Road Trip Tips for Families
Is riding in the car with your family more like being trapped in a dungeon and less like a luxurious adventure? I’ve created a list of the best road trip tips for families that we have learned over many cross-country road trips!
As a Midwesterner with three Disney-obsessed kids, we have made the sweeping trek to Florida on multiple occasions. We have learned road trip tips for families through trial and error. Learn from our mistakes, so your family doesn’t have to make them! Follow these road trip tips for families to improve the experience of long car rides with kids.
Prepare for the Chance of a Lifetime
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First of all, you need to ensure that you have all of your bases covered for safety, especially if you’ll be on mountain roads. Prepare a safety kit by packing water, durable snacks, a first aid kit, a travel charger for your cell phone, blankets, a flashlight with spare battery, flares, and jumper cables.
Are your children in car seats? Car seat safety is especially relevant to families with children 8 years and under. One of the biggest road trip tips for families is to make sure that you comply with all car seat laws. Ensure that all car seats are properly installed by visiting a Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST)
You know what a day without a nap does your toddler? Sleep deprivation can also cause a number of issues in their mommies and daddies. All drivers should rest up in the days before embarking on this drive. If you can book a hotel along the way and avoid driving at night when tired, consider that option. Most major hotel chains will give you a “free night” if you get their credit card. We prefer to use the Disney Chase Visa to rack up points for our trip when we get to the magical land!
Shop for that “New”
Do your children have toys that are hiding under their dusty bed or slid to the floor of their closet? Peruse your children’s closets for those goodies that haven’t been seen in ages. Pull those toys out of their closet, clean them up, and stash them away for the car ride. It will be like a brand new toy!
Are you a super organized mama who donates or sells every item as it loses usefulness? Hit a dollar store to find toys, books, and coloring equipment to bring out every couple of hours on the road trip. New toys will entertain the kids and you can reward them for good behavior. It’s a win-win for parents!
To infinity, and Beyond
Limiting screen time is an important buzzword in our tech-savvy world, but it seems like a long road trip is not the time to prevent technology entirely. Therefore, iPads and car TVs will limit boredom but “mommy guilt” always makes me try to avoid turning our children into little techno-boppers. I find that some decent educational Mickey-themed apps assuage my tremendous mom guilt! We also recommend books on tape to keep the family entertained.
Map out your stops
This requires proper strategizing, but it always improves our mood when it goes according to plan. Arrange a picnic at a wooded rest stop, locate a Chipotle near a playground, or find a Panera next to a local park. This will help your children “shake their willies out”, feed your family, and minimize break time.
Is your trip in the middle of winter? Then consider letting them loose in a mall indoor playground or a McDonald’s play place (just make sure you have lots of hand sanitizer). I am always terrified I will get them sick for the first day of vacation. If you’re like me and want to avoid the potential for illness, try to promote their activity in other ways. Encourage your kids to use the restroom and run themselves silly in snowboots while another adult fetches gas. This minimizes stop time and maximizes energy expenditure!
Pack spill-proof snack canisters for your little ones. I prefer the 360-degree, BPA-free spill-resistant cups to juice boxes to cut sticky messes and reduce our carbon footprint. In order to stave off hunger attacks, we bring apples, water bottles, and assorted nuts. I order nut and fruit packed Lara Bars, organic Turkey Pepperoni sticks, prepackaged olives, Veggie Straws, and the fluffy cheddar deliciousness known as Pirate’s Booty.
For your road trip and arrival at your destination, Ziploc bags are magical. They allow snack control and financial savings by portioning out snacks and divvying up that highly coveted dessert. They also hide the potential for mess and smells by containing any biohazardous diapers and double as a puke bucket.
Rest Stops & Breastfeeding Moms
For families (like us!) with multiple children to toilet or diaper at the rest stops, have a plan. We usually send the bigger kids in with my husband and I tackle the diapers.
For breastfeeding mothers who are pumping en route, wear a strapless pumping bra to improve the ease of pumping. If you are modest, use a nursing cover for ease of nursing in public or pumping in the car. Consider pumping in the car while your partner drives, particularly if you need to use the restroom or get out at the next stopping point. This will allow your partner to “tag in” and feed the baby at rest stops.
Furthermore, enjoy your snuggling and breastfeeding time during rest stops. Try to stick closely to your usual nursing routine. It is important to make sure that you’re drinking lots of fluid to promote milk supply. Finally, make sure that you are stretching your legs to keep your circulation moving on your frequent breaks. Postpartum moms are at risk for blood clots, so walk often at rest stops!
Our favorite Autism products are located here and many are appropriate to bring on a road trip. Every child is different, but for us to have a successful road trip we have created several plans. We make a strict plan or storyboard and stick to it.
First screen time, then snack and drink, next rest stop.
The snacks we provide are the same as his favorite at home snacks. We bring his favorite toys, blanket, and clothes that have proven to be comfortable. It is imperative on long trips that we schedule physical activity into our day. The weighted blanket is helpful for late afternoon and early evening issues. Traveling with a kid with special needs does not mean we are unable to drive long distances, it just means we need to plan more.
Patience is a Virtue
Be patient with yourself, your spouse, and your children. Flexibility matters! You may have a plan, but try not to become too rigidly attached to it. Children will have potty accidents, juice spills, and emergency stops that may extend the length of an already long journey. Just remember that vacation starts the second you put your house and daily life in the rearview mirror. Try to enjoy this special bonding time and relax!
What are your favorite cross-country road trip tips for families? Share your comments below!