We logged over 50 hours in the car during July and August with the kids. We did have a few rough patches (like Emily having a stomach bug and throwing up all over the front and back seats), but the majority of the hours were pleasant and fun. It might be the end of summer travels, but I want to record some tips that greatly simplified traveling with kids:
- Keep the activities simple. Last summer when we did our road trip to and from Utah I went to the dollar store and loaded up on different activities. The amount of time they entertained the kids did not outweigh the mess and hassle of finding lost pieces when they dropped. This time around we let the kids choose four books, a blanket and doll/bear each. I also brought little notebooks and pencils and a few sheets of stickers as an emergency activity but they only used it once in all our hours in the car.
- Listen to short children’s audiobooks. Andrew and I have tried to listen to audiobooks a couple of times since the kids have been born, but it has always been frustrating with all the interruptions. This time we listened to Charlotte’s Webb and and the first three books in the Chronicles of Narnia Series. The longest one was around 3 hours, and it took us 7-10 hours to get through each book. The stories were straightforward enough that it wasn’t a big deal to stop and start, but also really engaging. I highly recommend listening to the Focus on the Family Radio Series books, which acts out the books with many actors, music, and sound effects. The kids were able to understand more of the story with multiple voices.
- Fill up the car with gas every time you stop for the bathroom. You never know when the kids will fall asleep and having a low gas tank forcing you to stop and wake the kids up prematurely is lame.
- Continue with your basic schedule during the long days in the car. We tried to keep our routines with the kids playing/listening to the book in the morning, eating lunch followed by rest and read time, and more playing in the afternoon. We put on an instrumental CD for rest and read time; they stopped sleeping in the car but it allowed Andrew or I to get a nap in and not answer questions or requests.
- Food, food, food. I have a lot to say on this subject. First, we had the kids eat in the car so they could just run and play when we got to rest stops. It made the car a little dirty, but it was way less frustrating than trying to sit and eat outside of the car AND it kept them happier in the car. We made a point to pack substantial food for our trip to keep us all happier- sourdough bread with hummus or nut butter, tortilla pizza roll ups, and salad wraps were the main dish. For snacks we had variations of apples, carrots, grapes, peppers, plums, and cucumbers. Andrew loves having something sweet so we also had a bag of trail mix that included m&ms which were loved by everyone. It was also fun to occasionally stop at a local restaurant for more than an hour to have an excuse not to be in the car and experience a bit of local deliciousness.
- Keep screen time to a minimum. The kids only watched TV on 5-7+ days. Before we started they knew we had to listen to a book, eat lunch, have rest and read time, etc. It saved us for the last 30min-1 hour of long drives but also did make TV an expectation while we drove. We downloaded a few episodes on the amazon prime app that you can watch for 48 hours once you push play. The more time we spent on the road the better Emily and Nathan interacted with each other, laughing about silly things they were doing or singing songs together. For the last 10 hour trip they didn’t ask once about watching a show.
What has help to simplify your travels with kids?