The 5 Necessities for a Successful Road Trip with Kids!
Posted on May 09 2019
I’ve learned a lot through trial and error what works best when it comes to doing road trips as a solo parent with two toddlers, and since we have our system down I thought it would be beneficial to share with all of you! I really needed a resource like this when I was panicking about our first drive, so I hope I can be honest and give quality information to anyone planning a road trip in the near future with their kids!
1. Verbal Preparation – When possible, I start talking about the trip we’re going to take weeks in advance. I like to get the kids really excited about the family we’re going to see and all the fun things we’re going to do, and then we talk about how in order to do all of those fun things we have to be in the car for a long time. I make sure to use that same phrase over and over for a few weeks before the trip so the kids hear the repetition and aren’t completely surprised when they’re in the car for more than 20 minutes. Reagan now knows that even though we have to drive for a long time,eventually we get there and we get to have a ton of fun so it’s all worth it!
2. Snacks, Snacks, Snacks – I am usually pretty strict with my kids and how often they have snacks (and what snacks they can have) during the day but on road trips, those rules pretty much go out the window. It makes things more fun and special for them and they actually look forward to road trips because they can have crackers and applesauce and granola bars and they can just eat for hours on end! My kids are also pretty picky eaters so this solves the problem of trying to find a meal on the road that they will eat and I won’t waste money on!
3. Time Your Drive – This is something I’ve tried several different ways and I know what way clearly works best for us! Our drive to California takes 4.5 hours, and we usually stop for lunch or a snack 2 hours in. I time our departure so we get to our stop about 30 minutes before nap time. So, since Elliott naps around 12pm, I leave the house at 9:30am, stop from 11:30-12, and then get back in the car after she’s eaten and it’s nap time. She is far more likely to fall asleep in the car (and Reagan will too!) if we stick to this schedule than with any other!
4. The Three Categories – When I pack toys for the car I bring things in three categories: something to read, something to color, and something to play with. My kids really love reading books in the car, so I bring a lot of these and they will sit and flip through them for hours. When they get tired of that (or after they finish them all) I give them the option to color something (always with crayons and sometimes they get stickers!) or to play with something. The toys I bring are things they can use their imaginations with, like balls, necklaces, a barbie, magnets, etc. I stay away from light up and noise toys because those usually don’t hold their attention for very long. I put everything in a basket and stick it on the floor between their seats, so they can see what their options are but can’t reach to throw them everywhere.
5. Entertainment – My kids love a good singalong or dance party, so we always have our Disney movie soundtracks playing with songs they know the words to and enjoy! We do a lot of nursery rhymes with hand motions, and when all else fails, I bring out the iPad. I have a first generation iPad (that still works great!) and it has four different movies on it. They pick one, I set it up on the middle console so they can both see it (and no one is holding/fighting over it) and they watch their show. We usually watch one full 90 minute movie and that’s it! Sometimes we don’t even make it through a full movie which is great, but I’m not opposed to handing out the iPad to prevent fights or tears whenever possible!
What I want to make clear, is that regardless of how far you’re driving, how old your kids are, or how many trips you’ve taken, you will always have one bad trip. One where you do everything right and your kids want nothing to do with it! But it’s usually only one, and as they get more used to the car and you get better at the five things listed above these trips become really easy and really fun!
So good luck to all of your rockstar moms planning a fun trip with your kids, and I hope the long drive in the car is worth all the fun you get to have when you get there!