Traveling soon? We’ve got you covered. Our Travel Hacks Series covers planes, trains, and automobiles—as well as tips to make life with the littles more comfortable once you reach your destination.
Our daughter was 6 weeks old when she took her first flight. Living in Los Angeles while our entire extended family lived in Philadelphia guaranteed that our baby would be well traveled. During her first year of life, she logged over 35 flights. That is more than both of my parents have ever traveled by air in their entire lives.
Since moving to Nashville, we’ve done most of our traveling by car. Philly is just a short (haha) 12 hours by car. With kids, we say its more of a 14 hour trip. Sometimes making the trek with 2 kids under 4 can be trying, but the tips below have made traveling a little easier for us.
When we are on the road it seems like all the kids do is ask for food. While they would gladly eat junk the entire trip, a complete sugar overload does not a good car trip make.
- Pack sandwiches ahead of time. We tend to make 2 sammies for each person for our 12-14 hour trip. Leave the condiments off and add when you are ready to eat to avoid the soggy sandwich.
- Snacks, snacks, and more snacks! The less mess the better when it comes to snacking in the car—especially when you are stuck in a packed car for 12+ hours. Here are our favorite snacks to bring on the road:
- Applesauce or any pureed food pouches like these
- String cheese
- Fruit snacks
- Cut up fruit packed in individual baggies (grapes, sliced apples, cubed watermelon, etc)
- Popcorn (again packed in individual baggies to help with the mess of one huge bag spilling everywhere—this tip comes from experience)
- Trail mix (We like to make this together before we leave using one of our favorite recipes—so easy!)
- Special treats such as chocolate, cookies, and candy (I won’t lie…I tend to use these tasty bits as a bargaining tool to ward off arguments or reward them for good behavior.)
- Also, be sure to pack lots of water and drinks. If you had to buy drinks on every stop you made, it would really add up, and who wouldn’t want to put that extra money towards your destination or vacation? Try putting one case of bottled water in the back of the car and replenish the cooler when space allows.
- Stickers (No matter how many stickers our kids have, they will still play with them for hours.)
- Coloring books and crayons
- Cars for our toddler (On our last trip, I bought 2 cookie sheets with us so they would have a flat surface for coloring; they also doubled as a great track for the cars.)
- Pipe cleaners (I am still amazed at how busy these keep the kiddos!)
- New toys from the dollar store (I wrap a few new toys up and every few hours they get to unwrap another one.)
- Playing games like “I Spy” and “Count the Cars”
- Books on CD
- iPad or DVD player (This is probably the kids’ favorite travel perk. They love having the iPad to watch movies. I download 1 new movie or show for each of them and find that, especially at night, the iPad is great to have along.)
- Be sure to pack an extra set of clothes for everyone and keep them in a small bag that is easily accessible.
- Pillows and blankets for everyone. Everyone is more comfortable with a pillow and blanket.
- Putting toothbrushes and toothpaste in an easily accessible place can go a long way in making you feel refreshed on a long drive.
- Be sure to pack small trash bags. For me, there is nothing worse than all the trash that accumulates on a road trip. Every time we stop, I try to do a quick clean out just to preserve some sanity!
- Have cash on hand. We are from Philadelphia and have always been used to toll roads, but when we moved to Nashville, we almost forgot they existed. Our first road trip back north, we ended up having to mail money after we got to our destination or be fined for skipping the toll. Keep some small bills in the car to avoid this!
- If you have small kids, bringing a small training potty isn’t the worst idea. Sometimes the need to potty comes on rather quickly, and you may not be close to a rest stop. The potty seat carried in the car has saved us on multiple occasions.
- Bring a ball or jump rope for rest stops. Stopping for even 5 minutes to run/stretch/play can definitely help in getting out some of that pent up energy.
While traveling with kids can be hard at times, remember that you are making memories that will last a lifetime. Try to relax and enjoy the ride!
What are your essential travel tips for long road trips with kids?