Planning any road trips with kids? We live about 4.5 hours away from most of our family so usually every 6 weeks or so, we are loading up our 9, 6 and almost 2 year old kiddos and traveling out of state. It is a pretty smooth process for us now. Knowing what to pack for our stay and what to load into the car to keep the kids entertained comes second nature at this point, but it wasn’t always so easy. Below I’m going to share with you some tips that will make life on the open road a little bit easier with kiddos in tow.
1. Prepare your car- Make sure your car is tidy before packing anything. I’m not saying you need to get your vehicle detailed and washed, but simply making sure all those random wrappers and goldfish are picked up will help you start with a clean slate. My kids are notorious for leaving the headphones that go along with the car’s DVD screens lying around. If I take a few minutes to make sure they are all dug out from under seats and placed in their correct spots, I’m off to a good start.
2. Expect messes- Always make sure to have wet wipes, Kleenex, napkins and plastic grocery bags stored in the car. You should just assume something is going to get spilled. Because, if your kids are like mine, it most definitely will. Also, have a spare change of clothes handy for each child just in case any huge spills happen. Obviously you will have extra clothes in your suitcases, but make sure the “just in case” outfits are not stored under all of the other luggage.
3. Assign jobs- Designate specific roles to your kids before leaving. I usually make my 9 year old sit in the middle by the almost 2 year old so he can be the “Baby Calmer”. He is in charge of picking up any lost toys or knocked over sippy cups so she remains as happy as possible which makes the ride more peaceful for the rest of us. Our 6 year old is usually the “Garbage Collector”. I hang a plastic grocery bag on a hanger hook in the back by her. Any trash goes back to her and she oversees that it all goes in the bag. She is also the messiest rider, so having her assigned to this job is killing two birds with one stone.
What to Take to Entertain Kids
1. Books- Before a road trip, head to the library and check out a few books to take on the trip. The books we check out are always kept in our designated library bag on the floor in the back. I like to have the kids read for awhile every few hours. Its a great break if they are falling into the electronics trap.
Toddler Tip: Touch and Feel books are great for toddlers on trips. Your little one will like to look through these on their own or an older sibling can read them aloud and offer the book to the child to feel before turning the page.
2. Movies- Libraries aren’t just for books. Many also have great movies to check out. You can always go to the store and pick out a few new ones, but don’t forget to raid your movie collection at home.
3. Audiobooks-Don’t forget about listening to audiobooks. On a recent road trip, we downloaded “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis and listened to part of it. Our oldest wanted us to ask him comprehension questions at the end of each chapter, which also meant Mom and Dad had to be engaged too!
4. Toys- Bring along a few of the kids’ favorites (but make sure they aren’t toys with a ton of parts or small pieces). Also, take the kids to the dollar store a few days before your trip and let them pick out some different toys that they can enjoy during the car ride. The key here is the suspense. Don’t let the kiddos open or play with the toys before leaving. They will be excited to play with their new finds and if you insist they don’t open them all at once, they will have more to look forward to during the ride.
Toddler Tip: Make sure toys for your little ones are kept where they can reach them. I like to use a shower caddy like this that will suction cup to the window and can be used to store fun things for your little one.
Don’t forget to have a basket or bag that will stand up easily in the car and hold all of your kids’ toys.
These window cling ninjas from the dollar store were a huge hit.
Playing with her magnetic drawing board.
You may think I’m nuts, but this slime-like putty I found on an end cap at Target made it in the basket of toys for the older two. We already owned one container, so I knew what the consistency was prior to buying more for the trip. It is not super runny and does not cause any messes. Give it a try!
5. Electronics- iPads, Kindles, etc. Letting your kids play on these will definitely help them pass the time. I know I would be lost without my phone on long trips.
6. Coloring Materials- Don’t we all have a million coloring and activity books lying around? I like to pack some of these in the library bag along with some resealable baggies filled with a variety of crayons. We have so many crayons at home that I’m not concerned if any get lost in the car during the trip. Make sure to make up 1-2 extra baggies in case some crayons are lost during the first part of the trip and needed again for masterpieces on the ride home.
Toddler Tip: Take along some Melissa and Doug Water Wow books. These are easy for the little ones to hold and can be used over and over again. Just be sure to fill the water wands ahead of time.
Another view of some of the goodies we took.
7. Snacks- Maybe the MOST important of all. Hungry travelers are crabby travelers. Take along easy to eat goodies like pretzels, goldfish, granola bars, fruit snacks, and applesauce squeeze pouches. Also, pack a cooler of drinks to have on hand.
Toddler Tip: Be sure to have some sippy cups and snack bowls handy. I really like these snack bowls.
Have a great trip!