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9 Smart Road Trip Tricks for Surviving Car Travel With Kids

Posted by on Jul. 16, 2014 at 9:37 AM
  • 2 Replies

9 Smart Road Trip Tricks for Surviving Car Travel With Kids

by Judy Dutton

girls back seat road trip

Family road trips can be disasters waiting to happen. Between carsick kids, sibling spats, and incessant "Are we there yet?" whining, traveling with kids in tow is enough to make any mom swear off these jaunts for good.

Still, since driving is often the only logical way to get to the beach, amusement park, campground, or any other family fun-oriented point B, we figured we'd ask some moms with plenty of car travel under their belts for their best family road trip tips.

Keep these 9 stress-reducing tricks handy before your next outing on the open road.

What tips and tricks do you have for surviving road trips with kids?

by on Jul. 16, 2014 at 9:37 AM
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Replies (1-2):
afwife817
by Silver Member on Jul. 16, 2014 at 11:45 AM
We are going on a family vacation next month all 4 of us when my SDs get back from Montana(; we're going to Arizona, California then Oregon. We'll be visiting friends and family on the way and the drive will be long. Luckily our Subaru Tribeca has a DVD player. We will be bringing their favorite movies starting with Identity Thief!! And I'll pick up a couple new ones they've been asking for. Wish us luck haha!!
jules2boys
by Gold Member on Jul. 16, 2014 at 12:23 PM

We have done a road trip every year since XH and I divorced (well, the last year we were separated even).  We love our road trip time!  I relax the rules for those days we're gone (usually 2 weeks) and we lay some of the van seats down so each boy has his own 'space' in the van too. 

They each bring movies to watch, but ONLY when there isn't anything new to see along the way. 

We visit state and national parks along the way (buying a national park pass is SO worth it!) and their jr. ranger program (for kids up to about age 14 usually) is FREE, and the kids learn something special and unique about each park we visit as well as get a free badge, patch, or something else the park gives the kids for participating, but they MUST complete the book given (not difficult)  to get the patch/badge/something.  A hike of some sort is usually required but they offer some very short ones if you're in a time crunch too, but the short time out of the car is well worth it too. 

I hunt up new/fun 'on the go' games from the dollar store and/or Target/Wal-Mart through the year (usually on sale) and keep them in our 'travel' bin.  Some of these games we don't play through the year, but just save them for the time between radio stations and change of scenery along the way. 

When they were younger, when they 'fought' (argued anyway), after two warnings I'd force them to either be silent or play math or spelling games.  I'd give them words off the top of my head for each age and challenge them.  Same for math problems to solve.  Having those small (6x9 size) dry erase boards and markers was awesome for math games. They actually enjoyed these games and asked for them sometimes.  It was funny!  We'd do silly words, and after a while, they'd try to challenge ME too.  (you just need to know how to spell or the kids will really hold it over your head! ha ha!)

We play the 'Alphabet game' along the road, or other car games where you look for specific things outside the car and collect 'points'.  The prize at the end can simply be 'pride in winning' or that child (or adult!) can choose the next meal place, the next stopping place/time, which bed to sleep in at the next motel/hotel, next movie to watch, etc. 

We also talk, a lot.  I've made up (from the internet, it doesn't have to be elaborate or anything) 101 questions and they'll pull them out of a jar or box or something (or just read them/pick them off of a page I printed) and we make up stories, or answer questions.  These things get them thinking AND opening up to their own ideas and thoughts.  Many times these are enlightening.  :) 

The 'rules' I relax are, on our road trips, I allow junk food and sodas if/when they want them.  They may have ice cream for breakfast if where we are for breakfast has it, or other such things that do NOT happen at  home.  The car has candy in it (nothing that'll melt too badly though).  What I found, after the first time doing this, and it still holds true while they're 12 and 16, is that before the 2 weeks are up, they're actually TIRED of the junk food, sodas, ice cream for breakfast, etc. and don't ask for it at home either.  :)  Win win!   Oh, and I've found, each summer, that the first week or so is all about the sugar and salt... cupcakes, ding dongs, chips, popcorn, etc. but by the 2nd week we're now stopping at the local mom and pop places and grabbing grapes, apples, carrot sticks, nuts, etc. to munch on.  They only want so much sugar and then they want the healthier things again.  AND, it's not 'mom is making me' but, 'I want this instead'... and I just smile!  A week of 'junk' won't hurt them.  They have no health problems for me to contend with so I can do this.  I couldn't/wouldn't if I had a child(ren) with health issues to be concerned about, even just for a week.  

We try to shop, and eat, at local places along the way, saving 'chain' places for 'the only option in town' or those places that are chains but NOT in our area (don't laugh.. ok, go ahead and laugh... but our favorite chain place when we're where they are is Cracker Barrel.  There aren't any in CA so we don't get there often.  The kids ate there for the first time just 2 years ago.) 

Take along an old pair of shoes or two in case you find a cool creek (or warm springs) to jump into for a bit. 

Let the kids ride in the car in their swim suit, or PJs, and relax the 'must be fully dressed' rule.  I draw the line at 'just underwear' now that they're tween/teen ages (and so do they, thankfully! LOL) but on these trips, I don't care if they've worn the same pair of shorts for 3 days in a row, as long as it's fresh underwear or a new swimsuit each day!  I don't care if they have their pj bottoms on and are shirtless in the van... we just keep a shirt handy to toss on as we run in for a potty break or to grab more snacks.

When we're traveling through new places, I do make the kids look out the car, no watching movies or listening to their music (I don't want to see the top of their head, I want to see their faces when I look in the mirror) and take in the new scenery.  If nothing changes in half an hour, they're free to do what they want again (like driving through the desert to get out of CA! ha ha!).  We watch for wildlife along the way too, and often stop for it when/if we find it.  We've seen (over the years) elk, deer, mule deer, squirrels (we don't have many here in CA where we live), fox, coyote, prairie dogs, marmots, moose, bears, mountain lions (eating prey even), goats of various sorts, buffalo, bison, birds of all sorts, etc.  They can't see these things, in their natural habitat, if they're watching a movie or something.  :)  We've seen all of these animals (and more I'm forgetting at the moment) in the 'wild', not inside fences, not just inside national parks, but along 2 lane highways, 4 lane interstates, in the parking lot of hotels/motels we've stayed in, etc.  Heck, even just walking through the park we pulled off at to have a snack or lunch!  (just last week 2 deer wandered up from a creek while we were eating lunch, not 3 feet from up.  We didn't bother them, so they stayed to graze on the grass while we ate too.  They were beautiful!) 

Road trips can be a GREAT time, if everyone relaxes some and takes in all the new scenery and landscape and changes pace some!  We love our time. 

Oh!  And we don't try to stick to a strict schedule on these either.  We take the time to pull off the highway to go see that largest ball of string or whatever there is a sign for along the way!  You meet some interesting people along the way and see things many miss. 

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