When I was a kid road trips meant piling the family into the Suburban and driving for hours and often for days. We didn’t have DVD players, tvs, MP3 players, hand held games . . . I was probably 12 or 13 before I even had a Walkman! So family trips meant my mom had to come up with some resourceful ways to keep the 3 of us quiet in the car because my dad had a hell of a hot temper! One trip we rented a large RV, so we could move around and play board games and not be sitting practically on top of each other. I assume that was the least stressful trip for my mom!
Today, even with MP3 players, DVD players and Nintendo DS systems it can be hard to keep kids occupied in the car on long trips. A parent needs to arm themselves accordingly or risk wanting to strap their children to the hood like a hood ornament!
We’ve taken many road trips with the boys over the years. It’s always me who has to hand out snacks, change movies and pick up trash they throw on the floor because Daddy is driving. Until tomorrow.
The boys and I are talking a road trip without Daddy. That’s right, I’m flying solo on this one. Yikes. But it’s not really that scarey, I mean I’ve taken the kids places many time by myself. Just never for a 9-10 hour trip like we are doing tomorrow!
While a little nervous about the drive-mostly just being the one who is navigating-I must say I am well prepared due to my years as a child riding on long trips as well as my many MANY trips with my kids. I know what works for us, and what has left me with a splitting migraine.
- Stop as little as possible. We stop for bathroom breaks, during which EVERYONE has to use the bathroom. Otherwise 10 minutes after pulling away from the gas station you will hear “Mooooooom! I have to peeeeeee!”
- We pack our own food. It’s cheaper, healthier, and you don’t waste travel time sitting in a restaurant, or trying to FIND one! If we need to stretch or the kids are getting antsy, we stop at a rest stop and eat picnic style and let the kids run around. But NOT if we are traveling in the dark! Only during the day and only rest stops in a well let and busy area.
- We don’t buy snacks when we stop for bathrooms and gas. We have snacks packed, we don’t need to waste money on junk at the gas station! Same goes for drinks. We have a cooler with drinks.
- I pack special items the kids don’t know about. I buy a couple movies out of the $5 bin at Walmart, I get a new coloring book and new markers, maybe a little stuffed animal. Last time we took a road trip I bought each kid a new Look and Find book and a travel size Etch-a-Sketch. When they started getting cranky, out came the surprise to pull them back into happy land. It’s never an expensive toy, just something little and fun that they can use in the car.
Here is how we packed:
In the cooler
- Sandwiches made ahead, but cheese separate so it doesn’t get mushy.
- Cottage cheese and canned fruit in Take and Toss bowls with lids, spoons taped to the top. (I know you can buy fruit cups, but they are too full and the juice spills. I scooped the fruit with a fork so I wouldn’t get much juice in the bowls. Less mess)
- String cheese individually packaged
In larger Tupperware containers (one for Mommy, on for the kids)
- Frozen Gogurts- they will stay cold for hours
- Granola bars
- Cracker packs
- snack size bags of peanuts and almonds
- pre-peeled Clementine oranges in snack bags
- Crystal Light packs for mixing in bottled water
- mini rice cakes for me
- corn tortillas with turkey and cheese for me
- a few packs of cookies and fruit snacks
It’s a lot harder for me to travel since I cannot eat gluten. Packing my own snacks and lunch food means I can eat. There aren’t many gluten free options available at gas stations or fast food joints! Packing our own snacks and lunches also means that I control what the kids have to choose from. Fruit, water and individual milks are way better than sugary drinks and chicken nuggets! A few little treats thrown in, but for the most part they will be eating healthy.
For entertainment I have array of coloring books, puzzle and maze books, dry erase books, cameras, Look and Find books, Etch-a-Sketch, Little C’s VTech tablet and Big A’s DS. They each have a little lap desk with pockets to hold their crayons and markers. We have the dual headset DVD players and plenty of movies, as well as the secret new movies and 4 secret Beanie Babies that a friend gave me. I think we are ready for our trip! Wish us happy travels!