We have been road tripping like crazy lately! Most of the time, it’s just me, my 3 kids (who are 5, 3, and 1) and me. And we survive. We have all kinds of fun conversations about the national forest we’re driving through or about our visit with family on the way home.
Because all of our family lives at least 5 hours away, we take a lot of road trips. The more we do it, the easier it gets, and I honestly believe that my children travel so well because it’s all they’ve ever known. If we want to see grandparents or see my brother graduate, then we’ve got to hop in the car and drive. So we do.
Here are some of my road trip tips as well as your road trip tips. I asked for suggestions on my blog’s Facebook page and the mamas helped me out. Here are our tips!
My Top Road Trip Tips:
Bring the DVDs
When I first had kids, I was a staunch believer in children learning how to travel without movies and other forms of entertainment. We would bring toys and I would juggle them the entire road trip. But then I started taking road trips on my own, and I decided that a day of too many movies wouldn’t hurt my kids. As long as they’re happy in the car, I’m happy.
And if you’re traveling with your husband than guess what? It’s an instant date night! Pop a movie in for the kids and then you get to enjoy uninterrupted conversation with your best friend for hours. We love road trips for this very reason!
Tons of Snacks
We’re a food allergy family, so we never go on a car trip without snacks, especially a safe dessert for my son. Most of the time, desserts are the food that will not be safe for him, so we like to have a backup plan. My three year old gets really sad if everyone else is eating dessert at a family function and he can’t.
Leave right after a meal.
This is especially great for picky eaters. My oldest refuses to eat most fast food (like burgers, french fries, and nuggets), so we do well if we can leave right after breakfast or right after lunch. This keeps stops to a minimum. I like to get there as quickly as possible.
Bring bedtime helps
Do your kids have a lovey? Favorite music they sleep to? Don’t leave it at home! We have put our naptime music on so that all the kids can go to bed while we drive in the car. Just make sure you bring those loveys home or you’ll be in a heap of trouble. Don’t ask me how I know.
Use an infant carrier for bathroom stops.
If you, mama, plan on road tripping by yourself with a baby who cannot walk, things get pretty tricky. I have tried to make my way through a gas station or a fast food joint with a 3 year old, a 1 year old, and an infant in one of those huge infant car seats. It’s a struggle and it feels like I’m herding cats. Just put the baby in your Moby, Ergo, or whatever sling you love and hold the hands of your bigger kids. It makes life much easier. I know it’s strange to potty with a baby tied onto your chest, but you can do it. Just don’t let the straps hang in the toilet and you’ll be fine. I know, I can’t believe I just gave you potty instructions either.
We find it easier to travel at night with nursing babies. Think about it. A baby has to eat every 3 hours which can mean a ton of stops. But at night, if they’re several months old, it’s quite likely that they’ll sleep quite a bit in the car, since they may be used to going for longer stretches without nursing at night anyway. We’ll often leave after dinner, nurse the baby 2 or 3 hours later, and hope the baby sleeps well for the remainder of the trip. Of course it’s always possible that the baby will wake mommy up all night after lots of napping on the road, but that’s how life is with a baby anyway, so we just roll with it.
When I had a marathon nurser–a baby who would nurse for an hour or longer–then I would pump and give her bottles along the way because she could eat from a bottle much quicker than nursing from mommy, so this kept our stops much shorter. We only had to do this for my first baby. My boys were really quick nursers and neither cared much for bottles.
Other than the trip itself, I really find it easier to take a nursing baby somewhere than any other aged child. I don’t have to worry about solid foods and what they will eat (though Baby-Led Weaning has made this much easier for me anyway). I don’t have to bring toys or other gear. As long as the baby has mommy, a pack and play, and diapers, they’re happy. We even took our 5 month old to Disney World and he loved it. He was so easy too!
My kids, absorbed in Frozen, during our recent road trip home from Houston (a 5 hour drive).
Reader Road Trip Tips:
Kelli says “Always have plenty of snacks. My kids love to eat in the car! And let’s be honest, I do too!”
Caroline also recommends snacks, videos, and to pack a lunch.
Heidi has made long 14 hour trips with her daughter at both 8 months and at 2. She says “We were prepared with her favorite CDs, plenty of snacks, small toys and books. We had a laptop and DVDs as a last resort. When we had to stop for food, we tried to find McDonald’s or something with a playground to let her run around a bit. The main job of whoever wasn’t driving was to keep her happy!”
Lisha says “My daughters and I took a 4-week, 2500 mile, 13-stop road trip two summers ago. They were 6, 4, and 1 1/2! My tips are to have a tote/backpack for each child next to their seat, with a couple of books and toys, a container of crayons and a spiral notebook, and a lovey if they have one. Switch up the seating arrangement often! I kept a tote full of snacks up front and whenever the girls said they were hungry or thirsty (within reason), I would hand a snack back to them. They rarely tried to abuse the privilege by asking too often. I planned it out so that we were rarely in the car for more than 3 hours a day, and I followed their lead to plan our days. If they wanted to chill, we didn’t plan any outings that day. If they seemed up for it, we’d do day trips. It was the best trip I’ve ever taken! I’m hoping to plan another one for next summer!
Brittany says “If you have a long drive, drive overnight while the kids sleep. If you drive during the day, take frequent rest breaks and pack plenty of snacks and toys. Be sure to keep things like a plastic bag, extra clothes and wipes on hand too, in case someone gets carsick. Let older kids help follow along on a map. Don’t forget to listen to good music, talk a lot, and play classic car games too!”
Shelly says “We are headed to Minneapolis next week, which is a 12 hour drive for us. We plan on putting our son to bed late the night before we leave, then wake him up at 4 to get straight in the car. While he does really well in the car, I also think the more he sleeps, the better! I am also looking forward to stopping at places where he can run around for a while. They are some great rest stops that have playgrounds.”
What are your suggestions for enjoying road trips with kids?