Gone are the days that you pack your car with best friends, roll down the windows and crank up the girl power anthems. Road trips and in general, traveling with kids look less like “Crossroads” and more like “The Hangover” (without alcohol).
My husband and I moved to Austin four years ago and started a family. With our village back in New Jersey, we’ve made frequent trips back and forth. We’ve done the 28 hour trek as bright eyed youngins, while I was extremely pregnant, and with a toddler. We’ve bought all the Amazon gadgets and had high expectations, but going back to basics seemed to work best for us.
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Sure you’ll be swapping your favorite playlists for Cocomelon on loop, but here are some tried and true tips to get everyone to your destination as one big HAPPY family while you’re traveling with kids.
On the open road you have to be open-minded, even if that means bending your own rules. Our little guy was 18 months when we purchased his first tablet for a trip back East. I had every intention on limiting his use, but while we were in the trenches, and he seemed content, I let him party on. I found out pretty quickly that I should lower my expectations and go with the flow while on four wheels.
This trip is definitely going to take you longer than Google Maps is claiming. Bathroom breaks and backseat sibling showdowns aside, little legs need to stretch. Being strapped in one spot is a lot for passengers of all ages, but throw in boosters, carseats, and the wiggles and you’re asking for a meltdown. Plan to make a ton of stops for stretching, dancing the wiggles out, and explore if time permits. While planning the trip, check for playgrounds and other fun stop-and-sees along your route!
While we’re chatting about bathroom breaks, let’s talk portable potties! While you’ll be making plenty of stops with your kiddos already, there will always be at least one traveler who needs to potty so-bad-like-the-worst-ever 20 minutes after your last stop (it’s me, I’m this traveler). A camping potty might not be the most glamorous tool in your arsenal, but it can certainly get the job done on the go.
ALL. THE. SNACKS. If I’m bored or grumpy I totally reset after a good snack. My kid definitely inherited that tasty trait from me. As Mamas (or glorified snack dealers) we hardly ever leave the house without a squished granola bar and an even squishier clementine in the bottom of our bags, but on a road trip you need to step it up. I try to bulk-buy the faves and grab some balanced options to keep us from drowning in a sugary hell.
Miles of Surprises!
This was fun for all of us. Divide your trip into however many increments you’d like and offer a “surprise” at each checkpoint. I gift wrapped new coloring books and crayons, sugary hell snacks, small toys, and puzzles to help get us through our trek. It’s not about the surprise itself, it’s something for all of us to look forward to!
Back to Basics
It’s time to play license plate BINGO! My husband and I reflected on ways we’d pass the time on our own family road trips and came up with some funny throwbacks. A little Griswold-y but totally brings the family together better than an iPad can.
Buckle up, Mama, and enjoy the ride while traveling with kids.