We love car trips. We’ve been driving cross country with the kids for several years now, and we’ve got it down to a fine science now. As, everyone is getting ready to travel with their kids, I wanted to share what we’ve learned so far, with some helpful hints I’ve gathered from some other great bloggers:
Tips for Car Trips: Packing
1. Create a packing list. I used to make fun of these, but as we’ve added more family members and more things to remember it’s become necessary. I have a template that divides up our clothes between two suitcases. On the list is what I plan for suitcase 1 and suitcase 2.
2. Generally speaking when you’re on a trip you can wear the same shirt a couple of times. It’s not like you’re doing all that much while you sit in the car, it’s not really dirty. So, plan fewer shirts than days you’re gone.
3. Always bring extra underwear and socks. I don’t know how it is, but there seems to be a monster that hides socks and underwear. I’d rather have a few extras and not need them then wake up one morning and not have clean underwear.
4. For early elementary on down, DON’T let them pack their clothes without checking them. They WILL pack 5 pairs of socks, no underwear, and 1 shirt. Then look confused when you repack it.
4b. Speaking of younger kids to prepare them for travel do some travel pretend play to prepare for the trip like they did at Connecting Family and Seoul.
5. Let each kid pack a small backpack with some favorite toys and books. You will need to go through and double check what is packed. Princess has been known to pack toys that will not work for travel.
6. Mama Smiles has a great post on packing for the trip and while on the trip. I especially liked the tip of always bringing hats and mittens with the weather turning colder.
7. Mama Smiles also has a great tip of bringing owie dolls and still more ideas. She’s got lots of experience traveling!
Tips for Car Trips: entertainment in the car
8. Bring lots of books on CD from This Simple Home. My kids currently are loving the American Girl Doll CD sets, and Harry Potter.
9. We always pack sets and sets of Adventures in Odyssey CDs.
12. Play the license plate game again from Edventures with Kids.
14. Plan to stop every couple of hours to let the kids get the wiggles out, and added benefit it helps wake you up too.
15. Stop at the Welcome Center as you cross state lines. I mentioned my love of Welcome Centers in a post at Homeschool Village, but seriously go in every one you can. You will almost always get great advice!
16. Have a cooler in the car filled with non-messy snack food that can also double as lunch. This has two bonuses: you save money by eating from what you got at a store, and you save time allowing you to……
17. Stop at random fun places you see. Like the Billy the Kid museum that you saw a billboard for. Or that children’s museum in the town you’re driving through. Some of our best finds have been the result of this.
18. I bring lots of coloring books and crayons or colored pencils. I like those because if you accidentally leave those in the car you’re not likely to get a mess (even living in Texas we’ve never melted a crayon), but leave an open marker in your car and suddenly your car is blue all over.
19. Color Wonder coloring books are fabulous for toddlers and early pre-schoolers. We brought insanely large numbers of those when my kids were young. They’re fabulous for the still working on hitting the paper set.
20. Stickers, bring lots of sticker books. Target has some nice cheap stickers books in their dollar aisle. GET THEM.
Tips for car trips: the hotels
21. Pick a hotel with an indoor pool. At the end of the day you’ll want a chance to stretch your muscles, and an indoor pool is a great chance.
22. Pick a hotel with breakfast. For our family having breakfast at the hotel can often save us $20-30. That’s $200-300 savings for a 10 day trip.
23. Bring a sensory bin with you into the hotel like Connecting Family and Soul did. I’ll admit I’m not brave enough to do this.
24. Have some new toys to bring with you that your kids haven’t seen before or haven’t seen for a while. Playmobil sets have worked really well for us because all of my kids can play with them together.
25. Have a small toy the kids can open at the end of the day if they’ve been good. Last trip I picked up a Lego set with insanely large numbers of people in it and gave them pieces from it over several days. It was a HUGE hit!
26. If you have 3 or more kids consider getting a suite. Or a room with a couch that becomes a bed. It makes sleeping so much more comfortable.
27. If you’re adventurous go to campgrounds. One year my Mom traveled cross country with my brother and I and we camped every night. It was a blast!
Most important tip:
Do what works for your family and HAVE FUN! What would you share?