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Traveling with kids can be stressful for both parents AND children alike. We’ve been traveling with children in a car for most of their lives. My dad and mother-in-law lived 2 ½ hours away from us in San Diego and my mom, 3 ½ hours, without traffic. During the busy holiday seasons, it could be up to a 3 ½-4 ½ trip. Add rain in California, and it’s a whole different story! My sister-in-law lives in Arizona, which is a boring and torturous 6-hour drive! Needless to say, I have some great tips to help ease the stress of long road trips.
Because young children don’t understand the whole concept of time, it’s important to keep them as busy as possible. Start with these things and as you travel more, you’ll figure out what works best for your kids and your parenting style.
- Pack snacks – Make sure you have A LOT of good and healthy snacks for the whole car. For toddlers, try some PandaEar Silicone Snack Containers. These are nice because they’re spill proof and travel friendly. Be sure to pack something for everyone in the car, in case you get caught in traffic and the trip ends up being longer than expected. Also, there’s nothing worse than grumpy children, or even worse, a grumpy parent! Be sure to pack some water, but limit the amount to the children so you don’t have to make any unexpected stops to use the restroom along the way.
- Give them something to do – Give your kids something to do along the way. A good old fashioned book works, or I suggest providing them with some sort of learning tablet, such as the LeapFrog LeapPad Academy Kids’ Learning Tablet or the VTech Write and Learn Creative Center. This gives them some time to be creative and learn at the same time.
- Keep the car quiet– I also suggest some Kids Bluetooth Headphones. These are great because you can listen to your music and talk, and they can still hear their devices. The best part is that the volume is limited, so they can’t turn them up too loud and ruin their hearing. If you’d rather go old school, grab some crayons or colored pencils and let them color. Here are some really cute printable coloring books to check out!
- Let them watch a movie – This is the best way to burn a couple of hours without them noticing how long they’ve been in the car. A tablet is a great way to show a movie to pass the time. A couple of hours will fly by without complaint.
- Encourage a nap – I always tell my kids (even to this day), to take a nap! This makes the trip go by so much faster. As long as it doesn’t backfire with your children, (up to your discretion) keep them up just a little bit later the night before and they’re likely to fall asleep on your drive. I would tell my kids to play a game and the first one to sleep gets a treat. I would ultimately give them both a treat, but it works! They’ll at least try and giving them a break from their devices is always a good idea.
- Neck Pillows & Blankets – When it’s time for a nap, trade out their devices for cute neck pillows and their favorite blanket. This will help support their necks and since they’ve been looking down at their devices for quite some time, will help to keep their necks from falling back into the forward position. They come in a myriad of colors and are cute for both boys and girls alike.
- Sun Shades – Chances are one of the kiddos will end up in the sun at some point during your trip. Help to keep them cool and out of the sun with a good sun shade. I also recommend dressing them in layers. Depending on the time of day driving kids can get cold and/or warm and since they’re traveling on different sides of the car. One may be hot and the other cold.
- Plan Ahead – The biggest thing to do is to plan ahead. If you’re traveling for any length of time, someone is bound to need a pit stop. If you’re unfamiliar with the area you’re traveling through and you know you’ll need to stop for gas, make sure you pick a safe area where there are plentiful gas stations and food.
- Safety First– If you’ll be traveling through a remote area, make sure you don’t get stuck in the middle of the desert without any gas. Apps for your phone like waze give you real-time traffic updates and give you the quickest routes to get to your destination on time.
- Write it down– Ultimately, your best bet in planning a trip is to write it down ahead of time with this cute Travel Planner. Writing it down manages your expectations, but always expect the unexpected when it comes to traveling with kids.
I hope you’ve found these tips helpful and please note, these ideas also work for plane trips. We traveled to Hawaii when my son was 5 years old and we used all of these tricks to keep him occupied on the plane. It wasn’t perfect, but it sure did help.
Please note: I have used all of these items at some point in my travels and have given you ideas based on the items and methods we used. All ideas and opinions are my own.
Do you have other suggestions? Let me know in the comments!