When I started asking around about how to travel with kids, I would often get the response: “Don’t do it.” With my family living out of state, that wasn’t really an option. So we decided to figure out how we could do this without losing our minds.
We are not perfect at this, but we have traveled in our van for 10+ hour drives multiple times and have learned a lot. There are things that worked for our family that may not work for yours. But here is a list of what has worked best for us!
1. Bring a potty chair
After stopping at many public restrooms that either grossed me out or scared my child with the automatic flush, we decided to start brining a potty chair with us. It’s been the best travel move yet. When we make our stops, we just let my oldest (three years old) use the potty chair in the car. It is SO much easier. It saves a ton of time as well. We also change diapers in the car.
2. SNACKS, SNACKS, SNACKS!
I’m just going to put it out there – snacks are from the Lord. What would we do without snacks? It takes some time – but I try to prep as much as possible so we don’t have to stop or worry about those things while driving. I’ll chop veggies and fruit and make Ziploc baggies that make it easy to disperse. I would also recommend getting a kid’s travel tray. They are perfect for snack time and coloring.
3. Stop for gas, food and potty all in one stop
This is a big one. After making a stop to potty, a stop for food and then getting back on the road to see that we only had 1/4 tank of gas – we learned quickly to make an all-in-one stop if possible. You will most likely be stopping a lot anyway, but it’s best to stop for gas, get some grub and potty all at once. Then, if your kids happen to be doing awesome, you won’t have to stop and interrupt the awesomeness that is going on.
4. Bring new books/toys
If you’ve got a book lover, now is the time to pick up a few new ones (or even bring their favorite ones). Interactive books are great. Not the kind that make you wish the batteries would die, but the ones that will keep your littles busy for a while. We love Usborne’s Slide & See books. Lift-the-flap books are also a winner in our house. If you just google “busy books” you’ll see a lot of options there. This busy book is perfect for road trips.
5. Make the most of nap time
For reals. Treat nap time like a really good donut. You want to savor it, and minimize the interruptions. This means try your best not to stop! Depending on the age of your kids (mine are 1 and 3), if you stop while they are sleeping, someone will most likely wake up. If you see one of your kids getting sleepy, stop before they fall asleep! We have gotten 2-3 hour stretches in without a stop because nap time is also from the Lord. Have a mini-date with your significant other and enjoy the quiet.
6. Chick-fil-A and Cracker Barrel will be your best friend
Mostly Chick-fil-A. Man, do we love us some Christian chicken. It’s the best two-for-one. Kids get to play, and we get to eat manna from Heaven. What more could we ask for? When you’re traveling, look for Chick-fil-A’s along your route. When you’re getting ready for a stop, follow the signs that point you to it. If the weather is not cooperating, make sure that Chick-fil-A has an indoor play place. Last trip we stopped at one when it was sleeting and the play place was outdoors. We were bummed to say the least.
Cracker Barrel is a winner as well. Play with toys and eat breakfast? Yes, please.
7. Stop often
Remember that kids are not used to traveling in a car all day. Give them grace and stop often. We take things slow and try our best not to get frustrated if one or both of the kids starts losing it. This is when Chick-fil-A comes in handy. They need to run around and play and be kids. If they are awake, we generally stop every 2-3 hours. Even if you just stop at a rest area and find an area to let them play – it can go a long way.
8. Leave before the sun comes up
This will definitely be different for every family. For us, driving through the night was a bad idea. We had one child at the time, and she did not sleep well at all. Then there was never a time for us to catch up on sleep either. So we don’t go that route anymore. But I know of many families who love doing that and their kids sleep great.
We love leaving before the sun comes up. Even if the kids wake up when we leave, they will nap more on the drive. The drive just goes better when we leave 1-2 hours before sunrise. It also helps with taking our time, we aren’t so rushed because we left so early.
9. Think of it as a trip, not a vacation
We have to remind ourselves that because we have kids, this isn’t a vacation. We’re never really on vacation because of all the responsibilities that come along with having toddlers. Yes it will be fun and you’ll get to enjoy time away with your family. But if you think of it as a vacation you may be disappointed.
10. Make the little things exciting for them
“Woah! Is that a cow?” Anyone have a three year old? Cows can be really exciting for them. Include them in things. Try not to think of them as a bother. They are part of this experience just as much as we are! Point out things you see and ask them to spot a certain item, color or letter as you travel.
Thanks for reading! If you have any tips, please comment below! I would love to hear. And if you would like to be notified when new blogs are posted, subscribe below!