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It's time to hit the road and see the world! Where will you be heading? There are so many beautiful and awe inspiring spots to see in this world. Thank goodness we can hop in the car and see so many while traveling to another fun location. Worried about your sanity along the way? Read How to Keep Your Sanity While Traveling with Kids combined with these 5 tips and you're going to have a great time.
Whether you are traveling for 5 hours or 3 days, there are a few things that are must. They make life easier and road trips happy memories instead of whiney nuisances. Before you hit the open road, read on:
Keep The Claw in Your Vehicle
Hands down one of the best things you can do is pick up a claw toy for your vehicle, especially if you have smaller children. When someone drops something, you will actually be able to reach it without becoming a contortionist! You parents of small children know what I'm talking about- dropping the sippy cup is not a fun game. We've loved it so much it's now permanently in our car. Other reason to use the claw in the car: playing with a child that is ready to be out already, handing out snacks, and picking up that gross piece of trash.
Pack Snacks by Day Separately
You have probably already divided up food by days but take it step further and divide up all the snacks by day. What happens on road trips is kids get bored then start asking for snacks to fill the boredom. Skip the boredom eating and ration smartly for each day. Put enough snacks to get through your next destination in one bag. Put the other days of snacks in the trunk. The bags I packed above had more than enough. REMEMBER to pack snacks for Mom and Dad too! I always forget so last time I made a separate bag for us. It was a lifesaver! Whenever I put my snacks in the with kids, they always eat them. This time I was a happy driver and they had plenty for themselves too. We like to hand out snacks at a set time. They can eat them right away or save them for later but this way, they are more likely to eat because they are hungry, not because they are bored. Remember to pack healthy snacks! It is so easy to get your digestive system out of whack simply because you are traveling. Pack some dried fruit and fiber granola bars with the fun stuff. One of my favorites is one of those bagged salads. I can mix everything in the bag and eat it with a plastic fork.
Plan Screen Free Activities
Don't turn your children into zombies in the car. Mix your electronics up with interactive activities- you want everyone to be able to hop out of the car and enjoy your next destination. We are big fans of activity books- they can be interactive or great for some quieter car time (see our favorite activity books). I also like this Road Trip Adventure in a Box idea from The Dating Divas. Plan out the activities based on the distance you travel. Bringing out a new little thing every now and then really refreshes everyone. We've traveled for 3 days straight with only 1 movie a day and 1/2 hour playing time each on the iPad. The kids did amazing AND had a great time. Part of the fun is seeing all the sites along the way! However, if you don't have some sort of plan, you will regret it later. When you are ready for a movie remember you can rent a Redbox in one state and return in another.
Always Carry a Real Map and Cash
Having GPS on mobile devices is amazing and it comes in handy a lot but there are still so many places where you can't get any reception. You need to have a map! Map out where you are going before hand but always keep a map in the car just in case. Maybe you get lost, maybe there is major construction, maybe you decide that you want to head somewhere else first. If you don't have reception, you will still be able to get where you are going! It's also a great way to show your children how far you've come and how much further you have to travel. Give the map to the older kids and see if they can map out where you are going as well. Map skills are important!
Remember to keep some cash on hand too. Yes, there are places that only accept cash but even more than that, unexpected tolls crop up. There isn't always a person there to give you change either. Keep a pack of quarters in the car to save yourself a headache or worse, a ticket.
It's More than Ziplocs
You've probably heard of packing outfits in Ziplocs. It IS worth it. It keeps everything organized and packs tighter. It's more than Ziplocs though. It's how you pack it. Put all the swimsuits in one bag. Pack the colder weather outfits together. When you divide and conquer like this it's easy to pull one thing out and keep your whole trip organized. Organization while traveling equals sanity! Label every single bag the best way you can- name and occasion or day. This also makes packing easy because you can tell who doesn't have enough clothes and which type you need. When you go into a hotel, everyone only needs 2 ziplocs- their pjs and the next day's outfit. If there is a pool, you can grab the swim bag. Packing in Ziplocs also helps everyone dress appropriately. When you are going somewhere nicer, you don't have to fight with your child about what they are wearing- they are wearing what was in the Ziploc. It's a huge time saver. When your clothes are dirty, you can either put them back in the Ziploc but keep it open or leave it all out of the bag so it's easy to do laundry.
Bonus Tip: Let's Talk Hotels
There are some hotels that provide hors d'oeuvre and light dinners in addition to breakfast. When you've been traveling in a car all day, it is heaven. You don't have to worry about anything! We love Staybridge Suites for this reason plus they have great comfortable rooms for big families. Call ahead to check out the menu and what times they serve dinner to plan accordingly. Plus Staybridge Suites have kitchen areas so even you miss the hors d'oeuvres you can still cook something up and relax in your room. Yes, get reservations. Nothing is worse than pulling into a hotel exhausted only to find that they are fully booked. Plan ahead and book up some reward points and extra offers in addition to savings while you're at it. I book using Swagbucks to earn extra gift cards for Christmas.
Remember to use this simple trick to document all the memories made along the way too!
Your Turn- What one road trip trick would you add?