Hitting the road with the kids this holiday weekend ? Check out some great tips for Road Tripping with Kids to make your journey more fun!
My husband and I love to travel, and that hasn’t changed just because we had four kids (now ages 10, 8, 7, and 5!). We’ve traveled all over the country with the kids in the past 10 years, including logging 6,662 miles during our cross-country road trip out west. Trust me when I say that road tripping with little ones is possible, and it can be a ton of fun…but preparation goes a long way to setting everyone up for success!
Here are a few general tips for road tripping with kids. I’ll share a few more details about behavior management, activities, and preparing for emergencies in the other posts in the series!
- Plan Smart: Take as much time as you’re able when traveling with kids. Try not to schedule every moment of your travel, because kids (and parents!) are usually happier with a little down time.
- Pack Smart: Bring enough to keep them entertained, but not so much that it’s overwhelming. A few coloring books, markers, story books, small cars, simple crafts, music, movies, and a video game system are all good bets. If you bring everything but the kitchen sink, they (and you) have to dig through a ton of stuff to find something to do.
- Snack smart: Behavior’s usually better if a road trip isn’t a junk food free-for-all. We do apples, grapes, carrots, cheese sticks, yogurt sticks, pretzels, raisins, and other lower-sugar foods. M&Ms or other special treats are on reserve for rewards as necessary, or for that mid-afternoon slump when everyone’s mood improves with just a little chocolate 🙂
- Keep it clean: Enlist the kids’ help to wrangle trash as you go. When snacks are finished, round up the trash right away to keep things tidy.
- Eat on the go; stop to play: Think about it—we expect kids to sit still to eat. They have to sit still when they’re strapped into their car seats. When we release them at a rest area or other stopping places, the last thing they’ll want to do is hold still. If the driver doesn’t mind eating while driving, try to keep rolling while you eat. Then when you stop, take a potty break and run off some steam. Pack a soccer ball or frisbee; play tag or run a race…anything to run the wiggles out for 10-15 minutes (or longer if needed!)
- Timing is everything at Nap Time: If your kids are nappers, do everything within your power to be sure you don’t have to stop in the middle of nap time. Check your gas levels, and make sure everyone else has used the restroom before you settle into nap time so you can keep rolling and enjoy the peace and quiet. It’s a great time for bigger kids to watch a movie with headphones, and offer a special reward (like a sweet treat or some new stickers) if the big kids are quiet and well-behaved while a little one naps.
- Roll with the punches: Planning is great, but things don’t always go according to plan. If you need to shift gears mid-stream, try not to show much frustration in front of the kids. They’ll take their cues from you, and if you lose your cool, chances are good that they will too. The “perky road trip mom” act made several appearances on our latest trip…then I grumbled on the inside once they were settled in with their own activities!
- The “Everyone Gets a Turn” rule: Traveling with a family is all about compromise, and kids can start learning that at a pretty early age. If everyone gets a turn, then nobody needs to freak out when someone chooses something they don’t like (DVD, music, travel game, snack, activity, etc.). It’ll be their turn soon enough, and then they’ll get to choose. The beauty of this rule is that parents get a turn too! So if after two hours of Veggie Tales, the parents decide they need a little classic rock road trip music…so be it. The kids can be jamming to “The Dance of the Cucumber” again when it’s their turn.
OK, your turn! What’s worked well when you’ve hit the road with your kiddos? We’d love for you to share in the comments below. Don’t forget to check back for the rest of the series, with tips on helping the kids behave while you’re on the road, and fun activities to keep them busy!
Need some other Road Trip tips? Check out the rest of this series:
Road Tripping with Kids series: Behavior Tips, Road Trip Fun for Kids, Avoid Emergencies
Have you checked out our other Travel on a Shoestring posts?
- Travel on a Shoestring: Lodging and Transportation
- Travel on a Shoestring: Road Trip Shopping List
- Vacation Planning on a Shoestring
- Travel on a Shoestring: Feeding your family away from home
- Northeast Ohio Staycation & Summer Fun Ideas
- Nationwide Staycation & Summer Fun Ideas (check the list to find free & frugal fun near your vacation destination!)
- Travel on a Shoestring: Fun for the family without busting the budget
- Travel on a Shoestring: Staycations (general staycation ideas)
- Travel on a Shoestring: Disney World on a Budget
- Travel on a Shoestring: National Parks with Kids
- Travel on a Shoestring: Megan’s Month-Long Cross-Country Road Trip
- Travel on a Shoestring: Mount Rushmore and Jewel Cave
- Travel on a Shoestring: Yellowstone National Park with Kids
- Visiting Laura’s Little Houses Part 1: Intro and Little House on the Prairie
- Visiting Laura’s Little Houses Part 2: Little House in the Big Woods and On the Banks of Plum Creek
- Visiting Laura’s Little Houses Part 3: Laura’s Little Town–De Smet, South Dakota
We hope you find them helpful!