I really wanted to call this “Taking a Road Trip with Your Kids and Living to Tell the Tale”, but that wouldn’t be as SEO friendly as what the current title is.
As you read this post I am probably stuck in a rented minivan on a 3.5 hour trip down the Jersey shore with my two girls and absolutely no way to escape until we get there. I really hope I get through this trip with minimal fighting, arguing or one of the kids throwing something at the other in an attempt to solve some stupid disagreement that they usually have multiple times a day. (Oh, the joys of having a moody pre-teen and a cranky 9 year old.)
Well anyway, I want to share 10 tips to surviving a road trip with kids…even though this is the first time my girls have been in a car for this long. Hey, I never said I was an expert at surviving a road trip with kids. For all I know, I may be completely loony by the time we get home on Saturday.
Here goes nothing…
Lower Your Expectations
You know those TV shows and movies where a family takes a road trip and they happily laugh, sing along with each other and have a wonderful road trip together? Yeah, well, don’t expect that at all…especially if you’re traveling with more than one kid and especially if those kids argue with each other, whine about almost everything or say they’re bored a million times during the duration of the trip. I’ve (somewhat) mentally prepared myself for the chaos that will ensue when we take our road trip, and you should too. Just prepare yourself for the worst, but hope for the best…even though the best probably won’t happen. (Optimism, right?)
Prepare an Emergency Kit
Anything can happen with kids, so I suggest that you prepare an emergency kit so you can be ready for anything that life throws your way. In our emergency kit we have: gauze pads, antiseptic, bactine, band-aids in all sizes, blister pads, children’s Claritin, children’s Motrin, children’s Tylenol, Motrin, Aleve, alcohol pads, an ace bandage, Imodium and plenty of adult allergy medicine. I’m sure there are some things I forgot, but I pack everything I can possibly think of because you never know what can happen when you’re stuck in a car. One thing that I learned from years of going on vacation with my mother is to be prepared for any minor medical emergency. Thanks, mom!
First of all, I want to make just one suggestion. If you have more than one child and do not have a minivan, SUV or truck; rent one. On a daily basis I drive a 2013 Dodge Dart and as much as I love my car, I would not be able to comfortably drive 3.5 hours with two girls and a shit load of luggage in it. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t even fit my luggage into the car! For that very reason, we splurged and rented a minivan for the trip. I’m pretty sure the extra money we spent on a rental minivan will save at least a bit of my sanity. That said…
I suggest you really think about seating arrangements for a long road trip. If your kids tend to fight a lot, give them their own row. This will prevent them from arguing (too much), slapping each other, projectile objects as they throw things at each other and will just prevent you from losing your voice while screaming at them to stop. It will also allow them to have their own personal space, especially if they have their own pillows with them and want to sleep while in the car. The worst thing to hear while driving is, “Mom, she’s looking at me.” or “Mom, her pillow is up my nose.” (Ah, the things you thought you’d never hear…)
Make a Road Trip Playlist
You definitely don’t want to be taking a long trip in a quiet car, especially on those rare occasions when your kids are quiet and actually minding their own business. Make a road trip playlist to play while in the car, maybe it will start some really movie-like sing-a-long. Add songs that your kids enjoy but also add songs that you like too. You don’t want to be listening to Justin Bieber, One Direction or some Disney Channel singer the entire trip…you might go crazy.
Pack a Bag of Easy Car Snacks
Kids get hungry and sometimes they don’t just get hungry, they get hangry. Prevent hangry kids by packing some easy car snacks that you can put within their reach. It’s much easier to get snacks that are individually packaged (like lunch box snacks) or you can pre-portion them in ziplock bags before you leave. Do not, under any circumstances give your kids a full, open bag of chips, popcorn, etc… unless you want the majority of your hard earned money to fall on the floor of the car. The easiest snacks to pack are popcorn, chips, cookies, dry cereal, grapes, Cheese-Its, etc… Anything that is dry, a finger food snack and something that isn’t messy. If your kids are in two different rows and you can position the bag where they can all reach it, that’s great. If not, I suggest making each kid their own bag of snacks.
We are also packing a small cooler with ice and some water bottles and juice boxes. This will also be within reach for both of the kids. Cold water or juice boxes are especially essential if you are taking a summer road trip.
Pack an Activity Bag
It’s very important to keep your kids distracted and busy while on a road trip. This will prevent them from annoying you with saying “I’m bored” or “Are we there yet?” and making you want to pull your hair out. Save your hair and your sanity and allow them to pick some activities that they can bring in the car. For smaller kids I would suggest sticker books, coloring books, wooden puzzles, a portable DVD player or even an electronic handheld gaming system. My kids are older (9 and 11) so we picked out some easy card games that they can possibly play together, we have movies on the kids’ iPad and my oldest has headphones and her cell phone, so I’m sure she will be texting, watching YouTube or playing a game on her phone the entire time. (I sure hope there’s a way for her to charge her phone in the third row. Cross your fingers!)
Be Prepared to Make Stops
Depending on how long your trip is, be prepared to stop at least once while on the road. Inevitably, one of the kids will have to pee or poop, you may want to stop for cold drinks or just to stretch your legs for a bit. Sitting in a car for 3+ hours is never comfortable, so get up, stretch, re-energize yourself, pick up a Red Bull to keep you awake and sane and let the kids burn off some energy so hopefully, they will fall asleep in the car. Here in Jersey we have plenty of rest stops/service areas off both the Turnpike and Parkway, so it’s really easy to stop to take a quick break.
Don’t Be Afraid to Resort to Bribery
Listen, sometimes as a last ditch effort to stop the kids from arguing or whining, you have to pull the bribery card. Pulling the bribery card will save you from losing your mind or having to listen to constant fighting, whining or whatever you’re trying to prevent. You do you and do whatever you feel that you have to do! (Oh snap, I made a rhyme. Just call me Dr. Suess…or not!)
Check Your Car Out Completely
If you’re taking your own car on the trip, make sure you check your car out completely. Make sure the air pressure in the tires is where it should be, check your oil, maybe even get the car checked really quickly by a mechanic to make sure everything is working properly. The last thing you want is to be stuck in a hot car on the side of the road with cranky children. And girl, you know AAA takes forever and a day to get there. Please get your car checked out so you don’t have to go through this!
Try Not to Stress
I know this is easier said than done, but just remember that you won’t be in that car forever! Think positive thoughts and learn to tune your children out when they’re having a disagreement or constantly whining. (Does that sound like a bad mom thing to do?) Sometimes you have to go to your own “happy place” and floor it to wherever you are headed. (Just kidding, please don’t speed!)
What are some of your favorite road trip survival tips?