Tips for Planning Road Trips with Kids

This week, our family of six will embark on a 17 hour road trip. The planning and preparation almost make me crave the hours of highway nothingness, but I know far too well that “peace and quiet” isn’t a realistic expectation in our full minivan.  But we sometimes forget, don’t we?

To quote my college friend, Riann, “Vacationing with children is kinda like childbirth. Your brain erases the pain so you’re dumb enough to do it again!”

For the most part our boys are great travelers, but no one really enjoys being trapped and strapped in a vehicle for an entire day, do they? We try to make the best of the hours on the road with a activities, snacks, and special treats to help pass the time.

Top Tips for Road Trip Survival With Kids

  • Check out a giant stack of library books. Store about 3-5 of them behind each seat. Have them look for a while, and then trade with someone sitting close to them. Replenish with a fresh choices during stops.
  • Bring a portable potty for roadside emergencies and a container for the motion sickness prone.
  • Borrow DVDs from friends or the library that your kids have never watched. Having something new seems to capture their attention best.
  • Load up a clipboard with coloring pages and white drawing paper, along with a small box of crayons.
  • Plan for sleep patterns and normal nap schedules to be disrupted. (Sometimes just having realistic expectations and a positive attitude when the crankiness strikes is a huge deterrent for backseat meltdowns.)
  • Try audiobooks – sometimes the quiet listening lures them to sleep!
  • Window markers are great for inserting some creativity to an otherwise boring day.
  • Bring flashlights or glow in the dark sticks for night travel.
  • Take exercise breaks at rest stops. Run around the van 5 times, do 20 jumping jacks, hop on one foot, shake out your arms, etc. It gets some wiggles and sillies out before they have to be strapped back into their seats.
  • Cheer like crazy people when you reach a new state. It’s an accomplishment to be celebrated!
  • Buy a bag of trinket toys at Goodwill (we can buy a whole bag for $3) and toss them back one at a time.
  • Bring baggies of snacks, and treats and span them out throughout the day. Our go-to road snacks are: protein bars, dried fruit, lunch meat roll-ups, applesauce pouches, string cheese,and yogurt. Suckers are also a good treat because they keep their mouths busy and last for a while!
  • Track your progress using a map or another sort of visual to show that you are making progress!
  • Have a reward (aka bribe) for good behavior and patience on the road.

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