Our family loves to travel. Every summer we take a 2-4 week road trip with our kids, ages 3 and 5. We have learned a few things about how to travel with kids after taking so many of these road
trips, so I figured that I would give you 10 Family Road Trip with Kids Travel Hacks.
1. Keep the kids playing. My wife picked up some small pencil boxes and put a bunch of the kid’s small toys inside the box. These are toys that we had around the house or that we found in the $1 aisle. This is one of the best discoveries that we had made to keep our kids occupied. Let this box be the first item that you give them on the first part of your trip and watch and be amazed at how long they play with these small toys in the backseat.
2. Handling Lunchtime. When taking road trips, we find it important to get out of the car to let everyone stretch their legs, so we bring a small ice chest in the car and we fill it with easy to make lunch items. Go to the grocery store and get ham and cheese, bring some mustard, mayo and a loaf of bread and you have easy ham sandwiches. Or bring a jar of peanut butter and jelly and make PB&J sandwiches. If your kids don’t like sandwiches, you can pick up a Lunchable at the store and pack that. It may not be the healthiest lunch, but it’s get you to your destination. Another lunch cheap lunch option that we do is to make a quick stop at Sam’s Club to tank up on gas and get a pizza or hot dog.
3. Where to Stop. For lunchtime, we always stop at some kind of park so that the kids and get out and run around for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour. This can be a fun time for you to explore an area that you may have never found if you didn’t make the stop. On our way to Florida this summer, we stopped in Slidell, LA for lunch. We discovered this AMAZING park called Camp Salmon Park. It’s 130 acres of nature with a playground, a historic site, an amazing view of a beautiful lake, and so much more that we didn’t have time to see. Now we want to take a future trip to Slidell just to go to this park. If there is no park nearby, another great place to stop, stretch and eat is at a State’s Welcome Center, which you can find on the interstate when you cross a state line.
4. Stopping for the Night. If we are taking a longer trip, 8-10+ hours to reach our destination, we will take 2 days to make the drive, and stop in a hotel at about the halfway point. We always stop at one that offers free breakfast, it just makes breakfast easier. Our kids are always very excited to stay in a hotel. That night, we will eat at a local restaurant after the long drive; it gives us a taste of the local places to eat and we will walk around and explore the town that we are stopping in. You never know what you may find, such as a red caboose in Chipley, FL that our kids had a BLAST climbing on (our son LOVES trains).
5.Sleeping in Hotels. Sleeping arrangements in the hotel will vary from family to family depending on age and how many kids you have. We have 2 kids, and they find it fun to sleep in a sleeping bag on the hotel floor. We bring their sleeping bags with us on the road trip, and they will either fall asleep in the sleeping bag, or they will snuggle with us on the bed and then we will transfer them to the sleeping bag once they are alseep. We also almost always get a room with 2 queen beds in case one is having trouble falling asleep and needs to sleep in the bed, and we find that the queen bed rooms have more floor room for their sleeping bags.
6.Before We Continue to the Destination. After staying the night in a hotel, we try to find a nearby state park to explore before we head back on the road. When we are planning the road trip, we will plan our drive and then scope out if there are any state parks nearby. We will enjoy our free breakfast at the hotel, get the car packed back up, and head out as early as possible so that we can explore the park before the kids get too tired.
The Hotel Bag. Before we leave the subject of hotels, I should mention that when we are packing before we leave our house, we pack a small beach bag of clothes that we will wear the next day. We do this so that we don’t have to haul all of our luggage into the hotel since we are just staying one night. In this bag don’t forget to pack a swimsuit in case the hotel has a pool that you can use or in case a state park has a lake you can swim in. If you want a packing list from us, join our mailing list, and we will send you one for free so that you don’t
forget anything and you have a checklist to go off of.
8.Electronic Devices. While on the road, to keep kids entertained, and after they are finished playing with the toys in their boxes, after you’ve run out of coloring sheets or color books for them to color in, and after they have played all of the games that you can think of (such as Eye Spy or an Alphabet game) to keep their attention, then we will break out an iPad/Tablet or a portable DVD player and let them use an electronic device for about 30 minutes to 1 hour. We also make sure that the games they are playing or the DVDs that they are watching are educational.
9. Managing Nap time. We also find that leaving our house or hotel about 1-2 hours before naptime is usually best if you want them to take a nap. We will start a journey around 9:00am, let them play and we will drive for about 2 hours. Then we stop to eat lunch at a park. Let them run around and play, then when they get back in the car, their bellies are full ,they just burned a lot of energy, and it should be naptime,. Let them fall asleep and enjoy your afternoon drive. Be prepared thought when they wake up. If they are cranky, you may have to stop, but we have found that if we give them something fun to do, like those toy boxes they started the trip with, they play with that again, and you can finish the last hour of driving for the day. Traveling this way will let you be able to cover about 5 hours of drive time in about 6-7 hours of the day, if you figure in the stopping/lunch times.
10. Dealing with Laundry. The last tip that I have is about the packing that you do before you head out on your trip. You need to plan your packing. We try to take as little as possible, but enough to get us through the trip. We will bring 3 suitcases; we pack the kids clothes together in one suitcase and my wife and I will each have our own. If you have laundry facilities available to you, USE them so that you don’t have to pack as much. Also, when you are leaving, we combine all of the clean clothes into 1 suitcase and stuff all of the dirty laundry into another, that way when we get home, one suitcase needs to be unpacked, and the other just goes straight to the wash.
If you would like a packing list of everything that we pack on our road trips, so that you make sure that you don’t leave anything important behind, click here to sign up for our newsletter, and we will send it to you free. You can print it every time you take a trip as a checklist for you to go by.
If you have any of tips that I have not covered here, please leave them in the comments below, or tweet them to me, leave a post on our Facebook page, or let me know on Instagram. I look forward to hearing your tips from your experiences.