10 Favorite Things – How To Survive A Road Trip With Kids

I’m so excited because the school year is coming to an end.  What’s the best thing about the end?  Summer vacation, that’s what!

I am a summer baby.  I live for the sun, warm humid weather, and all of the activities of summer.

One of my favorite things to do is travel in the summer.  The military turned me into a traveling fool, and it just kind of stuck with me.

Traveling with children is the next best thing to those trips, these days.  I head to my best friend’s house 3 hours north of me.  Or I head to Raleigh.  (Love that city!)  Head to the beach.  Drive to Wilmington.  All short day trips most of the time.

You’re seeing the pattern right?  All short, tolerable, and kid-friendly.

I know there are some people who really do not like to go anywhere with kids.  It’s stressful.  They don’t appreciate or understand the purpose of a long car ride.  They get crabby.  Bored.  And when I want to stop and look at something, like a cool statue or visit a neat coffee shop, kids are not conducive to my needs.  Are they ever?

With all that said, I still willingly drive long distances with mine.  It’s about the adventure!

  She must be crazy.

Also, I am participating in the “Ten Favorite Things” link-up on Brianna’s blog Endlessly Beloved.  Every first Monday of the month, she hosts a link-up.  She will give you a theme and you make a list of your 10 faves.

This month, she chose the theme “Travel.” Below, you’ll read about how I used the theme Travel to come up with my 10 Favorite Things.  It’s more like tips on how to survive.  Surviving is awesome.  So these are the best ways to do so.  Go on and read!  

1.  Pack big and pack small
You’re probably thinking “What the hell does she mean?”  What I mean is that if you throw all of your socks and underwear in one big luggage, it’s not easy to pull out a new pair should you need it.  No, not you.  I hope that you’d be able to hold it til the next bathroom stop.  I mean for your kids, especially if you don’t like or want to carry around a diaper bag AND a day bag.  Like me.
This also comes in handy if you’re turning your drive into a two-day so that you’re able to make it there alive.  What you want to do is put a change of clothes and toiletries for everyone (I keep a separate toiletry bag so I take in two bags) in a small day bag or suitcase.  Put that bag or suitcase somewhere that is easily accessible, like the front of your trunk or at your kids’ feet or maybe in your co-driver’s lap.  When you check into your hotel for the night, all you need is that one bag and toiletries for everyone for one night.   No fishing around for change of clothes, or worse – unpacking the trunk!

2.  Bring your own snacks
Gas station peanuts and coffee won’t cut it for me.  Neither will fast food stops, but sometimes that’s all there is.  I like to try my best to stay on course with healthy eating habits.  Granted I am not toting a picnic cooler with ice around for cold goods during the entire trip.  I can at least start off that way on the first day.  I like to make sandwiches, cut fruits, and bring lots of water.  Instead of ice, use ice packs and freeze a few water bottles.  Those usually keep snacks/lunch cold until it’s time to eat them.  They won’t last a full day, but at least I know lunch will not be fast food.

3.  Stop often, make it fun
I have only run into this one time in my life, but there was this rest stop off of I-95 that had a playground.  Too bad it was on the other side of the highway, going in the opposite direction.  But my point is that if you can plan to stop somewhere where the kids can get out and run around for a bit, then do it.  Let them stretch their legs, get more than 6 inches away from their siblings, and break up the monotony of the drive.  If your kids are on a schedule, this could be timed to fit in with what they are used to at home.  If your kids are night owls, and play after the street lamps go down, for example, then by all means.  No, I’m kidding.  There’s nothing fun about rest stops or gas stations at night. 

4.  Bring along the electronics and power cords
Sometimes I just have to give in and let them chill with their Kindles or iPads or whatever.  I want to be able to use them in the hotel too, if we end up getting there earlier and it’s not time to pass out yet.  I personally like the Kindles, because we download movies right before we take off, and they can watch them without being hooked up to Wi-fi.  It’s amazing.

5.  Make reservations ahead of time
I think I finally convinced Big D that this is a crucial step to road-tripping.  Yep, just made that a word.  The last thing I want to do after driving for 8-10 hours is look for a hotel with vacancy.  I started doing this when it was just the kids and I driving.  It just makes sense to plan out my trip this way, and take the guess work out of the equation.  Knowing that I had locked-in a destination to head to really put me at ease.  Using hotels.com I racked up points and was able to use them towards a free night here or there.

6.  Keep to your schedule
What I mean by this is that it is more difficult to travel with children when you try to drive through the night.  Have you ever pulled over at midnight and attempted to wake sleeping children because you had to pee so badly?  Totally not fun.  Even worse if you are traveling solo.  What we like to do is start our drive before the sun rises.  (Okay, maybe it’s just me; Big D does not like this part.)  We start off driving around 5-6, then stop at 9.  By then, the kids are awake and ready for breakfast.  Three-four hours after the breakfast evolution, it will be time for lunch.  Three-four hours after lunch it’ll be time for dinner and possibly time to call it a night.  Get the picture?  Trust me, this works.

7.  Bring blankets, no matter the season
I like to have blankets in the winter, though coats usually suffice.  But in the summer, you don’t think about blankets as a necessity.  If your kids are like mine, they don’t want the windows down because they can’t hear the music.  But then they get hot so you crank up the AC, which then makes them cold and they are complaining again.  SO, to fight that battle, I suggest bringing small blankets for each kid.  No fighting over who has more coverage.  They can hear “Frozen” on their Kindle.  And when they no longer want to stare at their siblings, they can hide underneath the blanket and wish they were anywhere but there.  I have been privy to this type of behavior; seen and heard it all.

8.  First aid kit and protection 
As a mother and a certified EMT, it is only natural that I keep a fully stocked first aid/roadside kit beneath one of the seats.  There is everything from rope to band-aids to flashlights in there.  You never know when you might need these things.  And you also don’t know when you might need protection.  Hey, when it comes to defending you and yours, you have to be prepared.  Even if it seems like you’re a paranoid freak who stashes knives everywhere.  I should add pepper spray to the collection too.  

9.  Necessities and comforts
Think of what makes you comfortable on long road trips.  Make a list and buy a little plastic container to store these items.  Bam!  Survivor Kit!  In my container, I have contact solution, motion-sickness bracelets (don’t you laugh!) Pepto-bismal chewable tablets, lotion, hand sanitizer, a lighter, usually some cash, tire pressure gauge, etc.  I also keep a roll of paper towels, and I am one of those parents who owns a portable potty.  All I have to do is put a plastic grocery bag in it, line it with paper towels (or really cheap maxi pads!)  When they are done, we tie up the bag and toss it.  The potty folds up, there is no container to worry about.  I love it.  So much better than racing to the next exit for a bathroom, especially if you’re in the middle of nowhere.  As much as Big D scoffed in disgust at this contraption, it has saved our trip, several outfits, and a car seat ten times over.
These things kind of cross over into my first aid/roadside kit.

10.  Bring a camera
I like to have my camera accessible to snap a few pictures of us the kids at rest stops.  My favorite thing to do when we drove across the country was to get pictures at each “Welcome to (insert state)” sign.  You may want have these pictures to remember your road trip later on, and to tell your kids “See?  We survived that trip, didn’t we?!”

What are some of your tips for taking your kids on road trips?

I linked up here:
The Southern Special

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12 thoughts on “10 Favorite Things – How To Survive A Road Trip With Kids

  1. I love love love your take on this topic. Also I have travelled and forgot a camera before so I should have included that in my own list because it is VERY important!

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  2. LOVE this! I am a traveler, too, and I even take my kids a long with me 🙂 They are pretty good travelers because they are used to it. You have a lot of tips here that I didn't think of. I never thought about a blanket being a hideaway, too or to take pictures during the travel (I love the state sign idea)! Hope you have some fun summer trips this summer! Following you on twitter, can't wait to read some more or your adventures! Emily

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  3. Hi! Yes I think it's so important to at least have a camera. I don't go anywhere without mine. One time my camera was stolen on a trip and I was pretty depressed about it, I even cried. For a while. It happened at the end of the trip. It was the epitome of devastation. Didn't care about my wallet and my money though! Haha.

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  4. Hi Emily! I like to think I'm a seasoned at traveling with kids. Been doing it since my 11-year-old was 2. We lived in Alaska, and coming down to the Lower 48 meant taking several ferries and staying in several hotels. Now I don't mind traveling with all 4 of them. I'm really glad you found some useful tips. I actually never thought to use a blanket like that. I just caught my girls doing it, because it got silent in the back seat. It was awesome!

    Thanks for stopping by!

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  5. Blankets and pillows are such comfort items, we don't go anywhere without them. It's probably the only time they ask for one too. They don't need special ones, just any one will do.

    If I had to name one gripe about road trips, it would be the food choices. If we could, I'd rent an RV and stock up the fridge on healthier options. Until we hit the lottery, I'll just continue on with my packed snacks. 🙂

    Thanks for stopping by!

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