Tips and Tricks for Road Trips with Kids
I don’t know if I’m an expert on road trips with kids, or just missing a few screws, but I drove almost 10,000 miles with my kids in 2017. Many of those miles I was with Jake or one of my parents, but I’ve driven almost 4,000 miles by myself with a two year old and a four year old.
The secret to successful road trips with kids? Put kids in car. Drive. Arrive (mostly) sane and unharmed. There you go.
Ok so maybe it’s not that simple, but it’s also not that hard either. It’s much scarier in our minds than reality, I promise! I’m tired just thinking about it.
But I also want to do it again this year.
My husband is currently in cardiac arrest, be back shortly.
Also – our kids don’t use electronics in the car. I know. WTF. Honestly this was not a deliberate decision, and I’m not even against it. Our two year old is just terrible with an Ipad or Kindle. She cannot stop touching everything and then cries when it’s not doing exactly what she wants. It creates more drama than it’s worth so we just don’t even bother. And if I let the four year old play on her tablet the little one completely loses every ounce of chill she has left after 7 hours in the car because ALL THINGS MUST BE EQUAL FOREVER.
I am getting ready to head out on another trip to North Carolina and the (probably cold) beach next week, so I thought before we go I would do a round up of my best road trip tips and tricks.
Let your kid pack their own toys and books
Just like the post office, “If it fits, it ships” Pick one container and let your kids pack their own stuff. They can bring anything they want (with parental veto power) but it’s gotta fit in the box. Packing is easy for you, and they get exactly what they want. Grab something that fits next to their seat and you are good to go. I do make sure they have a couple books in there but that’s all the oversight I provide. Well also, nothing alive.
Stop at playgrounds, not Wendy’s
Do some quick google research before you leave and find a park or playground on your route. Pack your lunch or hit the drive through and eat outside while the kids run off their energy. You’d be amazed at the pick me up just 30 minutes outside will give everyone.
Snacks are your friend
This isn’t news. Snacks that are unfamiliar to your kids are definitely not your friend. Include some treats, sure. But don’t go crazy because a four year olds digestive distress is not something you want to be dealing with behind a salt pile off the freeway in the middle of Kansas. #somanyregrets.
Pack essential cleaning supplies
Toilet paper, paper towels, baby wipes, plastic bags, and clorox wipes. Trust me. They don’t take up much space, just a roll of each will do. See previous reference to salt pile incident. Don’t get caught unaware.
Ignore your kids (just a little bit)
They will probably have moments that they are not happy. You won’t be able to fix it. They might fight. You won’t be able to fix it. What you can do is turn up the radio a little louder and belt out some show tunes until your kids forget why they were originally angry and start focusing on the aural assault occurring in the driver’s seat. If you are a nice enough parent, jam out to some Disney music. I have yet to encounter a situation that could not be (at least temporarily) solved by Disney. As a last resort you can just keep the music blasting until they scream themselves to sleep. Now you have a solid hour or two of peaceful driving!
Podcasts or audiobooks
There are some really fantastic podcasts for kids. Disney stories, Storynory, and Brains On! Science for kids are some of our favorites. We’ve probably listened to the Moana podcast 300 times but they love it, and I find it decently tolerable. Podcasts for adults are awesome. If you are driving alone it’s nice to have something to focus your brain on to stay alert. Bonus – my kids find my favorites incredibly boring and tend to fall asleep very quickly when I put them on.
Don’t follow any advice you get from Pinterest
Seriously. You will just complicate your life and you will regret it. I mean, maybe there’s some hidden gems on there but mostly you will find overly complicated solutions to problems you never knew existed. Ever seen the tackle box with snacks in it? Cute idea, right? Pre-portion an entire container of snacks for your kid to eat when they want. Except in the real world your kid would probably dump that whole thing on the floor (accident? On purpose?) before you’ve left your town. Now you’re out of snacks and you have some vacuuming to do.
Adjust your expectations
I read somewhere that kids can only cognitively give you about 70% compliance (good behavior, cooperation, etc) on any given day. Use this as a guideline for your travels. If you have a 10 hour drive, just go ahead and assume that 3 of those hours will make you regret all your life choices and wonder how your life veered so far off course. You will swear you are never doing this again. You might cry a little. You might teach your children some new vocabulary. It will end eventually.
Don’t listen to anyone else’s road trip horror stories
Did your cousin’s friend’s sister get stranded in Kansas with only one mitten and a lighter for three days because her 40 year old clunker broke down? Because I’m sure they want to tell you all about it so that you can properly prepare for the day when you suddenly find yourself destitute on the side of the road. You’ll be fine. Don’t stress.
Stop trying so hard
Seriously. Road trips are pretty easy. Your kids are restrained! They can’t escape! As the mother of wildlings this is a great relief to me sometimes. You don’t need to entertain your kids on the road. They will be just fine with their box of toys and their imagination. Boredom is good for kids. Seriously. We all went on road trips as kids with no ipads or Pinterest! And yet here we are, inflicting excessive family bonding on another generation of American children.