Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Top 18 Travel Tips for Driving with Kids

I recently had a friend post on Facebook looking for advice on driving across country with their three kids when they move later this year. I think I could have written a book! Two years ago we traveled from OK to OR and back again in 10 days and the kids were 10,7,4 and 3. Oh my word, it was fun and we survived! So I compiled a list just for you with my travel tips. They don't involve wrapping up small gifts for each hour you are in the car (this mama doesn't have time for that, but I am totally impressed if you do) and I don't bribe for good behavior, you should be good because it's the right thing to do. Kids today are lucky they have all these fun devices to play on!


  • DVD's. Okay this one is a no brainer right? If you don't have one, ask your friends or family if they have one you could borrow, barter or rent. Did you know that you don't have to pack any of your own DVD's? We used Redbox the whole time! You can download their mobile app and plan your gas/food/breaks for places that have them. Wal-Mart's usually do and while I am not a Wal-Mart shopper on the norm, it will suffice when we are traveling!
  • A sturdy kid potty. The kind that you use to potty train with. This one is similar to the one I have, but they don't make mine anymore (what? why???). The point is for it to be small and compact without a back, so you can put it in a re-usable shopping bag with wipes, toilet paper, clorox wipes and extra plastic shopping bags. If it doesn't have a back then you can use it too. Middle of nowhere, you better believe I used it! Some of the best stops were in the middle of nowhere doing business in the woods. 
  • Extra clothes in zip lock bags for when there is an accident. If its pee or vomit, you don't want that leaking out of a bag you tie up. 
  • A positive attitude and a sense of adventure. If you are nervous, they will see right through you. 
  • Snacks that your kids normally eat. Some people say to bring lots of candy or treats. The last thing I want in the car is my kid on a sugar high who then gets a tummy ache. No thanks!
  • Markers if its summer time. Crayons if its winter. 
  • I let them pick new coloring/activities themselves. Sometimes when I pick something for them they aren't as into it as I thought they would be. 
  • Are we there yet? Give them the schedule. Very important for my oldest to know where we are going and when we would get there. You can even download a map app for them to look at or print off your own "map" coloring pages.
  • Plan rest stops for parks if the weather is nice or Chick-Fil-A for an inside day. A lot of times its more about moving around then it is about eating for the kids. We stopped once outside of Colorado and the sky was so big and blue and beautiful I could have stayed right there forever. Those are the times when memories are made. 
  • Wear comfortable clothes (ones that would be okay to sleep in) and shoes that are easy to get on and off. Regan was a big fan of wearing her pajamas all day. Worked for me. She was happy and it really felt like a vacation I think for her. 
  • Don't try to fit too many miles into one day. I know that I could travel with just me and the hubs and crank out a ton of miles and be fine...the kids just get cranky, which is no fun for anyone.
  • Try and book hotels with pools. Again, this is just so they have a place to move around. It's often hard to sleep after you've been in the car all day. This really wears them out so they (and you) can get some solid sleep. 
  • Eat dinner in your hotel if you are just beat and not up for social graces. We found a local pizza shop in a small town in Idaho and had a party in our room one late night. It was great pizza, we didn't care if they ate in bed and everyone was happy. 
  • Instead of buying more stuff for them to do in the car you can let them purchase a new game. movie or app for their tablet. They only get paid apps when they get a gift card or something in our house. Let them know ahead of time what their app purchase amount limit is. 
  • Bring an inflatable air mattress for the hotel if you have a bunch of kids. I don't think we have ever checked in as 2 adults and 4 kids. Mainly because they will tell us that we need two rooms. I don't think so! Especially when we are just passing through. A couple of good quality air mattresses that fill up on their own (you just plug them in) really serve us well. The kids already have extra blankets and pillows so we just bring a couple up with us. It also helps that the kids can have their own space. Sometimes you don't get good sleep when you share.
  • If they have a breakfast buffet in the morning and its been a late night, usually the hubs and our oldest child, will go down and load up as much as they can, bring it up and then go back and do it again. That way we don't miss breakfast because we are still getting kids (or myself) ready and you can have breakfast in bed! Pack up and eat at the same time. No rushing and no forgetting stuff. 
  • Keep electronics in one spot and have a reusable checklist for each stop. You could even have an electronics bag that houses all electronics upon pack up. We totally left a tablet at a non-Disney hotel in Anaheim and of course cleaning never found it. At the point we realized it was left, we wouldn't have made it home on time if we had doubled back. 
  • A small container for the laundromat with essentials. Use an empty drink mix container to put dryer sheets, detergent pods and quarters in. If you need to use the laundry at the hotel or because someone barfed all over their car seat cover you will be totally prepared to stop, strip and wash. You can also pack lighter and/or arrive home with clean clothes by doing laundry as you go! We stayed in a hotel off of Hwy 1 and grabbed a six pack from a convenience store and hit the laundry mat. Best beers and we were good to go with clean clothes for the rest of the trip.

The boys at the potty break spot.
Can you survive? You betcha. And if all those don't work, take turns driving and sitting in the passenger seat with headphones in. And remember that its not just about the destination, but the journey as well.

On her way to the potty break spot in her pajamas and shoes. It was a breathtaking potty break!