When we are going somewhere with the kids that is within driving distance I prefer we have a road trip. My husband, who is a frequent flyer, often feels it would be easier to fly.
However after multiple road trips I think he is starting to understand the appeal.
Look here’s the deal, there is no way to travel with kids that is completely ideal. But there are helpful tips to make the trip easier.
We have taken two road trips in the last year. One was to Northern California which can be between 6 and 8 hours, and one to Arizona which was about 5 hours. Both went pretty well and we made memories along the way.
Here is my road trip advice for you:
#1 – Think of the drive as part of the trip, an experience, not just a means to get there.
This will help you be more comfortable with the not-so-easy parts.
#2 – Try not to have a deadline for arrival.
If you have done the drive before without kids it will most definitely take longer with kids. Need for stops are not always predictable (see Poopmageddon In The Desert: The Sequel) so trying to arrive to your destination at a certain time will for sure make the trip less relaxing.
#3 – Plan ahead.
Make lists, check what you packed, and how you packed it. For example: if your travel potty is buried under 5o pounds of suitcase filler you might make Poopmageddon a trilogy! Have more snacks than you need. Have more stuffed animals, toys, and games than you need. Have more ideas of places you can stop than you will need. Have more patience than you will need (ok that last one may be wishful thinking).
#4 – Guilt-free electronics!
We try and sing songs and play games (kid-friendly books on tape are great too). But sometimes you gotta put a movie on the iPad for everyone’s sanity. No judgement no shame. #sorrynotsorry
#5 – Look for things to see or do that you wouldn’t experience if you flew.
It can be as simple and quick as a funny-looking car or sheep in a pasture along the road. Or it can be taking a detour to Monterey Bay Aquarium to find Dory on your way home from San Francisco (true story).
#6 – If you have kids under 7 (you would think I would say 4 but I’m saying 7, deal with it) my road trip advice is to have a travel potty seat.
It has bags you can attach and dispose of, and it has saved us in the middle of the desert.
#7 – I try to schedule leaving around nap times or restful times of day even if that isn’t the greatest choice traffic-wise.
Sleeping is a great way to kill some time on a road trip and to give the adults some quiet time. For example, with the NoCal trip we were hoping to have some time with family the day we got there so we decided to load the car, be ready to leave at the crack of dawn, and then wake the kids up. We made it a fun pajama party in the car when they were awake-ish and quietly resting for the first hour of the trip. Then when we got out of the major city we stopped for donuts.
We got to the outlets at the grapevine as they were opening and let the kids run and get their sillys out. We ate lunches we packed in the car. They napped a little in the afternoon and we got to our destination late morning.
For Arizona we were just going to the hotel and seeing family the next day so we left in the afternoon at nap time, which took up the first chunk of the drive. This was helpful as it was trafficky and pouring rain! We were able to stop once for me to rush into the bathroom with one kid while my husband got us dinner in the drive thru that we ate in the car. That trip we didn’t make as many “road trip memories” on the way there but we made great time!
My final piece of road trip advice:
When I was in 5th grade we took a trip up California all the way to Truckee to meet my baby cousin. It was spring break and we made a ton of stops and had different adventures. Now that I am an adult I can look back and appreciate how much hard work and planning must of gone into that trip.
As a kid it seemed easy.
I don’t remember any fighting or stress but I do remember many of the stops/adventures and holding that baby for the first time with vivid, fond memories. It was a very different vacation than any we took as a family but I think it was my favorite.
When the road trip gets a little frustrating I look at my husband squeeze his hand and remind him we are making memories…and saving money!
Breathe and enjoy the ride!!