Spring break is just around the corner – yay! We’re going to be traveling and visiting family, however my husband is a very anxious flyer. For our family, road trips are the only way we travel. With three kids, road trips aren’t a piece of cake though. Road trips are long, expensive, and cause me a lot of anxiety. Counting kids after bathroom breaks, the cost of crappy fast food, trying to keep the kids entertained. My palms get sweaty just thinking about our upcoming trip…
Since my in-laws live out of town, long road trips are normal for us. I’ve found that being prepared is very important. Being prepared is the only way I survive several road trips each year.
Here are 5 tips for surviving a road trip with kids:
The number one thing I hear on any trip is “I’m Hungry”. Our kids are old enough to reason with and to understand the concept of rationing. I have two boys, so it’s not perfect… but they know when it’s gone, it’s gone.
I started snack bags for each child so they can eat when they’re hungry and I don’t have to unbuckle, dig through bags and hand them a snack. I now buy 2-Gallon Ziploc bags and fill them with drinks and snacks. Depending on the length of the trip I usually include a bottle of water, a juice box, gold fish crackers, a granola bar, apples and peanut butter, string cheese, and a yogurt. The kids can keep the food bag beside them and eat their snacks as they see fit. They know that’s all they get though.
I also pack the kid’s lunch boxes with breakfast and lunch. For breakfast, my favorite equipment is a thermos. I fill the thermos half way with milk, and add a sandwich bag full of cereal as well as a plastic spoon. Our kids can pour the cereal into the thermos and eat breakfast! It’s easy clean up since all you need to do is put the lid back on the thermos and slip it in the lunch box. Lunch is generally a sandwich, carrot sticks and a drink. Sometimes I will add a little treat :).
If we’re still in the car for dinner, we try to plan a sit down dinner. It helps switch up the scenery. Most of the time, we’re on a 12-14 hour car ride. We leave first thing in the morning before the kids wake up, and arrive to our destination just in time for dinner.
I am probably the most anxious mom. It doesn’t help that my husband is in law enforcement and we’re both aware bad things happen. I’m notorious for counting our kids, continuously. I have this fear that when we go to a rest stops one child will get left, or taken. It’s really bad for my anxiety. The best way I manage this anxiety, while still ensuring everyone gets bathroom breaks is… McDonalds.
We don’t eat at McDonalds, but they provide well-lit, clean and secure bathrooms. I know when we stop for a bathroom break Trent can take the boys in one bathroom, and I can take Little Miss with me. I also know that there are cameras and security in the restaurant, and most people there are families. Most importantly, every city has a McDonalds right off the interstate.
Ebates for Travel Money
Even though driving is considerably less expensive than flying, it’s still not cheap. I try to plan online purchases around our travel time, and I make sure to use Ebates for every purchase. If we’re booking a hotel, I use Ebates. If the kids need new swimsuits or vacation clothes, I use Ebates. Before our spring break trip, I’ll receive an $80 check. We’ll use the $80 toward our gas money! If you’re not signed up for Ebates, you can do so here:
It’s so important to give kids a break. Let them stretch their legs, and give them something fun to look forward to. I usually try to find a park where we can stop, let the kids eat lunch at a picnic table, and play for a couple minutes.
It’s not easy trying to find a park; it does take a little investigating. First I plan what time and where we’ll be around lunch. Next, I search for national parks in that area. This usually gives us an idea of somewhere just off the interstate, within an hour or so of our target lunchtime. If the national park search doesn’t bring any results, pick a major city and look for a local park there. If you’re not able to find a park in the area for lunch, try a state welcome center. In most cases they will have a picnic area and open space. Try taking a kick ball, baseball and glove, or bubbles to let the kids play for a couple minutes.
Now, for those husbands who want to keep moving and not go too far from the interstate… tell them to deal with it – LOL! If your husband is anything like mine, they get the easy job of driving. I always get the job of entertaining and disciplining the kids in the car. It helps letting the kids blow off some steam, and sometimes they’ll even nap after playing. 😉
There are multiple ways you can put together bags. You could put together bags as a surprise, or you can have the kids put together their own bags. I’ve done both, and they both work. Here are a couple ideas for both options.
When we went to Disney over the summer, I put together fun travel bags as a surprise. I purchased re-usable totes with Disney characters on them. These bags worked triple duty. I used them to hold with their travel stuff, then we used them for clean up in the car, and lastly we used them to carry beach towels, goggles, and clothes to the pool.
I filled each bag with a coloring book and new crayons, a travel game (travel I spy, travel bingo, and mad libs), their snack bag (above), a new movie to watch in the car, headphones and their tablets, and a new book.
Kid’s DIY Bag:
We have a lot of re-usable totes and I always use them for travel bags. If the kids are putting together their own bags, I hand each of them a tote. The kids can fill the bag up however they see fit. Try to have a couple of guidelines on this: only 1 stuffed animal (for those with girls hehe), nothing with small pieces, and so on.
What tips do you have for surviving a road trip? Share in the comments below!