This was the first time we have driven the journey since Adee was born. Now that she is 2 her airfare is no longer free so we tearfully said goodbye to the days of flying. 5 plane tickets plus normal vacation costs is just not feasible at this point in our life. So we made the decision to drive. And we made the decision to do our very best to enjoy that drive and to make it a fun part of the trip, not just the means to an end.
I did a lot of pinteresting leading up to the trip. I found super helpful travel tips, printables, snack ideas, etc. for ways to make the most out of a road trip. (See my Pinterest board here.) After completing the trip there and back, I wanted to share with you my favorite tips, what worked and what didn’t. I hope this is helpful for you and all of your adventures with the littles this summer!
- Strategic Plan
- This is the most important element. Long gone are the days where you can just jump into the car and blindly choose a place on the map and drive there. With littles in tow, there must be some type of plan in order to limit tears and frustration… on both sides.
- Strategic Plan for Departure Time. We chose to leave at 1pm in the afternoon with the goal of driving straight through. There are several benefits of leaving in the early afternoon such as: the kids would nap their normal nap time, it’s one less meal to pack or purchase since lunch would have already been eaten, we are still arriving at a somewhat decent hour versus driving through the night. Many parents I know drive through the night but in my opinion that results in reeeally tired parents on your first day of vacation and the obvious risks of driving when you are that exhausted.
- Our Schedule:
- 1pm – Depart / Littles Nap
- 3pm – Littles Awake: Open bookbags with activities (see below), give snack
- 5pm – Stop for gas & dinner / Littles play & run around / Put PJs on
- 6pm – Depart / Movie
- 8pm – Bedtime (You have to actually communicate that it’s time to go to sleep. Having them change into their pjs is a huge help for them transitioning into ‘bedtime.’
- 8-1am – Parents try their best to stay awake. 😉
- Making an actual schedule with the stops for gas, meals and bathroom breaks would be super helpful for you, your spouse and your children that can read. It will help the trip not feel endless but purposeful.
- Our Schedule:
- Strategic Plan for Stops. Choose stops based on when you will need gas and try to do meal times at the same time so you aren’t stopping twice as much. Choose a place where your kids can run around. We brought our soccer ball and made them run races in the back of the parking lot of the McDonalds where we stopped for dinner. On the way back we packed lunch and stopped at a rest area where we ate lunch and then kicked the ball around. Making sure to incorporate activity into your stops is a genius way to get the wiggles out of the littles (and you!) and also gives you something to look forward to.
- Strategic Plan for What to Pack. Don’t forget blankets, stuffed animals and pillows! (Along with everything else you have to remember. :)) Having those items helped ‘bedtime’ and ‘naptime’ feel more normal and they went right to sleep.
- Plan activities (aka things to do) for the trip. Remember to space them out. Have your own bag that has the activities and supplies labeled with different times or stops. There is no benefit of handing them a bag full of new stuff that will just overwhelm them and result in the ‘are we there yet’s’ really quickly. Take your time and space out the goodies. And in a moment where everyone is melting down you will be prepared! (I LOVE this idea that has goodies in bags that are labelled with mile markers/city’s driving through. Use for new activities or rewards.)
- Notebook / Binder – I made 3-ring binders for the two boys and filled it with dozens of printables. Both binders were outfitted with a pencil case that held a new pack of markers as well as a printout of our trip from google maps. Their favorite printables: Scavenger Hunt (this kept them busy for an entire hour!), Superhero Coloring Pages, Mazes, Travel Games, and they both loved the blank, lined paper for journaling and doodling. The important thing is to know your child. What are there favorite things? Include those in the binder! This was seriously a life-saver, not only on the road but even when we got to our destination. They colored and wrote in their binders every day.
- Books – Each child picked 2-3 books to include in their book bag from our book collection and then I surprised them each with a new book. Again, think about what your child would really love. I chose a superhero book that had lots of pages and lots of intricate pictures that I knew they would love and captivate their attention for awhile.
- Games – Play I Spy, 20 Questions, Would You Rather, etc.
- Disposable Camera – Let your kids capture the trip from their perspective and gift them with their very own disposable camera on the way!
- Window Markers – We didn’t do this, but definitely on the next trip! I think it’s a genius idea and fun!
- Music – We made a trip playlist and listened and sang along. The kids love it normally and this trip was no exception. Andy Mineo’s You Can’t Stop Me was our trip’s theme song.
- Movies – We brought along our favorite movies for the expected meltdowns. On the way, we only watched one since we left at the ideal 1pm and had our perfect little schedule. On the way back we had to leave earlier in the morning so we did watch a few more movies. If you can, purchasing or renting 1-2 new movies would be a great option!
- I got a roll of quarters from the bank and every 30 minutes – 1 hour the kids were rewarded with 1 quarter. This was great since they have been earning a commission on their home chores and are starting to learn the value of money! Make sure to bring a change purse for the kids to collect the quarters in. (I forgot one so we had trouble keeping up with all the quarters.)
- I chose a few inexpensive ‘prizes’ for strategic points along the trip. (A new mini lego set, Tic Tacs, etc.)
- These tickets would also be super helpful. You could give them and if they earn a certain number get a big prize at the end or treat when you stop.
- I packed healthy snacks in individual baggies. I made 4 packs of everything, one for each child and one for Aaron and me. The snacks we loved: raisin boxes, trail mix, almonds, apples, granola bars.
- Remember to pack drinks for all of you.
- Low Expectations
- Don’t expect perfection. Expect your kids to be kids. Remember how painful those trips were for you when you were little? Keep that in mind and try to attack some of that boredom with preparation before the trip starts and try your best to be understanding while in the midst of the trip. And if you need to stop. Stop. You are not in a race. Remember, the road trip is not just the means to an end but a part of your vacation.
For a helpful and quick list, each child’s book bag included:
- Stuffed Animal
- 2-3 Books
- 1-2 small toys (matchbox cars, lego guy, baby doll)
- Binder (markers + printables + blank paper)
- Juice Box
- 2-3 snacks (cheerios, granola bar, trail mix)
I hope that helps make your next road trip adventure a great one!
What are your favorite road trip tips?!