As I’m writing this we’re traveling up the East Coast on I-77 for a weekend with family. We’ll spend more than 8 hours on the road each way.
If my guess is right, I’ve traveled this same path about 150 times. And no, that is not an exaggeration. We’ve been traveling to see family multiple times a year for 31 years now. Add in annual summer vacations and that’s a lot of road trip hours!
I want to share a few actions we take to make our trip as tear and stress-free with kids as possible.
Set New Expectations
You might be able to beat your GPS when it’s just you and your spouse, but just let go of that expectation with kids.
When I was still nursing, we had to build in time for extra feedings. When the girls were toddlers, we had to build in play time at McDonald’s. Now that the kids are a little older, it’s not quite as time consuming, but we still can’t do things like zoom through drive thrus only. They really need the time to burn energy. Cracker Barrel is one of our favorites to keep kids entertained while we wait for food.
Avoid Late Afternoon
Kids are at their worst in late afternoon. Either travel early or late. We either leave by 7am or wait until 5 or 6pm and let them sleep most of the way.
While some families find a lot of success with night traveling, we are all at our best first thing in the morning.
Taking movies are probably a no-brainer but you might not think to rent Redbox since you’re not home to return them. It’s likely, though, you’ll either pass one on your trip or your destination has one. We often return a movie and get a new one along the way.
Look, I’m all for limiting screen time at home, but this is not the time to be conservative. We often rent at least 4 movies. For just $5 the kids finally get to see the movies they ask about every stinkin’ time you pass a Redbox and that’s LOTS of quiet time on a long road trip.
Buy a Power Converter
Skip the car chargers and go straight for a power converter. You can plug in your laptop, DVD player and your phones.
You don’t have to keep up with the car chargers or take turns between charging devices.
Make Use of Your Printer
Again, this is not a time to be conservative. We let the kids print a ton of coloring pages. We also print the license tag game and car scavenger hunt free printables. Google printable car games and you’ll find plenty of resources.
Pack Healthy Snacks
While I recommend being liberal with screen time and printables, road trips are not the place to let sugar roam free.
My kids, like most, are really sensitive to sugar so this is not the time we eat the Christmas treats. Every once in awhile we let them get treats at a gas station but its definitely not the norm to stock up on candy.
Use it as Learning Time
Traveling is a great time to learn maps, following directions and geography! Get the map out and point out states you’re traveling trough or ones you spot in the license tag game. If you have a smart phone, map the trip and let the kids follow the little blue circle. It will also cut down on the “Are we there yet?” questions!
Realize the Drive is a Destination
And finally, don’t be in such a rush to get there, you forget that the drive is part of the trip. Often, you’ll be passing through states the kids won’t otherwise see.
Be sure to look around and take in the new environments as you go. We love to point out the mountains, barns and fields of farm animals we don’t normally see in the suburbs of the Carolinas
Hope that helps those of you traveling with kids for the holidays! Have any tips to add?