A few years ago, my husband’s boss presented him with the opportunity of a lifetime and threw a wrench in every life plan we had made together. We had a toddler, a baby and the opportunity to relocate a thousand miles from home.
It was his dream job and a pay bump we desperately needed and that is how we found ourselves self-proclaimed experts of long and grueling road trips with kids.
We gathered lots of advice before we headed out; the most common of which was to do the majority of the driving at night while the kids slept. We mulled over it but ultimately decided against it because our toddler was not (and is not) a car sleeper. Plus, it seems like it takes about 45 days longer to arrive at a destination if you can’t see landmarks passing. So we knew squeezing as much driving as possible into the daylight hours was the way to go for us.
Here’s how we survive road trips with kids
1. Lower your expectations
Don’t listen to your cousin telling you that her kids sleep for the entire 10 hour trip to her best friend’s house. Know that your kids will scream and cry and there will probably be some bodily fluids somewhere by the time you arrive. Coming to terms with this before you even pack gives you peace of mind.
2. Raid the dollar spot at Target and the dollar store and ALL THE STORES
Buy as much cheap junk as you possibly can that you think your kid might possibly be interested in. Don’t open it so that it still feels new to the kids and put it in a bin that you can reach from the passenger seat. When they get bored, let them watch you open a new item and then let them play with it until they ultimately drop it, and then repeat.
Do the same thing with snacks and drinks and candy. I know most of the time you don’t let your kid have candy, but when you are driving 70 mph down the highway and he’s screaming at the top of his lungs, there is some merit in handing him a Dum Dum. Stock up on the snacks they love and some new things they haven’t tried before. Throw the snacks in your bin of dollar store treasures and keep them guessing if they’re getting a snack or a toy.
3. If things get bad, stop and reset
This was one of the most annoying things for us to realize because we are big proponents of getting where we’re going efficiently. When the kids are whining and crying and won’t go to sleep and yelling that their booty is sore and they have thrown all the toys and snacks down, it’s time to stop.
We try to map out parks along the way, but that is not always convenient so a gas station next to a field or a Chick-Fil-A with a playground work perfectly well. Something about a 15 minute stop with some leg stretching and a bathroom break helps to reset cranky kids. It has also allowed us to see some fun roadside attractions.
4. Save the electronics for a last resort.
We always encourage our kids to read, color or “write an exciting journal entry about our trip” and even play a few games of I Spy or guess my favorite animal before we hand out the iPads, because when they are bored of those, things get really rough.
Even though embarking on long road trips with kids isn’t always the quietest and easiest way to travel, it is doable and the memories we have made seeing the country with our kids have made the 456,982 requests for the Trolls soundtrack and the bathroom breaks before we are out of OKC completely worth it.