One of the ways to explore the world while practicing social distancing is road trips. To be honest we are not a fan of long road trips, with or without kids.
If it is more than two hours drive, we’d rather travel by plane. We don’t have the patience to sit in the car for more than two hours. And it’s tiring to drive mentally. So how much more when you are doing long road trips with kids.
Since we moved to Alaska, we are trying to enjoy these long road trips. (For us, three hours is already considered long!) We are going fishing, camping, hiking, and checking out different sites. Some of those sites are a few hours away (so we don’t have a choice). We want to enjoy summer, since it won’t be long until it starts getting colder here.
Whether you are planning for a long road trip with your kids this summer break or on other long weekend holidays, check these tips and tricks to help you enjoy and survive it.
How to survive a long road trip with kids:
1. Plan for short driving days
I think you will be more frustrated if you plan for long driving days. You have to stop every couple of hours to entertain the kids. Then you have to drive and concentrate on the road. Once you get to your destination, you still need to take care of the kids and tend to everybody. It’s ok to give yourself some break.
2. Make a List
It is wise to make a list for everybody according to their needs and your trip itinerary. This way you won’t overpack or under-pack.
Older kids can make a list and pack for themselves. Younger kids can pack with supervision. You’ll be surprised at what they want to bring. Start packing several days prior to your trip – more than likely there will be distractions.
Aside from your big luggage, prepare a small to-go bag containing extra clothes, paper towels, plastic bags, sanitizer, wipes, first aid kit, etc.
3. Check your car
Decide first what vehicle you will be using or which car to drive. Or if you are considering renting a camper van. Then check if everything is up to standard, such as the tires, battery, lights, etc. Fill up the gas. Wash and clean the car, if needed.
Read more: How to Prepare for a Road Trip
4. Check the weather
Road safety is important, especially if you are driving with kids. By knowing the weather, you can anticipate if the road will be wet, or dry, or snowy. You will also know what to add to your emergency bag or to-go bag.
5. Get the right Apps
If you are using smartphones, some apps can help you make it through any family road trip. We love Waze. Waze can help you navigate around traffic jams and construction delays. So does Google Maps. iExit will show you the gas stations, grocery stores, and coffee shops at the upcoming exits. Foodspotting is a similar app. TruxMap will show you food trucks, which is a good alternative to fast food. GasBuddy helps you find the cheapest gas near you.
Tip: Add your must-have apps before you leave the house, just in case you can’t find a wifi spot or you don’t have mobile data while on the road.
6. Decide on the time
You can drive at night. This is good if we want kids to be sleeping for a more peaceful experience. I don’t blame you. If this is a flight, I always prefer night flights. However, whoever will be driving should be well-rested and okay to drive for several hours. There are more risks when driving at night.
Or you can leave early in the morning (like 3am or 4am). Just carry the smaller kids straight to their carseats, and hope they don’t wake up yet. After three or four hours, you can give them breakfast by the time they wake up.
7. Strategic seating arrangements
The kids can choose which seat they want. But you get to make the final decision. It may be ok for an older passenger to sit in between two carseats, but then it will be hard to get in and out of the car
8. Manage motion sickness
If you anticipate that someone will be motion sick, then it’s a good idea to travel with some disposable plastic bags. Explain to the kids what they are for, and how to use them. You can also bring some ginger or peppermint food products to help prevent nausea.
9. Gather the gadgets
Bring several gadgets on your road trip, including smartphones, iPods, tablets, e-readers, and portable DVD players + DVDs. Then power them up.
Bring along power banks or portable chargers for the car. Make sure the charger work with the gadgets you plan to bring.
10. Prepare road trip activities
Stop those ‘are we there yet’ questions with good distractions like road trip activities. You can bring activity books, drawing books, storybooks. Prepare a song playlist or do a movie marathon. Bring some of their favorite toys. Do some car games like a scavenger hunt, bingo, card games, alphabet games, license plate games, and more. You can also download some game apps on the kids tablets.
But don’t rely on electronics. Use them judiciously.
Read more: Road Trip Activities for Kids
11. Pack Healthy — and Not-So-Messy — Snacks
Drive-thru restaurants are very tempting. But let it be your last option. You can pack healthy foods/snacks like boiled eggs, bread, nuts, raisins. Avoid syrupy or sticky stuff.
Include a mix of fruits and vegetables, such as carrot and cucumber sticks, sliced apples, grapes, oranges. Of course, bring some treats like cookies and chocolate chip granola bars. They might help in case of a meltdown. Don’t forget water bottles and juice boxes. Make sure the kids can easily access the snacks on their own.
12. Limit Liquids
Never dehydrate your kids or yourself, but also don’t over hydrate yourself. You don’t want to be stopping more frequently than planned.
13. Organize your stuff in the car
Big and heavy luggage is stored securely in the trunk. Put kids’ snacks within reach. Diaper bags, blankets, toys are within the kids’ row. To-go bags for kids are also near you, so that when you go for a mini-break, and somebody needs to change, you don’t need to take out your big luggage and dig inside.
14. Keep things clean
As much as possible, make it clutter-free. Throw garbage at every stops. Stash plastic bags in every door.
15. Prepare for messes
That’s the reason for bringing wipes, paper towels, plastic bags, and extra clothes. Whether it is a potty accident or a spilled juice, have these items handy. Tackle the mess as soon as you possibly can.
16. Consider the Potty
If you are potty training, bring a portable potty that’s easy to put out anywhere. Another reason to bring more disposable plastic bags.
17. Double Check Car Seats
Some kids don’t like seatbelts for a long period of time, and will probably remove them on their own. A lot of kids will sit unstrapped for miles without alerting their parents.
18. Take Care of the Driver
While it is important to keep the kids happy, taking care of the driver is also essential.
19. Map Out Breaks
Find interesting places to stop for breaks, like historic sites, museums, towns, and picnic spots like state parks, lakes, and waterfalls. Wherever that is, the goal is to burn off some of the kids energy. This is a chance for them to crawl, run, and bounce off cabin fever. Have jump ropes, bubbles, and Nerf balls ready in the trunk.
If you are stopping for a mealtime, grab your to-go bag to freshen up everyone, use the bathroom, change diapers, or replenish some snacks.
Kids will never get back into the car as quickly as you thought and want. So add some buffer time like 15 minutes to every planned stop.
20. Stop Every Three Hours
For maintaining harmony and sanity, it is good to stop every three hours even if no one needs to use a bathroom or eat. Stretch those legs.
21. Be Prepared for Emergencies
Prepare a roadside emergency kit with extra food, water, and blankets, especially during winter travel. Aside from 911, it is good to have a list of emergency contact numbers like pediatricians, relatives, and roadside assistance in the car.
22. Talk to your kids
Have a conversation with your kids. Talk about where you are going, what they like and don’t like about the trip, or just let them ask any questions. This is a great opportunity to spend quality time with them.
23. Maintain Your Chill
It s raining. There’s major traffic. You forgot to bring some documents or stuff. You left some items at the previous rest stop.
Something will always happen. Roll with it. Accept the inevitable. You will never ever be prepared enough for a road trip with kids. Stay calm. Maintain your sense of humor and be patient.
Road trips are fun, even if they are a bit challenging. Maybe after this road trip, you wouldn’t want to try again. Don’t. Think about the memories you made with your kids, the picturesque landscapes, the conversations, the stuff you learned about them. You’ll realize road trip with kids is an amazing way to explore the world. And your kids are worth it.
Featured image by Dino Reichmuth on Unsplash
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Author's Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the company in question before planning your trip.
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