Surviving A Long Car Trip With Kids
This year for spring break we decided to make the long drive from Chicago to Florida. Last year we went to Disney World and flew, but I just bought a brand new Honda Pilot and we enjoy road trips so we figured we should use my new big car and drive. My kids are 5, 7 and 9 so they are able to stay occupied in the car for long periods of time. And we make frequent 6-7 hour drives to visit family, so they are used to the road trips. When my 5-year-old found out we were driving, she said, "Seriously?! The whole way?!" And then she started to cry. Haha! Little did she know I had big plans for making the trip a fun one. And I was sure that after this road trip and all my surprises, they will be begging to drive to Florida instead of flying :)
On a side note, when I bought my car I bought these seat covers to go with it-best decision ever! I didn't worry about kids eating or making a mess in the car because I can just take them off and wash them and it doesn't ruin the leather underneath. One day I'll let my kids actually sit on the leather seats haha!
We were traveling through several states so I had the idea of giving them a gift bag for each state we went through. I had to try and figure out some predetermined time so that every hour they weren't asking "Is it time yet?!" So the state thing worked out. They could ask how many miles until the next state and we could tell them what time we would be entering in the state. Then they kept their eyes out for the mile markers and state signs when we were getting close.
In addition to my "state" gift bags, I made a few "day" gift bags. We surprised our kids by taking them to Legoland and on a pirate cruise so I wanted to make bags for them to be able to guess what the next day included.
I found a lot of my goodies on Amazon. They included travel games for kids, waterproof cameras, there were a few magnetic games, word search and trivia games, a scavenger hunt card game and a national geographic travel book. My kids loved that book especially and were telling me random geography facts the whole way. I also included some candy-to cut down on them begging for treats at the gas station. And I added some movies. So that they could play on their tablets, watch movies, or play with the travel games. Below are some of the goodies before I packed them up.
My favorite thing in the gift bags were my little state trivia note cards. I found these state facts HERE. When we entered each state, before opening the bag we read over the trivia and talked about the interesting things about that state. I was amazed how much they remembered. And I loved it when they saw a state flag and recognized it and when they noticed things that they learned from the note cards.
On the trip back we didn't do specific gift bags for each state. I quizzed them on the trivia. We also quizzed each other on things from our trip. Like the room number of our first hotel, etc. It was a fun way to remember the different parts of our trip. Overall, I think we would totally do this drive again.
T I P S F O R S U R V I V I N G A L O N G C A R T R I P W I T H K I D S
1. Pack breakfast and/or lunch when possible. This cut down on our stops and the kids never complained about being hungry because they had their little lunches.
2. When you do stop, make it fun. We made everyone go to the bathroom at each stop to cut down on frequent stops. We also did a little yoga, a short jog or played tag for a few minutes.
3. Prepare for car sickness. Luckily we didn't have that problem this trip but I always keep, children's tylenol, children's chewable dramamine, and gallon sized ziplock bags-in case of a throw up incident :(
4. Make surprises or gift bags for the trip. It gives the kids something to keep them busy and their mind off of the monotony of the drive. And if you would buy it anyway-just wrap it up, that makes it way more fun. For example, the kids knew they were getting wands at Harry Potter World, and I was going to buy sand toys for our days a the beach anyway, but it made it exciting when they saw it in a gift bag.
5. Have screen time breaks. My kids would love to spend hours on their tablets or watching movies. So we had coloring and activity books for them to break up the screen time.
6. Set screen time limits just like you would at home. We left pretty early some mornings, so we told them they had to stay quiet and not have screens until 7:30am. That way others who were sleeping (ME ahem..) wouldn't be bothered.
7. Break up the trip with hotel stops. When possible, give yourself a break and stay at a hotel. Our drive was about 18 hours so we broke it up to two days on the way down and two short driving days and one long drive day on the way back. We made sure to stop at our hotel before dinner so that we could relax and eat dinner some place. This helped to keep everyone sane and not too overworked.