It won’t be long and we’ll be headed on our family vacation! We’re going to Destin, Florida, to spend a week at the beach with our friends and their two children, and I can’t wait! We did this same trip last year, so I am fully prepared for everything, including the dreaded 13 hour drive! Just in case you’re traveling this summer with little ones, I thought I’d share a few things that work great for us on long road trips.
- Make a Bribe Bag. Oh yes, I am not ashamed. I scour Target Dollar Spot for lots of little prizes for the kids. I usually have around 10-15 new surprises for each child. You may think that sounds like a lot, but it is so great to be able to pull out something new every hour or so to entertain them. I mostly buy things that will keep them occupied for more than 10 seconds. Coloring books, foam art projects, and a new movie are always in the prize bag. JoAnn Fabrics and Michael’s also have dollar aisles with lots of little projects and goodies that are sure to keep them busy. Of course, I definitely load up the iPhones and iPads with new apps and maybe a new tv show or two. Don’t forget to save half of them for the ride home, because it is always harder than the ride there!
- Purchase a lap table for older kids. This is the one that we have, and it has been such a good investment! A lap table helps with snack time, coloring, and small art projects. The one we have buckles around the child to prevent it from falling. And the best part- it has a 2 inch stop on each side to prevent crayons and snacks from sliding off, so that means there’s less of you turning around to retrieve something on the floorboard. Score!
- Snacks, Snacks, Snacks. This is a given, but finding snacks that don’t make a mess are key! Goldfish, grapes, apples, Rice Krispie treats, and trail mix are our favorites that don’t get too messy. You don’t want anything sticky or crumbly. It’s a good idea to pre-package them in snack sized baggies or snack cups. Also, don’t forget extra water bottles to fill up sippy cups!
- Plan for stops- and lots of them! Traveling with little ones is so different from the days we traveled before kids! Just be prepared to stop whenever, wherever. Kids need lots of little breaks to go to the restroom, walk around, and get some fresh air! And this is good for moms and dads, too. We probably stopped 4-5 times last year on our trip, and even though it extended our travel time, it was worth it to keep all of us sane!
- Drive when they’re sleeping. We always try to plan to be in the car driving during the kids’ normal nap time and/or bedtime. My kids are great car sleepers so if we can minimize their waking hours in the car, we’re all better off!
- Play fun, kid-friendly music. We’re a family that loves music, and we’re always listening to something in the car. Before every long road trip, I make a new playlist of songs that the whole family can enjoy. I usually buy a few new songs from iTunes and make our playlist something we all look forward to! This can help distract little ones during a tantrum, and it also helps keep me and my husband calm!
- Go with the flow. Most importantly, just have fun! Your expectations with traffic, frequency of stops, and arrival time may not be met. Be sure to go into it with the realization that even though you can plan everything out, with kids you can never really be sure of what to expect. Having a good attitude will go a long way when things don’t go exactly as planned! And in the end, it’s all worth it to get away with your family and make memories together!
Here’s to vacation season! Where are you headed this summer? Please share your tips for successful travel with little ones. We’d love to hear from you!
Great tips — we are driving to the EAST coast of Florida…it takes us about 23 hours with stops… FUN TIMES!
I love these tips, but I’d be curious to know if there are any other tips for someone with a 1-2 year old! My 14 month old screamed and screamed for a 7 hour trip to Wichita begging to be let out of his seat. Snacks were being thrown left and right. Maybe we just needed more stops! We barreled through trying to get there as quickly as possible.
We busted out the iPad when Asher was between 1-2 years old. Also, we definitely stopped a lot. We would stop at ChikFilA’s or Burger Kings that had decent play areas and let him play. It adds to the time of the trip, but it can keep you from going crazy. I personally refuse to give an “arrival time” to anyone at our destination because I cannot guarantee how long it will take. If they insist, I add 2 hours to my highest estimate of how long it will take.
Great tips because I head out THIS Saturday! Scary!!! I read this week the saying “When you leave with kids it should be considered TRAVEL, not VACATION.” I think that seems a little pessimistic, but if expectations are really low, it can only get better, right?!?!
Thanks, Sherry! Sent this to a friend who is planning a trip soon with her kiddos, and saving it for me when we travel in a few weeks too!
I love all the tips you have on this list. I agree with you completely about the bribe bags. I do the same exact thing and the kids love it! I also let them pack their own backpacks full of activities and they love it because they are choosing what they want to bring. I bring my iPad as well, so they can play games, watch movies, and watch TV through the Dish Remote Access app. With the Sling Adapter hooked up to, my receiver the kids can access all our subscription channels live anywhere we can get a 3G or Wi-Fi connection. The kids love being able to watch all their favorite shows on the road. I am so glad a co-worker from Dish told me about this app because it keeps the kids quiet for hours. Other than these few things I do, I make sure we are going with the flow and leaving plenty of time for stops.