Road Trips and Long Drives with Kids? Check these hacks!

Posted Friday, May 06, 2022

Road trips can be adventurous, marvelous, and exciting - except when you have kids. 

Look, we’re all about families here at Investment Auto Group, but let’s just be honest - when you take children on road trips, especially young children, it can be overwhelming and downright exhausting. That’s just the plain facts. It can be a miserable time, from children bugging each other to constant potty breaks. We have children ourselves, and we KNOW it’s difficult to keep them occupied and calm. If there is one thing we know as parents, you need to be prepared. After all, the best defense is the best offense. Sports parents, raise your hands high if you know what we’re talking about. 

Children thrive on structure and organization, and when you’re organized, it’ll help you be prepared for the hours upon hours of driving. As parents, it’s our responsibility to cover every possible thing for a trip. 

So, to help you get through a road trip (and a long one), here are some great hacks that worked for us.

 

Communicate before the trip - The thing about children is they want to know what’s going on. And, you must clarify your plans and expectations with the rules. An excellent way to explain the road trip to your children is by drawing it out. Work on a minimal coloring project with them by drawing a fun map that details where your trip starts and ends, pinpointing the stops you’re planning to make. That way, they can take it on the road trip. If you're not sure about that, you can print a map and mark the towns, sights, rest stops, and cities you’ll be stopping at and keep it in the car for everyone to look over. For older kids, simply talking it over, showing them Google Maps, and explaining the trip can be reassuring. This way, the kids feel like they’re involved. 

Another great thing is to set rules for them. Explain what will happen if they act out and the consequences of fighting with a sibling or screaming in enclosed spaces. For example, at an amusement park, be sure to let little ones know not to run off from your family, or when you’re in a restaurant, let them know to be respectful. 

 

Road Trip Bags & Kits - Every vehicle should have a roadside emergency kit. So we believe you should put together road trip bags and kits, except for your children and road trip essentials. Create kits for children, which will come in handy when their tablets need to be charged. You can also pack either a bag or small storage box full of essentials that you’ll need on the road, like:

• Medicine (for adults and children), Clorox wipes, hand sanitizers, a first aid kit, trash bags, toilet tissue, facial tissue, sunscreen, bug spray, disinfectant spray, batteries, and charging cords.

For children, pack them a small goody bag with things to do like, coloring books, crayons, puzzles, card games, or books that you can give them at the start of the trip. You can also reward them with daily goody bag incentives if they behave that day. If you’re unsure about what to add to the goody bags, check out this article by It’s Always Autumn for a list of fun little things to add to a road trip goody bag. 

 

Using a seat organizer - When you’re on a road trip, you must be conscious of space. You’ll already have luggage, backpacks, snacks, drinks, pillows, blankets, and souvenirs, so your best bet is to use seat organizers. Attach them to the seat in front and add all their items, like tablets, water bottles, snacks, coloring books, and chargers. 

 

You can never go wrong with electronics - Thank goodness we live in the age of technology. Tablets, portable gaming devices (GameBoy, anyone?), and phones are all lifesavers on road trips - we can’t stress this enough! Thanks to Netflix and Disney+, you can download movies and tv shows! At least for a few hours, your little ones will be set - just hand them a spare phone or tablet. If there is more than one child, then let them enjoy a show together, but be sure to pick the show yourself, or else they might argue over what show to watch. 

If they’re a little older (7-10 years old), then gaming devices like the Nintendo Switch Lite are great to have on hand. They can play offline games like Minecraft or MarioKart without relying on Wi-Fi. 

 

Downloading Apps - Whether they’re educational or for entertainment, apps are an effective way to keep children occupied. When they’re interacting with an app, it takes their attention away from asking constant questions like “Are we there yet?” and the long drive. Their minds are thinking about something else while also working on a game or coloring. Not sure what apps to download? Check out our blog, “Top Road Trip Apps to Use,” where we added some apps that were highly rated and tested.

 

Snacks & Drinks - It’s not realistic to purchase snacks at every rest stop or gas station, so pack them ahead of time. Find a durable bag, like a large reusable shopping bag or an insulated zipper bag. Fill it with your children’s favorite snacks and drinks. We suggest not using ice if you have something cold because that can get real messy fast. We recommend you use reusable freezer packs instead. Store them in the freezers at your hotels or lodging for the night. 

 

Games & talking can go a long way - The point of a family trip is to connect, and playing a game is an excellent way to do that. Parents and children can play games like “I Spy” and Trivia games, like the Trivia Crack app, naming tv show characters, or conversation starter games. You can also tell either made-up or scary stories if they’re old enough. These are great ways to make conversation and connection with your little ones. Everyone will have fun laughing their heads off. 

 

Music & Audiobooks - If little ones aren’t into coloring or watching a show, another great thing you can do as a family is to listen to music. We don’t talk about “Bruno” in this house - parents, we’re sure you know what we mean. Download a movie soundtrack they’re familiar with or nursery rhymes. You can also download their favorite audiobooks or check a few out from your local library. 

 

Comfort Items - Pillows and blankets are great, but it can take up a lot of room when you’re in a small, enclosed space. We suggest swapping those large blankets out with small throw blankets, like baby blankets. And instead of pillows, have your children use a seat belt pillow or a neck pillow. Purchase them in different colors or designs to avoid getting mixed up. Trust us, this saves space and prevents everyone from fighting over which one is theirs. 

We also know children love their stuffed animals, so if they need to bring one, make sure it’s small but one that brings them comfort. They’ll be traveling to places they’re not used to, and having a stuffed animal will help ease their worries. 

 

We hope some of these hacks are helpful for your next road trip. With summer just around the corner, you might have a vacation planned, so remember that it’s always best to prepare ahead of time.