Traveling with kids can be such a rewarding experience. And making some unique memories on a road trip that will last a lifetime is worthwhile. We have an unforgettable memory from our Texas Wild safari trip at San Antonio this summer where the ostriches stuck their head into the car windows to get some food. There was a lot of yelling and excitement involved and that is one of the coolest experiences I have had in the car lately!
I love how our toddler is excited to spot a trailer truck , motorbike or an eighteen wheeler on the road, how he has made a game of his own called “Where is the moon” on night drives and how recently on our very recent road trip in San Francisco he enjoyed, sang and memorized the lines from his current favorite song Senorita by Shawn Mendes!
But it can be easy to forget about all those joys when you’re three plus hours into what probably feels like the longest drive of your life. We’ve all been there. And to help keep your sanity I am sharing my 4Ps for an enjoyable and stress-free road trip with kids.
Time to Go: I like to plan the best time to drive with kids ahead of time, so all unfinished tasks and last-minute shopping or stops can be avoided. Night time works best if kids are younger or under 2 or 3, they sleep well as per schedule, stay in diapers and that also meant uninterrupted conversations with your partner.
Or leaving bright in the day, early morning works best too for a lot of parents especially of you are on a 6+ hours trip. Making sure the person driving is well rested is very important on long road trips, so time to go is one of the first steps to having a stress-free road trip.
2) Play Stops
Mapping out the entire route before you travel gives a good sense of breaks you can take for food or restrooms. We also like to find interesting places to stop for like historic sites, museums, charming towns, and beautiful places for picnics, including state parks, lakes or even a playground. This helps burn of some energy on the road trip. Another tip I have is to book a hotel/motel with a pool if you are on a very loooong drive. Something the kids can look forward to while great for cooling down.
Important Gear for Family
Phone charger, Battery pack, Tablet, First aid kit, Mosquito repellant, Sunscreen lotion, Water, Snacks, Dryer sheets for the car to smell fresh. I also make a small backpack of important items that I might need immediately and keep in the passenger seat. Few trash bags to collect all trash and clean up.
Gear for Kids
Activity books, stickers, toys, crayons and a car seat organizer help too. I usually make a busy bag for my son for flights and now use that for road trips too. I highly recommend getting magnetic games for the car. Also, surprising kids with a new toys ensures less tantrums. Worked for us. I always grab some new toys from Target $1 aisle or Dollar store and introduce them to my son when he listens or when the tears won’t stop. You can hunt for some on amazon too. A kid friendly playlist is great for bonding and learning some new rhymes, so I make one on Spotify. For older kids’ audio books is a great idea. And when everything fails, I give my son his tablet to plays some fun and educational games or cartoons that you can download from Netflix and you tube kids. We also carry a scoter for our son, so he can get out and ride it on a long drive. Try including a fun activity on a long drive where you end up taking more than 2 plus breaks. Bring on the snacks, try carrying new variety of crackers, cheese, candy, cookies that your kids can enjoy or be excited about. Don’t forget fruits, juices and milk. Also buying a snack at a gas station can be helpful to calm the situation at times. I always carry a blanket and a stuff toy for my son as it helps him sleep.
Also I found these Road side games online. Great for older kids 3+ . Going to use them on your next trip.
There will be potty emergencies, snack breaks, tantrums, but there will also be magic on these long drives. If I have learned one thing about being on the road with a baby, then toddler, it’s that nothing will ever go as planned. There will be delays, you might forget your kid’s favorite toy or something else. This is already life with a three-year-old. Just embrace the chaos. Above all, bring your sense of humor and patience fully intact. Road trips are fun, and they are hard. Keep your partner calm, sing and avoid arguing and stressful moments by taking some deep breaths and putting your favorite track from the 90s.
Have a safe journey my friends!