So, you’ve decided to hit the road and have an awesome adventure with your family; however, you can’t help but feel a little anxious. You have little ones in tow and you aren’t sure that they – or you – are going to survive the trek.
Fortunately, there’s good news! With the right planning, you can ensure a successful and fun trip, filled with lifelong memories that you will cherish forever.
When my eldest son was two, we took a 2,000 mile road trip – and it was extremely successful. Here are some of the strategies that I used to ensure everyone’s happiness.
15 Make a Plan
The first key to a successful road trip with the kids is to make a plan. Gone are the days when you could just jump in the car and go wherever the road took you. I mean, you still can do that, to an extent; but, you really need to have some type of plan in place.
Figure out how long it is going to take to reach your destination and plan stops along the way. If it’s going to take three days to get to your final location, try to figure out where and when you are going to stop each night.
I have two points to make regarding reservations. Okay, so there's two important things to consider regarding reservations. The first is DO make reservations for your final destination. The last thing you want to do is show up at the place where you intend to stay for several days or weeks and find that there aren’t any vacancies. The second is DON'T make advanced reservations for nightly trip accommodations. You may not reach your destination for that night, or you may be able to push through and go even further. What I suggest is finding a hotel about two hours before you plan to stop to make a reservation. That way, you have more freedom with your daily travel, but you know that you have someplace to stay.
13 Pack with Purpose
Don’t just throw everyone’s stuff into the same suitcase for the entire trip. Instead, pack two separate bags for each person traveling. In a bigger bag, put the things you’ll need for your final destination. In a smaller bag, but the things you will need for your overnight stays on the road. Make sure you pack the smaller bags so that they are easy to reach in the car. Packing in an efficient manner can really make the trip that much easier. Kids can get complicated so it's great if you try your best to un-complicate everything else.
12 Pack the Car Strategically
This brings me to my next point; have a strategy when packing your car.
Make sure the things that you are going to need while driving are within easy reach. For example, I had a bag filled with individual snacks and drinks, and another filled with toys and books, stowed right behind my seat. That way, I could easily reach behind me and grab whatever my son needed while we were en route. Remember, you have to ensure safety. If there is something you can't reach for, pull over.
11 Plan Stops
Sitting in the car for a long period of time is stressful for kids; heck, it’s stressful for adults. In order to avoid meltdowns, make sure you plan frequent stops while you’re traveling. Doing so will give everyone a chance to get out and stretch their legs.
We were traveling for about eight hours a day on our big road trip. We stopped about every two hours so that we could stretch out. We’d walk, run, and check out some cool stuff, too, if there was anything cool around. We’d also stop for ice cream at least once a day.
10 Pack Lunch
Eating on the road can get expensive, and it can also be unhealthy.
To avoid spending a ton of cash and giving into the temptation of fast food, pack your lunches. We packed a cooler with deli meat, bread, fruit, drinks, etc. We’d stop at a rest area for lunch, grab the cooler and make a healthy and tasty picnic lunch. We were re-fueled ourselves without having to spend an arm-and-a-leg.
Note: If you do have things that need to be refrigerated, store them in the hotel’s fridge at night. Or, you can buy fresh in the morning before heading out again.
9 Bring Activities
To keep your little ones occupied while in the car, bring along some activities. Toys, games, movies - anything to help keep them distracted from what might be a long ride. Kids can get restless and driving can get hard with the incessant, "are we there yet?" question. So to ensure a smooth ride, bring stuff for them to do. If you are travelling with more than one kid, be sure to pack separate activities to avoid arguments.
I bought an activity tray for the car. My son held it on his lap and used it to color, play with his trains and cars, and even as a support for his snacks. It worked out perfectly!
8 Play Games and Sing Songs
We also played games while we were driving. ‘I Spy’ and ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ were a big hit. We also made up silly games and songs that my son loved. My husband and I had fun playing the license plate game, too! Another idea is to prepare a great playlist with the family's favorite tunes and give James Corden a run for his money with a carpool karaoke. Let Dad take the lead on the Frozen theme song and let the kids harmonize to the new Jason Derulo hit. I promise it will make for funny memories. If possible, film it! You guys will be the definition of #familygoals. Just be silly together and you’ll keep the sanity.
7 Pack a DVD Player or Tablet
Though I limit TV time, while traveling, I don’t see anything wrong with giving your kids some TV time.
We set up a portable DVD player for our guy and let him watch a movie when he wanted. He definitely played, and he certainly saw tons of stuff while we were travelling; however, turning on a kid-friendly movie will help to keep your little ones happy – and keep your sanity.
6 Pack a First-Aid Kit
You never know when someone is going to get a boo-boo while you’re on the road. Having a first-aid kit handy while you’re in the car is always a wise idea, but it’s especially important when you’re taking a road trip with the kids.
Make sure there are plenty of bandages, first-aid ointment and some kid-friendly medicines, too. Store it in your glove compartment so you know where it is.
5 Bring Cuddlies
If your child has something that soothes him, like a blankie or a stuffed animal, make sure you bring it along. And, make sure you pack a few spares! You want to keep your child as comfortable and secure as possible while traveling in order to ensure a successful road trip.
4 Bring Blankets
I also highly recommend bringing some blankets with you on your road trip. Maybe some pillows, too. Not only will they keep your child comfortable when it’s naptime, but they’ll also keep you cozy when you want to doze off.
3 Make Sure Diapers are Handy
If your little one is still in diapers, make sure that they are within easy reach.
I packed our diaper bag with extra diapers and wipes, two changing pads, and a spare set of clothing for our little man. I packed the bag right at the head of the trunk so that we didn’t have to search for it when diaper changes were needed.
2 Be Flexible
You have to remember that with kids, flexibility is always the key to success. If you’re too rigid, nobody is going to be happy. While you can have a plan, you have to be willing to adjust your plans, if needed.
1 Have Fun!
Don’t forget to have fun! While traveling with kids can be trying, you want to remember to have fun! This is a family trip that you want to remember forever; you want your memories to be light-hearted. Have fun while you’re on your trip and you’ll be sure to have success!