a long car trip. Why not swap that out for a book on tape? Listening to a book while taking in the scenery allows your children to engage their imaginations by getting lost in the story. Books on tape can easily be checked out from your local library- try choosing one that appeals to all ages and tastes!
Plan Fun Stops Along the Way
If you're on a lengthy car trip, check out the route in advance and see what towns are on the way. A quick stop to a special ice cream shop, penny candy store, interesting historical site, or entertainment venue can break up a trip and give your kids something to look forward to as they travel. If they keep asking how much longer, you can target your next fun stop, which makes it more manageable for kids to handle.
This is always a fun and easy game to play. Each kid chooses one vehicle, sign, or color car to spot, and the first one who spots it wins. There are also boards you can purchase that allow you to play this as a travel bingo game. The first person to find all the things on the board wins.
Magnetic Play Sets
These are a lot of fun for kids and allow their imagination to soar as they choose the scenes they want to create using magnets so no lost pieces down the side of the seat. These magnetic board kits usually come in a travel case with several scenes and multiple magnets for endless creative play.
Whether your kids are preschoolers or teens, having their favorite music to play is another way of keeping them happy. If your kids are in the same general age range, you can play the music through the car stereo and all sing along. If you've got a range of ages, iPods with earbuds are your best bet.
Bring a Potty and Baby Wipes
For those younger kids who are toilet training or too young to be able to make it to the next rest area 10 miles away, a small plastic potty chair is a must. This is also handy for using where you are staying whether it's a motel, campground, or grandma's house.
Extra Underwear and Clothes
Sure, you're traveling with kids so you have all their clothing packed, but what if your daughter spills her drink all down the front of her shirt? Or, God forbid someone has a potty accident? Having a full change of clothes (down to the undies and socks!) easily accessible for each child is crucial during a car trip. That way you can get them changed quickly and back on the road without having to unpack your entire car just to find a replacement outfit.
For Babies, Tons of Diapers, Wipes and Pads
Car trips with babies can be a different animal as they will need a lot of diapers, wipes, and disposable changing pads. We've changed our boys in the woods, on front lawns — everywhere! But with the proper supplies, it's easy peasy and you're back on the road in no time. Make sure you have lots of plastic shopping bags to put the mess in when you're done so you can toss in the nearest trash can or, if there isn't one, you can hold onto it until you can reach one. Also, make sure you have hand gel or travel hand wash to keep it clean.
Have a First Aid Kit
You decide to stop at a rest area for a walk and a break from the car, and your kid falls and scrapes his knee or cuts his foot in the brush. Having a small but well stocked first aid kit can be a lifesaver. You can either purchase a kit or make one by adding bandages, gauze, antibacterial gel, etc. into a large ziplock bag.