My husband and I have always taken road trips and once we had kids we didn’t see any reason for that to change. Several people seemed surprised that we continued on our road trip tradition even after having kids. We often hear “how do you keep them occupied?” and “my kids won’t sit still that long.”
Last summer we logged over 3,600 miles on the road with our girls, so here is a list of our favorite “road trip veteran” tips.
Compare the cost of driving vs flying. You have to factor in food, gas, rental car, baggage fees and hotel night stays, especially on long drives you can’t make in a day. Depending on the size of your family and destination, flying might be cheaper if you can find a good airfare deal.
Sign up for hotel/motel email memberships. There are many places that give free wi-fi and free breakfast if you book online with a membership number. We have even gotten room upgrades if the hotel was fairly empty when we checked in just because we have a membership. After 10 – 14 hours on the road a bigger room is a big treat.
Make sure your oil has been changed recently, fluids are topped off and put a can of “Fix A Flat” in your trunk. Nothing can destroy a trip like a preventative maintenance car issue.
Allow ample time for wiggle/bathroom breaks. Our family has found if we only stop to use the restroom it takes a minimum of 15 minutes. If the girls are not asleep our basic routine is to drive 2 hours, take a bathroom break, drive 2 more hours and stop again. On that stop we use the restroom, get gas and eat. Repeat and adjust as necessary. When they are napping we can get a whole lot farther down the road between stops.
We have a portable DVD player, but it ONLY gets used on road trips. It stays in our house so it’s never used for errand running or stuff around town. Our girls get very excited to choose the DVD’s that are coming in the car for the road trip. Also, they don’t get to watch the movies or shows right away. We have to drive at least 2 hours before the DVD player comes out.
Hit your local Costco/Sams/BJ’s for snacks that travel well. I try to buy things that are a temptation and horribly overpriced at convenience stores. Beef jerky, granola bars, trail mix, snack size chips.
Pack a small cooler with your beverages of choice (don’t forget bottled water). I also pack go-gurts, fruit and string cheese for other snack choices.
We like soda so I also grab a couple of 12 packs on sale before we leave and we re-stock the cooler out of that rather than on the road.
Have something you ONLY buy on road trips at the convenience store so it can be fun for the kids. For our family it’s a big bag of powered donuts and those little bags of 2/$1 peanuts.
Check out the Target Dollar spot or the equivalent when they are clearancing out little note pads, pencils, games, stickers and so on. Stash those in advance to pull out as a surprise on the road.
Check to see if there are any cool factory tours or historical sites on your road trip. If you can swing it, use that as one of your stops. It can really break up the monotony in the drive.
If your kids are all able to read there are all sorts of games you can play as a family. Google road trip games and you will find a wealth of information based on age.
Let the kids help in choosing the toys they would like to bring. Our girls each have a cute personalized, zippered bag they are allowed to fill up, so we encourage them to choose wisely.
Put all your family toiletries/medicine in one zip up travel bag. We have everything in travel containers and I keep it all together. After 12 hours on the road you do not want to be looking for a missing toothbrush or medicine.
We have a portable, collapsible crib and a kid-sized air mattress (that came with an electric pump). Both can be packed up nicely in small bags and have gone with us on countless rode trips, and even on multiple flights to China. The crib was a little over $100 and the air-bed was less. Those purchases, which we thought were a bit frivolous and expensive at the time, have ended up being well worth it. Our two girls love them and it gives them a sense of comfort and continuity, that they have their own beds that can go with them wherever they go.
Don’t drive OVER TIRED!! If your eyes are droopy, if you are getting mesmerized by the oncoming traffic lights or whatever, then wake up your driving partner and have them talk to you or pull over. No trip, no destination, no non-refundable hotel reservation is worth your family’s life!
(This is located in Paul’s Valley, OK and a great little stop in a small town)
Do you take family road trips? What tips can you share?