We’ve just returned from a family vacation that took us through seven states and covered 2400 miles.
Let’s have a moment of silence for long car trips with young children. 😉
Road trips are so much different than they were when I was a kid. DVDs, tablets, audio books, podcasts….there are so many resources available that make the miles fly by.
While it’s fresh in my mind, I thought I’d share our road tripping with kids survival guide.
As I’m sure you’re aware if you’ve ever traveled further than five miles with children in tow, traveling with kids is no joke. Whining. Sore butts. Bathroom stops every 30 miles. The struggle is real.
By the end of day two, my husband was threatening to travel with a five gallon bucket in order to eliminate all the bathroom stops. (Gah! I think he was only partially joking.)
For the most part, our time in the vehicle went fairly smoothly. Especially on the way home. I think we were all so exhausted by that point that even fighting and squabbling took too much energy. Exhaustion: the secret ingredient to a peaceful road trip. 😉
If you’re looking for some ideas for things to do on long road trips with kids, here are a few thoughts. These ideas aren’t rocket science, but they are our family’s tried-and-true methods of arriving at our destination in one piece. Hopefully they’ll help the miles fly by on your next trip.
The Road Tripping With Kids Survival Guide
For the kids…
Since we live in the country and have to drive an hour to get practically anywhere, having an aftermarket DVD system in our vehicle has been a life saver. And on a long road trip, it’s no different. We usually get a few new movies from the library to take along, and this time Grandma bought two new movies for the kids to watch.
About 4 years ago, I bought myself a Kindle Fire tablet. The kids are now using it for a few learning games. Aaaaaaaand I passionately hate that tablet for a few reasons.
I feel like it’s the world’s most un-user friendly device. It’s impossible to update apps. I can’t download videos or shows or audio books. It seems to never work when you want it to. It’s basically just a big ol’ pain in the bottom to use.
Last year, I bought a new Fire tablet on Black Friday for like $30 so that each kid would have access to a tablet, but I never even got it out of the box because I was honestly convinced it would just be two times the trouble. I couldn’t stand the thought of having to constantly fight with another Kindle Fire. I totally regretted buying it.
I finally got brave and unboxed the new tablet in preparation for this trip, and oh my goodness. IT’S A NIGHT AND DAY DIFFERENCE between the new tablet and the old one. I love the new one so much. Now I’m all, “KINDLE FIRES FOR EVERYONE!” I’m hoping Amazon has them on sale on Black Friday this year, so that each kid can have one and we can get rid of the crummy, pain in the butt old one.
It is SO easy to download episodes of the shows the kids love to watch on Prime (Superbook and Adventures in Odyssey) onto the new Fire tablet. We can load our Audible audio books on them. We can load Kindle ebooks on them. Apps open without any problems, and can be effortlessly updated.
I completely recommend this tablet. It’s absolutely worth buying at regular price, but getting it on sale on Prime Day or Black Friday is a no brainer. Yay for technology! 😉
State line gifts
This idea is a throw back to my own childhood. When we were kids, we went on a l-o-n-g road trip to the east coast. A family friend bought me and my brother “state line gifts” – every time we crossed into a new state, our mom gave us a little gift to open.
We’ve kept up this tradition with our kids, and it’s just fun. It gives the kids something to look forward to.
I usually buy little things from the Dollar Tree, so these aren’t top-dollar gifts. I try to find things that the kids can do to pass time in the car. Activity/sticker/coloring books, new markers, books to read, a new matchbox car…little things that they can use to entertain themselves. Sometimes candy or a special snack. Occasionally a new movie. (I’m finding out that grandparents LOVE to help with this, also…so it may be worth a mention to them!)
Here are a few that we picked up at Dollar Tree for this trip:
And they each got a new book to read:
Car scavenger hunts/travel bingo
Our travels this time took us on some tiny little rural roads, so there were many opportunities to see new things. Having a list of items for them to watch for can be a great way to pass the time.
I found one online, printed and laminated one for each kid, then put them on clipboards with a dry erase marker attached.
(Also: the clipboards were super handy to have in the car. The kids used them a LOT for writing/drawing/etc.)
I’ve shared before about our love for audiobooks. They are wonderful for long drives. Lamplighter audios are great. We have a set of the Focus on the Family Narnia audio dramas that are also super good.
Ideas for grown ups:
As soon as I get the kids settled in and entertained, I definitely take advantage of the quiet. I like to bring a variety of things to do. Because, you know, 2400 miles. 😉 Here’s how I pass the time in the passenger seat.
I love podcasts. I found quite a few new ones to listen to on this drive, because I knew we’d be spending a LOT of time in the car. My husband drove for most of the trip, and spent 90% of the time listening to NASCAR radio. I love me some NASCAR but I can only take that for so long. 😉
I downloaded LOADS of podcasts onto my phone and used my little earbuds to drown out NASCAR radio. In addition to my favorite podcasts, I also downloaded these to try out:
- The Purpose Show
- The Upside Down Podcast
- The Practical Minimalists
- Messy Bun Girls
Thus far in life, we have mostly used Audible to get audio books for the kids, and usually only when they are on sale for a dollar or two.
But an author I LOVE (Kim Meeder) just released a new book, and she recorded the audio book herself, so I bought it to listen to on the drive.
I typically wouldn’t buy a nonfiction book for myself on Audible, because I love to underline, reread, and soak up nonfiction books. But I’ve been to a few conferences with Kim and I KNEW I’d love hearing her read this book in her own voice. I really, really love it. I probably will also buy a hard copy of this book, but still totally 100% recommend this one on Audible.
If you use Overdrive (through your local library), you can also download tons of different audio books to borrow for free. I love free. 😉 Woot woot!
Ebooks are so awesome for traveling. Instead of hauling and managing (and not losing) a huge stack of books, I can just load up my Kindle and travel light. Again, I rarely buy ebooks unless they are super cheap on Amazon.
Again, Overdrive is another option for ebooks, especially if you want to read titles that you probably won’t want to reread or own.
Handicrafts (embroidery, knitting, crochet…)
Since I love maps like crazy, I couldn’t resist this stinking adorable embroidery kit.
Mommy needs some boredom busters, too! 🙂
So…do you have tips for road tripping with kids? Leave them in the comments! I’d love ideas for future vacations. 🙂