It's time to hit the road and see the world! Where will you be heading? There are so many beautiful and awe inspiring spots to see in this world. Thank goodness we can hop in the car and see so many while traveling to another fun location. Worried about your sanity along the way? Read How to Keep Your Sanity While Traveling with Kids combined with these 5 tips and you're going to have a great time.
Whether you are traveling for 5 hours or 3 days, there are a few things that are must. They make life easier and road trips happy memories instead of whiney nuisances. Before you hit the open road, read on:
Keep The Claw in Your Vehicle
Hands down one of the best things you can do is pick up a claw toy for your vehicle, especially if you have smaller children. When someone drops something, you will actually be able to reach it without becoming a contortionist! You parents of small children know what I'm talking about- dropping the sippy cup is not a fun game. We've loved it so much it's now permanently in our car. Other reason to use the claw in the car: playing with a child that is ready to be out already, handing out snacks, and picking up that gross piece of trash.
Pack Snacks by Day Separately
You have probably already divided up food by days but take it step further and divide up all the snacks by day. What happens on road trips is kids get bored then start asking for snacks to fill the boredom. Skip the boredom eating and ration smartly for each day. Put enough snacks to get through your next destination in one bag. Put the other days of snacks in the trunk. The bags I packed above had more than enough.
REMEMBER to pack snacks for Mom and Dad too! I always forget so last time I made a separate bag for us. It was a lifesaver! Whenever I put my snacks in the with kids, they always eat them. This time I was a happy driver and they had plenty for themselves too. We like to hand out snacks at a set time. They can eat them right away or save them for later but this way, they are more likely to eat because they are hungry, not because they are bored. Remember to pack healthy snacks! It is so easy to get your digestive system out of whack simply because you are traveling. Pack some dried fruit and fiber granola bars with the fun stuff. One of my favorites is one of those bagged salads. I can mix everything in the bag and eat it with a plastic fork.
Plan Screen Free Activities
Don't turn your children into zombies in the car. Mix your electronics up with interactive activities- you want everyone to be able to hop out of the car and enjoy your next destination. We are big fans of activity books- they can be interactive or great for some quieter car time (see our favorite activity books). I also like this Road Trip Adventure in a Box idea from The Dating Divas. Plan out the activities based on the distance you travel. Bringing out a new little thing every now and then really refreshes everyone. We've traveled for 3 days straight with only 1 movie a day and 1/2 hour playing time each on the iPad. The kids did amazing AND had a great time. Part of the fun is seeing all the sites along the way! However, if you don't have some sort of plan, you will regret it later. When you are ready for a movie remember you can rent a Redbox in one state and return in another.
Consider audio books before you try a movie
While it is still listening, they have to use their imagination for the imagery. You can try Audible but I love Deseret Bookshelf PLUS for unlimited access to LDS audio and ebooks. See what books my family likes to listen to or let me hook you up with a 30 day free trial now.
Always Carry a Real Map and Cash
Having GPS on mobile devices is amazing and it comes in handy a lot but there are still so many places where you can't get any reception. You can now download area maps on your phone which I recommend doing before you go. However, nothing beats a real map. Maybe you get lost, maybe there is major construction, maybe you decide that you want to head somewhere else first. If you don't have reception, you will still be able to get where you are going! It's also a great way to show your children how far you've come and how much further you have to travel. Give the map to the older kids and see if they can map out where you are going as well. Map skills are important!
Remember to keep some cash on hand too. Yes, there are places that only accept cash but even more than that, unexpected tolls crop up. There isn't always a person there to give you change either. Keep a pack of quarters in the car to save yourself a headache or worse, a ticket.
Bring on the Vacay Bucks
Vacay bucks are a way your kids can earn money towards souvenirs, treats, or whatever else they want to spend their money on while on vacation. It's a great way to stay within budget while on vacation as well as give your children more responsibility. You no longer have to be the one that says no to a souvenir because they are in control of their money. Set a max amount they can earn so it stays within your budget as well. Because Vacay Bucks are for vacation, I'm more generous in giving them out which makes my kids even more motivated to earn to them. Print your own and learn how your kids can earn their Vacay Bucks.
Bonus Tip: Let's Talk Hotels
There are some hotels that provide hors d'oeuvre and light dinners in addition to breakfast. When you've been traveling in a car all day, it is heaven. You don't have to worry about anything! We love Staybridge Suites for this reason plus they have great comfortable rooms for big families. Call ahead to check out the menu and what times they serve dinner to plan accordingly. Plus Staybridge Suites have kitchen areas so even you miss the hors d'oeuvres you can still cook something up and relax in your room. Yes, get reservations. Nothing is worse than pulling into a hotel exhausted only to find that they are fully booked. Plan ahead and get some reward points and extra offers in addition to savings while you're at it. Getaway Today offers all kinds of great family friendly packages or try booking through Swagbucks to earn extra gift cards for Christmas.
Remember to use this simple trick to document all the memories made along the way too!