How to Road Trip with Kids

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My husband and I are road trip warriors. We met in Myrtle Beach circa 2005 while his family lived in Minneapolis, and mine lived in Indiana. We both had zero family in Myrtle Beach when we met. Fast-forward 15 years (!!), and we now live in Charleston with our two boys, Alan (age 7) and Jack (age 5). Our families still live in Minneapolis, Indiana, and are now expanded to a few other states as well. With no family in town, our vacations pretty much consist of road tripping “home” with two kids in tow.

Flying with kids is expensive. So we hit the road!

Here are a few tips for keeping everyone sane on road trips with kids:

  1. Pack a backpack for each child with all of their favorite things. And pack one for yourself, too. I usually pack a favorite stuffed animal (can be doubled up as a pillow) and a blanket per kid. They get to pick out 1-2 toys to bring, and then we also include colored pencils, paper, coloring books, and age-appropriate books to read. In my own bag, I pack my noise-canceling headphones, a current Charleston magazine, and a couple of books. I usually also have my laptop along so that I can connect to my wireless hotspot and get some work done. Might as well capitalize on time while sitting idle for hours on end! #entrepreneurlife
  2. Bring hurricane snacks. Yes, you read that right. You know — all those snacks you eat while we are busy analyzing spaghetti models every September? Pack those. All of them. If you try to eat “clean” as I do, here is an excuse to keep life balanced with M&Ms, Cheez-Its, peanut butter pretzels, Kettle jalapeño chips . . . the works. You can find all the classics at Target or your local Harris Teeter. Or you can get all of the knock-offs at Whole Foods like Cauliflower Crackers or Unreal Milk Chocolate Gems that lack the artificial flavor and chemical-based colors.
  3. Decide and agree upon the driving schedule in advance. To get through a long road trip and come out alive on the other end, you and your partner need to be a united front. It’s you against the kids. If you guys aren’t getting along, the whole thing falls apart. In our house, I typically pack EVERYTHING whether it’s two days before or the night before (usually the night before) our trip. While I’m packing, he gets to relax and/or sleep. My husband starts out driving and often will drive the whole distance because he’s a saint. I don’t do well with night driving or rainy driving. If I am going to drive, we need to make sure that I drive early on and while the weather conditions are favorable. Your plan will likely look entirely different from ours, but any which way you slice it, come to an agreement that works for you both.
  4. Leave early. Like before the sun early, if you have a long travel time ahead of you. By leaving early, chances are you’ll beat any rush hour or weekend traffic. The kids will still be groggy and might even sleep for the first hour or two (#winning). I personally have found that it’s easier to wake up sleepy and shake it off with coffee than it is to wake up slow, leave late, and then fight off tiredness when you want to squeeze in that last bit of drive time at the end of the day.
  5. Engage the kids with games! Chances are you’ve heard “are we there yet” or “how long until we get there” about 15 times before hitting Columbia, SC. You know, the classics:
    • “I spy with my little eye…”
    • The hot & cold game
    • 20 questions
    • Hangman
    • Tic-Tac-Toe

6. Create music playlists in advance of your road trip. Include music from the kids’ favorite movies and shows — they will be so excited when they recognize the songs. Not to mention, they’ll be distracted long enough to give you a break from hearing, “Are we there yet?”

7. When all else gets old — hand over the iPhones/iPad for their favorite video games and shows on Netflix. Save this for last though. It keeps the kiddos looking forward to something they’ll enjoy, and keeps their minds off of how long they’ve been in the car. By the time you hand over your devices, peace and quiet will be right on time!

All of the above helps our family when we travel from Charleston to Minneapolis (with an overnight pit-stop in Indiana). And while these things help, we still need all the tips we can get!

What’s the longest you’ve traveled in the car with kids? Sharing is caring — drop your tips in the comments below, the more the merrier!

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LeeAnn is the owner and photographer behind Chucktown Art, a local business offering photography, graphic design, and social media consulting. She is a strong supporter of lifelong continuing education for the constant development and overall improvement of any craft. LeeAnn created Chucktown Art in 2017, with a desire to share beauty in nature and in experiences that may not otherwise be seen. LeeAnn moved to vacationland (a.k.a. Charleston) with her family on somewhat of a whim after braving Minnesota winters for 10 years. She is the mom of two small boys, two Dalmatians, and a cat!