There's been a ton of articles and pinterest pins dispensing road trip tips for traveling with kids.
We have made TONS of road trips. Most of ours are between 12-18 hour trips and as a family we've gone as far as Phoenix, AZ to the west, Maryland to the east, Michigan to the north, and San Antonio, TX to the south.
So I have to admit, I read these tips and I'm left a bit confused. While they're all smart and creative ideas. I can't say that I agree with many of them. There I said it. Certainly not saying I'm doing anything completely right by any means but we probably have traveled over 23,000 miles (it's 24,901.55 miles around the earth!) and that doesn't include day trips, side trips, sight seeing, driving once we're at our destination, or airplane trips! We've also had our dog with us for probably half of those miles too!
All those miles and we use very few tricks of the trade. Granted everyone and every family is different! Remember too, my kids are currently two, four, and six... so I have no clue about traveling with older kids. But with babies, and toddlers... I like to think I know a few things! Just a few ;)
Here are our big points...
- Everyone well rested: Beforehand AND during. We still keep normal nap & quiet time hours, we turn down the radio, there's no talking, they get their buddies, and I tell them this is nap time now. We may leave a bit early sometimes, but for the most part we don't mess with their normal schedules and we never drive too much into the night. There's something to be said for getting to sleep in a bed for both kids AND parents! I never understood that tip to drive when the kids are sleeping. What parents of small children can keep their eyes open past 10pm? Heck, I even went to bed fully dressed last night because I was just THAT tired. So we travel with everyone fully rested, it just simply helps to not have the cards stacked against you.
- Schedule movie times. ONE movie in the morning after one hour of drive time, and ONE movie after they wake up from naps or after we stop and get that special afternoon snack. Then ONLY one more if we get stuck in major traffic or trying to push it hard to get somewhere. I refuse to play movies the entire time. They don't fight it or know different since we've always done it this way.
- NO eating in the car, except for that special afternoon snack I just mentioned. This is a very powerful snack ;) They love it. When it's time for a gas station/bathroom stop... they get to pick out a snack from the gas station. To a kid, those aisle look like a cross between heaven and Christmas.
- Each kid gets a backpack or tote bag of toys. They can pick them out, but I do often help. The rules are: nothing small (legos stay home) and nothing with parts that if lost you can no longer play with. Also, while I pack markers/crayons for when we get to our destination, they don't get those in the car. I don't care what pinterest creation you come up with... none of it matters when your kids get carsick just like you do (I can barely look at my Iphone while we drive). The magna-doodle does get good use though! I don't buy new toys for the trips or for rewards, we have enough toys as it is... they'll survive ;)
- Looking out the window is a viable option! Don't underestimate it.
- Being quiet and a bit bored is okay too... it's part of a road trip!
- Just assume everyone always has to go to the bathroom. I never try to make them hold it, you'll just end up with an accident that will put everyone in foul moods. Just plan on stopping every hour - two hours. If you plan it with gas stops and food stops, you'll be better off than trying to push your luck. Sometimes go twice when you stop, especially if it's a food stop. Go when you first stop, then right before you all pile back in the car. Also they have limited access to drinks. We drink at our stops and during out special afternoon snack. That's it. I just make sure when we get to our destination that they get plenty of liquids.
- When you do stop - walk walk walk, get those wiggles OUT. I love rest stops in IL & IN, they usually have playgrounds! We also try to incorporate a scenic type stop if we can.
- If there's lag time between all that we just talk about where we're going, what we're going to do, things that we see, etc... This is a great time to tell stories about your travels, their travels, places you want to see, things you want to do.
- If you have a GPS, use it to quiet kids down about the dreaded "are we there yet?"... we have it zoomed it so they can see bigger cities ahead. So I can easily point to it and say "we'll stop at this city" or "look this is a river ahead and we'll go over a bridge". We also like to make big deals about crossing state lines, especially if it's a "new state" to someone. (we keep a running tally of all the states we've all been too and we always seem to go over this list while traveling, the kids have about an average of 20 states so far!).
And those relatively simple and very low key points have gotten us over 23,000 miles with kids between ages zero-6 as our family grew from one child to three! I think because we've never gone over the top with rewards, treats, etc... they just don't expect it and for the most part are good to go! I of course have some type of horror story for each road trip we've taken, but it hasn't slowed us down yet. We'll be road tripping to our beach vacation the end of July, can't wait!