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Surviving a Road Trip: How To Travel with Children

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Recently my husband and I went on a road trip back to our home state and took our 2 1/2 year old daughter with us.

It was 10 hours on the way there and 13 on the way back.

We did it each time in one day. I learned a lot by taking Bella with us – what to and what not to do. Things to pack again, never bother with a second time, and how to make it easier on everyone for trips that long.

Since so many families hit the road in the summer months, chances are you’ll be headed out too. Even for just a day trip.

Plan ahead.

– Make a list to check off as you get things done. I often make a list of things to do days before as well as the day of the trip. If you leave early in the morning, you won’t have to wonder as you stumble out the door what you might have forgotten.

Pack snacks.

– A lot of snacks. I thought we packed enough and then halfway through the first trip they were all gone. It saves time and money to bring your own. You won’t have to stop unnecessarily to buy expensive gas station ones. Bring things that are easily vacuumed up later (fruit snacks are a carpet nightmare) and can be passed back to the kids to eat themselves. Pretzels, bread with a thin spread of peanut or sunflower butter, crackers, and the squeezable fruit and applesauce packs. And bring water in reusable bottles. It’s not sticky, it dries, and no one gets hyper in a carseat. Enough said.

Bring toys.

– If you can swing it, small dollar items that are age appropriate are tons of fun – a little thrill of a new toy for your kids without a lot of expense and no worry if it breaks later on. If not, tuck away older toys that haven’t been used in a while to get out. Take some familiar books and toys as comfort items (and any lovies for sleeping). Let the kids have a toy every so often to keep their interest. Save some for the ride home!

Play games.

– Have some games ready that all of you can play (I Spy, 20 Questions) and some the kids can play on their own (License Plate Bingo, I’m Going to the Beach and I’m Bringing…)

Get comfortable.

– Check car and booster seat belts to make sure they fit at the right level and are snug but not too tight. Bring blankets and small pillows – you might be hot up front while your child is freezing in the back.

Be organized.

– One of the best things we did pre-traveling was make the car easily accessible to me for reaching things. I packed all essentials in Bella’s backpack and placed it behind the middle console where I could get to it fast. Toys and books went in a small bin on the seat next to her. We had a couple small garbage bags for wrappers and diapers, which were tossed at the end of the day.

Be flexible. 

– No one enjoys having to be strapped in a seat for a long time. Plan stops along the way. Every 2-3 hours, have a place to get out and eat, or somewhere to stretch, use the restroom, change places, get things organized again. We drove straight through (with short stops) but know when we do it again we’ll take longer so we can see some of the sights along the way. Have a plan and a place in mind to spent the night in case your child melts down and you aren’t going to make your destination that day.

Above all, have fun and relax. Remember that some of the very best memories of childhoods are when things go wrong, end up in a mess, or are just spent as a family – regardless of the money, perfect trip, or the time it took to get to the destination. Use the time in the car to grow tighter as a family, make memories, and get to know each other better.