Updated: Jun 30
I know so many parents who fear long drives with children. And, rightly so. There can be crying, whining, messes, public bathrooms, car sickness and more. We have taken our kids on a number of vacations that included a 4-8 hour drive at all ages. Usually, we start at 3-4 months old. As with most things in life, planning makes things so much easier. Because snacks are such an essential component, I have an article for that by itself here. This article is going to talk about the things I use to make the trip smoother and actually enjoyable. I have never regretted a trip!
PUMP UP THE TRIP
I like to get the kids really excited about the trip beforehand, so they know the drive will be worth it. I not only hype up the destination but also the journey. So I plan a number of stops, every 2-3 hours with something they can look forward to. You can read about or talk about these landmarks ahead of time. If you are going to be traveling desolate roadways without major landmarks, even small things can be exciting. For example, my kids love pancakes from Jack in the Box and they only get them for breakfast on a long drive. On our next trip, there is a special bakery where we are going to pick up cinnamon rolls to eat during our stay at the rental house. Ice-cream is also a passenger pleaser. Even rest stops can be entertaining to kids if you take 15 minutes to do bubbles or something.
Something you can get ahead of time to get the kids excited are relevant books. For example, when we went camping a few years ago we went to the library and got books about animals in that area the day before. Check out the picture of them reading it below. I've also linked a few book examples below.
Another thing I am purchasing for this trip is a trip journal now that my two oldest boys are old enough to draw and write in one.
My kids get really excited when they wear something they think is special. And, I think they are great for picture ops. And, to prevent the "the sun is in my eyes" whines, outfit everyone with sunglasses. I just love this picture of my son with his little vacation onsie!
If you have a baby, you might get lucky and they may sleep a lot during the trip. For the awake hours, switch out new toys. It is especially important that these toys are hooked to something because if they drop them in the car and you can't pull over to pick it up, there may be some crying.
When my youngest was a toddler, these were his car trip go-tos. The busy board could keep him busy for at least 30 minutes. Buckling. Unzipping. Buttoning. Now at 4 he buttons his own shirts and zips his own jackets. He also loves to doodle and color, but I am not bringing any crayons that can end up all over the car and melted in the hot summer sun. The mess free light up doodle pad with music is perfect for the car. And, finally, a children's tablet where they can watch downloaded videos of Daniel Tiger or Cocomelon and things like that. The Waterwows linked another section can be great as well, but beware. If they drop the pen and you can't reach it, you may have to pull over.
Preschool - School Aged Kids
Older kids may want to have their own little set up for snacks and and drinks. I think this tray is pretty cute, but as a said earlier...no markers or crayons in my van. I also attached some really cool Highway Bingo cards and magnetic games/activities. There's a reusable sticker book too, and some games for the whole family. I just recently found the flip over license plate board. Love it! Of course, a tablet is also good for older kids as well as portable gaming devices. Headphones can come in handy too! Just watch the cords with little ones, especially if they fall asleep.
A road trip may necessitate public bathrooms. For a germaphobe like me, this gives me a lot of anxiety. So, these giant toilet seat covers are a MUST HAVE for me or any kid or adult who has to sit down. Personally, I would l like prefer my kids not even step foot in a public bathroom, so I often bring a toddler potty with liners, since my 3 year old sometimes can't hold it. (But I know that isn't for everyone.) They also have some portable things I attached below. Sometimes kids have to go without warning and there are no available places to go! I've never personally used the go girl thing...but some people swear by it. And, of course always have Wet Ones available in case you find a bathroom with no soap (ICK!) There are also really cool little soap sheets. Also, I'm obviously bringing Lysol.
Finally, I've included some items to deal with motion sickness. First, medications can be used for kids, but I generally don't recommend any specific medications on my blog. So, talk to your doctor about that first before making purchases. Second, I am going to try the viral hack of using these Frida cooling patches and I will let you know if they help. (UPDATE: YES! It helps. Not a cure, but my oldest and I have now used this on two trips and there was no vomiting.) And, always...car sickness bags just in case.
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