This week we are taking a trip with the kids up to the mountains. It’s about a 4 1/2 hour drive, adding in some time for stops. It’s a long trip for my aged kids: 8, 6 and 4. This length of trip can either be the best of times or the worst of times and it all depends on how well you prepare for it!
I’ve taken many road trips with my kids and have complied 10 tips for traveling in the car with little kids. These tips will be both beneficial to them and to mom and dad!
1. Get off on the right foot with a clean car! I know that may seem weird since, if your kids are anything like mine, you KNOW that it will be a mess by the time you get to your destination but hear me out! Vacuuming out all the cracks, crevices and car seats will make it easier to set each kid up for success with activities for the trip and will just make it a bit neater for the journey. Just like having a birthday party, you’ll probably have to clean it again when you are back but at least it’s not twice the mess!
2. Pack plenty of snacks. I like to have two different snack “stations”: a plastic basket with lots of ready to eat treats and then a cooler bag with cold treats and extra drinks. I use a basket so it’s easy to grab what you want. I fill it with lots of kid-friendly snacks like fishes, graham crackers, fruit snacks, fruit leather, granola bars, pretzels and popcorn. In the cold bag, things like squeeze yogurts and apple sauces, string cheese, cheese squares, and cut fruit. For these trips, I like to buy individually packaged items or bag up the appropriate portions in baggies so I can just pass them back. Use baggies instead of reusable containers (I KNOW! It’s hard for me too, but trust me, it’s easier) so that way you don’t have a million little containers floating around. Bring a few trash bags too to help keep the car neat (as possible).
3. Dress comfortable. Save the dresses and tight jeans for later. Dress your little ones in sweats or shorts (depending on the weather) since they will be sitting for a long time and try and lessen the likelihood of meltdowns because my “pants are pitching me!” or “I’m hot!” or “I’m cold!”. Bring an extra outfit for everyone too and keep them at easy reach, just in case!
4. Plan for emergencies. Obviously before you leave you should have your car ready to go mechanically, full of gas, and have all emergency roadside and insurance numbers programed into your phone, but what about “emergencies” in the car? Make sure a little paper cut on your 4 year old’s finger doesn’t ruin your whole trip. Pack a first aid kit and keep it handy. Bring plenty of wipes for dirty hands and mouths too. If you have newly potty trained kids, I’d suggest bring along a small travel potty as well.
5. Non-electronic entertainment. The difference between a happy traveling kid and a crabby traveling kid is how busy and entertained they are! Before we take a long trip, I like to give each kid a small bag and fill it with a few new coloring books, regular books and some fun activities to do in the car. Writing books, word searches, and hidden pictures are all great ideas. I also like to take some car bingo games and laminate them; that way the kids can reuse them over and over again! In each bag, I like to pack a pencil pouch with some crayons, pencils, a dry erase marker and a piece of felt to clean off the laminated pages; this lessens the chance for fighting over the one green crayon. I also like to pack some special activities that the kids will be surprised with: stickers and pipe cleaners are always fun; and if you are feeling very adventurous give each kid a baggie with marshmallows and pretzel sticks and ask them to make something unique! THAT is sure to be a big hit!
6. Electronic entertainment. This one is a given. We live in a modern era and I want to take advantage of every modern electronic device I can! We bring the portable DVD player with a few new movies (check your local library for some free ones!) I also pack each kid’s tablet with a fully charged battery and bring all charges to charge up for the ride back! Pro mom tip: bring some headphones for the kids too, to save your mom ears.
7. Car Games. You can’t expect the kids to entertain themselves the whole trip so be ready for lots of fun family games! Play some traditional ones like iSpy and find the ABC’s on signs and add in some different ones like naming all the different animals you can see, count the cows/cactus/mountains, or find all the colors of the rainbow. Check out this list here for some more awesome games to play with your kids! Print it out and bring it with you so you are ready to go!
8. Special comforts. I like to give each of my kiddies a small pillow and blanket for our long trips. There’s something about a cuddly blanket that just helps to keep them happier. Pillow pets work well instead of a big bed pillow in the car, especially if you don’t have too much extra space. Also, be sure to grab any special lovies/stuffies/dollies that your little ones can’t live without! You don’t want to be seating for those if a melt down begins.
9. Rest stops. Plan for making some stops along your way. You know you will need to make at least a few potty trips so be prepared! Bring a large baggie with some sanitizer, wipes and a roll of toilet paper, just incase you can’t find a cleaner rest stop and it’s a pee-emergency! Every few hours, make sure to give the kids a few minutes to stretch their legs and run around. Bring a ball to bounce and play so the kids can get a few minutes of exercise. Even just 15 minutes will really allow them to stretch and breathe so they are ready for the next leg of the journey! Check your route and see if there are any interesting sites to visit, maybe the biggest ball of twine is only 5 minutes off of the highway, you would;t want to miss that, right??
10. Behavior. Inevitably your kids are going to bicker and get fussy. Most kids respond well to positive reinforcement and prizes so I like to use both on our long trips. I decorate a clothes pin for each child with their names and clip them to the sun visor. If they behave, they get to keep their clip up, if they are fighting and bickering, the clip comes down. Every hour or so or whenever you stop, whoever still has their clip up gets a prize! I use small treats and candy as prizes, as well as some small toys I can get from the dollar store; such as small rubber animals. After the stop, put all the clips back up and start again. Depending on how long your trip is, make sure for plenty of opportunities for the kids to earn prizes, you don’t want to only do one for the whole trip.
Follow these tips and hopefully you’ll have a smooth trip in the car with your kids! Do you have any tips to add? Any essential “can’t do without” tricks that make your trips easier?
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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post, all opinions and tips are my own!