It ain’t easy vacationing with a small human (or more). I remember when my oldest was an infant, a wise mama ahead of me in stage said “it’s not vacation anymore, it’s a trip.” That expectation adjustment helped get me through the phase of toddler trips, and I believe I am safely through it. Now our road trips consist of tossing burritos into the third row and taking a few books and audio books. My kids know now if they want to ski, they shouldn’t complain of boredom on the way! However it took us 9 years to get here, and I developed some travel-with-kids tricks along the way. If you are venturing out on a trip this Spring Break, some of these travel hacks may help you make it through. And may the force be with you until your youngest turns 4, which in my home was the magic age of “be cool on the way so we can go on vacation.”
Survival Strategies for Trips with Kids
- Looping. I just can’t stop recommending looping for all the home management ideas. It’s because my whole fam seems to strive with routine and predictability, but the rotating keeps boredom at bay for a bit longer. Looping in our car looks like: Read a book, do an activity, sing some songs, eat a snack, use technology. Technology might be a game or a show or an audiobook; after that is over we go back to read a book.
- Stock up from the Dollar Store. New toys entertain far longer than old toys, and cheap toys are dispensable along the way if you need to make room for souvenirs. Go grab a few new things and leave them in the package for older kids — opening them takes time, and so does travel.
- Activities. Littlest kids do best with art supplies that can’t ruin a car. We learned that the hard way through a debacle we refer to as “the day of markered ceiling”, and after that day we camped out for years with non-permanent activities. Color Wonder boards (where you color with water) Boogie boards, Magna Doodles, Etch a Sketch, and Window stickers will take plenty of time. Rolls of tape also last forevvvvver and are worth the time it takes to clean them up. And I also love the clipboards that can store paper in them OR the tabletop trays that can store paper and a pencil inside.
- Jelly roll pans. Window stickers, magna tiles, and alphabet magnets stick and maneuver easily on jelly roll pans. The pans also provide a great surface for other art supplies.
- New books (and audio books!). I amazon myself a few new books to read aloud as we loop during the road trip. I also rely heavily on Hoopla, Audible, and my library e-book loans.
- Travel potty. This hasn’t been retired, despite the fact that my kids have aged out of some other elements on this list. I like the one that folds down and includes disposable bags to keep it clean.
- Pack by activity. Instead of organizing bags based on person, I organize based on activity. Meaning: everyone’s snow boots go together. Everyone’s swimsuits go into a packing cube. All of our hats/gloves/socks go together, and our toiletries go in one spot. This helps because normally, we all need those things at the same time. Impromptu weather challenges, a spontaneous late-night hotel stop in a blizzard, or all the kids crying for their lovies at bedtime are all solved with activity-based packing.
- Get a car topper. Look cool. Fit more. Enough said.
- If you’re nursing or pumping, invest in the car charger/adapter.
- If you’re type A – you need a Dyson hand-held vacuum for your house. Get it from Costco. Use it all year — but most importantly, take it on your road trip. It will make you feel instantly happier about life, guaranteed.