Surviving Road Trips with Kids

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Today is the 4th of July, a day for celebrating freedom and independence. But when you’re a parent, our experience of freedom changes a little bit, doesn’t it? It’s suddenly not quite so easy as hopping in the car spontaneously and driving for hours and hours.


But, still, road tripping with kids can be done. It just requires a little more planning and different expectations. In fact, our family takes a road trip this time of year every year.


Our kids are 8 and 5 years old, so we should be wise old veterans at this by now, right? Truth time: we still mess up sometimes or forget to do things in preparation for our summer vacations. And we’re always trying new things to see what works.


With all this fresh in my mind--since we just made our family road trip together--I thought I’d share what has worked for us this time around.


Check out the video below, along with the quick tips, links, and transcript. And, don’t be shy! I want to know what has worked for your family or what flopped miserably!  Share in the comments below, so we can all help each other!

Video previously aired as a Facebook Live. If you're not following Happy With Baby on Facebook, you can do so here.


Quick Tips & Links:

  • Variety is key. Kids get bored quickly, so having a variety of activities helps.

  • However long you think your trip will take, add on a few extra hours to account for more frequent potty breaks.

  • Make road tripping special by letting them get a treat. It might be a new toy or activity book to keep them busy. It might be soda or popsicles if your kid is prone to carsickness.

  • If there were ever a time to go lax on your normal rules, this is it. We don’t normally let our kids play with iPads or watch hours of movies at a time, but they think road trips are the best because we bend the rules just to make it through.

  • Audio books can be a great diversion for both kids and grownups. Your local library is a great place to find new media to take along. Or, you could try the Stories podcast.

  • Get creative with schedules. If long drives are easier when your kids are sleeping, you could try keeping them up later than usual and/or waking them up earlier than usual to see if they’ll sleep in the car.

  • Keep a small bag with an extra change of clothes for your kids handy. Because accidents happen and it’s a lot easier to grab that bag than it is to dig through suitcases in the trunk.

  • Try unusual stops to let your kids get their ya-ya’s out for a while. You might not normally be a fan of McDonalds, but if they have a playplace, it might be worth bending for. IKEA isn’t a typical pit stop for road trips, but it’s ideal for toddlers and small kids because they have a play area, a restaurant...and many toddlers enjoy just climbing on all the couches. Even Home Depot or places like that can do, when in a pinch. Little ones love running up and down aisles and checking out the gardening section. If you’re in the midwest, Cracker Barrel is another great place to stop.

  • The Roadtrippers app is a handy tool to have. You put in your destination, it maps out your route, and then shows you places you can stop along the way. Everything from gas stations to restaurants, to parks and unusual landmarks to make your road trip more memorable and make room for burning off some energy. Google Maps can also show you restaurants in your area.

  • Make up your own games as you go. We had fun Googling different landmarks we passed by to learn their history. It was also suggested to me that you can make up a scavenger hunt along the way, looking for things like a green car, a palm tree, a red house, etc. Be creative!

  • Get more tips and ideas from these past blog posts: Summer Travel Plans? Keep Your Toddlers & Kids Occupied & Happy While Traveling with These Clever Ideas; Travel Tips for Parents with Little Ones


Video Transcript:

Hey there. Are you guys planning a summer road trip? I thought I would hop on here. I'm Catherine from and I thought I'd hop on here because we are recently on a vacation and we did a little road trip. And I thought I would--there's some things that I think can make road trips a little bit easier with kids and some that don't. So I thought I'd put together a few little tips here and share them with you.


So don't mind my vacation hair and makeup but so and if you guys have any great ideas, I would love for you to share below too.


I think one of the key things is that with kids like you need to keep a variety of things because they definitely get bored faster and going planning to go for hours at a time it's probably not always the best bet. So I have found with our family like if we just plan like, okay, like two-hour chunks--and maybe it's less than that depending on how old your kids are and how often you need to stop, but usually I feel like every two hours we need to do a bathroom break anyways and get up and stretch our legs.


So definitely consider that that anytime, like don't plan that if it's an eight-hour trip, you know, it's at eight hours like I would add a couple hours on to that to just to not make it make yourself crazy thinking you're gonna get there faster than you will. Because it's not like the old days when maybe you just decided to go for hours at a time you could just drive. So kids definitely need more breaks.


So one of the things that we always do is like get them some sort of treat and this time like either a toy or like workbooks or something that they can do in the car and this time we waited till we were like in the middle of the road trip because I didn't have time actually. Truth. Mom truth right there that I didn't have time to go before we left. So we stopped at a store and they got to pick something out which was fun and definitely helped keep them entertained.


One of the other things is we don't typically--our kids don't use tablets or iPads or things like that, but on road trips we'll let them watch movies. I did download a couple movies on my iPad and played games on there. So finding like different games that you think are fun or educational because even if you know--especially if it's something they don't typically do--can definitely help with that and like a friend of mine was saying, you know, her daughter doesn't usually get soda but she gets carsick so usually when she's--"Adult diapers for everybody." Thanks, Jackie, that's hysterical. But what do you do about like getting up and stretching your legs? Yeah, but yeah adult diapers. I wish that was--that would make it easier for my kids.


But so the other, yeah so her child gets to have soda when they're on road trips because she tends to get carsick and stuff like that. So that's always a treat and it's special for her.


Also doing audiobooks can be fun and you can always get those-- "Car yoga" Jackie's saying she's done car yoga, so I feel like I need to check that out.


But getting audio books and you can even get--rent them from the library. I don't know if you guys have ever tried that but you can even do movies and stuff like that too. So check out the library with that or if you have Audible, which I do for work and stuff, and so I downloaded a couple audio books.


And there's also some podcasts out there. One of my friends told me about one. It's called Stories podcast. And so some of them are really short like 10 to 15 minutes, but I did find like a longer one which was about 45 minutes and seemed to keep all of our interest. So that was a lot of fun because then they did like the different voices for the characters and stuff so that was called Stories podcast.  That was pretty fun.


What are some of my others? Or if you leave--like I was trying to talk my husband, like, "Hey, if we keep our kids up late and then we leave really early, like maybe they'll sleep in the car some." So I don't know that he's willing to try that on our way home, but I'm still thinking it might be worth a shot or we'll have a totally miserable trip. But sometimes if you leave later or leave really early, depending on your child, like it can make it--make the trip a little bit better. But, you know your kids and your family and what works best for you, so I would definitely take that into account.


And then also by keeping a change of clothes handy instead of just in your suitcase, so you don't have to unload everything, like if for whatever reason, there's an accident or something or you need to change at some point.  It's just keeping like a small bag of clothes so you're not digging through everything.


Oh and so I think when I mentioned earlier about taking like making breaks like every two hours and usually you stop at a gas station or maybe a rest stop, which we stopped that one and it was so disgusting, like I was like it was just like just a small upgrade from a Porta Potty, so I was like, "No, there's no way we're using that. We're gonna have to go the extra fifty miles to the next one because it was so disgusting.


But anyways if you like of course I could McDonald's, those always have like the indoor playground, so if it's too hot to stop at a park or even going to like IKEA or something because they have, if there's one nearby, like they have the little play area and then they also have like a restaurant or even like going to like Home Depot or something where the kids come and kind of look around or and check things out and I don't know what a Cracker Barrel is but someone told me that was like a good place to stop too. So just you know finding kind of maybe some alternative type of road stops that you might not necessarily think of.


And then, what was my other idea for y'all? Yeah, so I think that's--I guess that's it. Oh there's an app I did try. Oh yeah, this is my this is my last idea. So, it's called Roadtrippers and it will actually--it's an app you can get and you can do either, like I think they have a month freebie and then you can buy it by a month or three months or whatever, but it shows you like all the restaurants, parks and any unique things to do, like on your route. Like, you'll put like wherever you're going, so that's a cool thing.


And then I also realize and I don't know how long this has been a thing but like Google Maps has where you can like see where the restaurants are or you know gas stations and stuff like that.


But the other thing I started to do on this road trip is we went through--Oh gosh, I'm gonna forget what it was--I want to call it the salt fields--that's not it, but we were driving through Utah and it's like--oh my gosh, I'm totally gonna forget what the name of it is because I'm on vacation brain right now. But anyways, so I just started Googling like signs that we would see and then like sharing like the history or whatever it said on Wikipedia or something like that and find out information about it to talk with the kids about.


So that was that was kind of fun to do and then also just you know finding other apps and stuff like educational things, so do things that maybe you wouldn't normally get to do or your kids wouldn't normally get to have. It kind of keeps them entertained and I do have a blog on that I'll post below two of just things to do with even smaller kids when you travel but anyways those are my my recent roadtripping survival guide. And we'll see if I have any updates on our way back in a few days and hopefully it goes much there and maybe we have less stops.


So, scavenger hunts of stuff you might see. Okay, Jackie's full of good ideas. So yeah I'll have to maybe I'll have to put something together. That'll be fun.


So anyways, I hope you all are having a great week and if you have any vacations planned, if you have any great tips, I would love for you to share them with us. And I look forward to seeing you all again soon. All right, have a great day, guys. Bye.



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