The first time I traveled with my oldest daughter she was 4 months old. It was the holiday season and we were flying for the first time with a child. At the time, my husband traveled a lot and we got bumped up to First Class. This was the way to travel. She got her own seat, Mommy got a glass of champagne, and Daddy got to relax. I thought, “This traveling with kids thing is easy” “We will still travel even when we have kids, no problem” “What is all the fuss about?” “Why would anyone drive instead of fly?”
Fast forward 7 years and 3 kids later.
I used to be PETRIFIED to take my kids with me on road trips. I would do anything to FLY instead of drive. As our kids got older and we added not 1 but 2 more kids, I began to do a little research about how to handle passing the time. Flying did not make sense financially, more than $1000 for a family of 5, um, no thanks….. I must say I have become somewhat of a PRO on this road trip game.
We have done 9 hour drives several times with 2 and we just did our second 6 hour stretch with all 3 (ages 7, 5, and 9 months).
Below are my tips and the “schedule” I use. Take the tips, make them your own, and figure out what works. Age makes a difference and you may have to modify; for example if you are in the middle of potty training or have another special consideration, this makes a difference.
Top 5 Tips/Tricks
1. Drive at normal hours.
Rarely can you outsmart their sleeping schedule. We wake up at normal time, have a quick breakfast, and leave. I know some people try to wake up early, keep them up late…nope, don’t do it. They are creatures of habit; they like the schedule, stay as close to it as you can. Eat at lunch time, rest as nap time, stay on the schedule.
2. Pack lunch and snacks; do not stop to eat.
We eat in the car, why not? It takes up 20 minutes of the trip and then you do not waste the time of going to a restaurant, waiting for them to order, and then fight them on getting back in the car. I once had a friend who suggested finding a McDonald’s with a play area so they can run some energy out. This backfires when you try to get them to leave and they then throw a gigantic fit…(yes I am talking from personal experience).
3. Limit bathroom breaks; you go when Mommy goes.
We stopped one time on our six hour drives over Thanksgiving. I make them go before we leave and then we stop once. Of course we would stop if someone had to go, but once they are old enough to understand we are NOT stopping again, they will go when you do. A stop at a gas station to go potty and get drinks turns into a 20 minute look through the candy section begging for a snack.
4. Designate a rest time
We turn the music off, we have “quiet” time (this is more for me than them). I do this at the same time we would at home to stay on the schedule. This also helps because if they are napping, the passenger can nap! (Sorry Dad, you are driving, but I am the one entertaining these monkeys for hours on end). I deserve this nap.
5. Plan Activities; have a “Schedule”
I buy new coloring books, crafts, etc. I have a few games we can play on the back burner. We have the “Song Game” that is a family favorite. I also let them earn “Tablet Time.” Did you think I was NOT going to mention the tablet? I could not survive road trips without these things and the quiet they bring. I used to feel guilty, but these things are gold. I do control what is on them, they play games and can watch shows and they also know that they have to “earn” this in the car by behaving.
Below is the schedule I used for our recent 6 hour road trip.
Hour 1: Talk about trip
Play music game: Each person picks what song we listen to (we have Princess Pop, Trolls Soundtrack, Descedants Soundtrack, Koo Koo Kangaroo, and Beat Bugs) We all sing along and get the car trip party started!
Hour 2: “Tablet Time”
This means mom & dad can actually talk and have a conversation.
Hour 3: Bathroom Break (10 minutes/stretch)
Lunch in the car and craft time: I go to Target and get crafts from the $ section. I get new coloring books, DIY crafts, things that are new and fun to them.
Hour 4: “Tablet Time”
Hour 5: Map/Almanac Game
We look at the map, see where we have traveled. We make sure they are aware of their surroundings during the trip, we look outside, and talk about the states. We have craft time, rest time, and play the music game again.
Hour 6: Snack Time
Talk about trip and what favorite thing we are going to do or did.
They earn “Tablet Time” for the last 30 minutes until we get there!
I actually ENJOY this time in the car with them now; it turns a car trip into a family memory and a great time together.
Happy Road Tripping!