For many families, summertime means backroads travel and weekend getaways with kids. Road trips are fun, and great for making memories, but they can also be a little stressful. Long road trips with toddlers often include a meltdown or two, and sadly a sibling spat may me inevitable. Luckily, with planning and patience, you can master the art of the road trip and settle in for some great family fun. Read on for our expert tips on how to make this your best family road trip yet.
Tip 1: Map it Out
Going someplace new? Great! Planning on getting there with no wrong turns, traffic jams, or unintended stops? Think again. Though this tip seems like a no-brainer, it’s one of the most important ones we have to offer.
Before you leave, use your computer to create a driving route planner by researching two or three ways to get from point A to point B. Take note of pubic bathrooms, quick-bite restaurants and diners, and a couple rest stops or grassy pull-over areas for leg stretching. Save these routes and points of interest into your GPS or smartphone for easy access on the road. It may seem like extra work, but you’ll be glad to know where that clean rest stop is when your toddler starts to melt down.
Tip 2: Gear Up
Having the right gear for your road trip is essential, but if you could only pack one thing, it would have to be a super-small stroller. If your family is anything like mine, your trunk will be stuffed to the gills, and you’re not going to have space for a full-size stroller. We’re obsessed with our Clutch travel stroller. When folded, it’s smaller than a paper grocery bag, and can be used for kids up to 50 pounds. It comes with a bag for easy storage too!
Consider investing in an organizer to keep things neat and tidy in the back seat. We like this Deluxe Backseat Car Organizer because it has a special window for tablets. Your kids will be able to watch videos hands-free! To reduce glare (and hopefully inspire a nap!) stick a couple of these sunshades on backseat windows. Plus, if you’re driving in the summer, it’ll help keep little ones cooler and reduce the risk for a sun burn.
The last piece of essential gear for long road trips with toddlers is a comfortable pillow for the car. Ideally, your littles will sleep for a chunk of the trip, and one of those U-shaped travel pillows will help them do so comfortably. The last thing you need is a cranky toddler with a sore neck!
Tip 3: Pack the Car Right
You’ve probably heard a million tricks about the best way to pack the car for your family vacation road trip. Though, there isn’t just one right way. Trunks are shaped differently, trips are different lengths, and some families pack more than others.
However, there are a couple fool-proof tips to help you make the most out of you space. Always pack the most important things last so they’re the first things to come out of the trunks. And a good rule of thumb is to pack like you won’t have access to the trunk until you arrive at your final destination, so anything important should be within arm’s reach during the ride. It’s also not a bad idea to keep a change of clothes handy for the littlest passengers, too.
It’s also a good idea to pack the car the night before you leave for two reasons. One: it reduces the morning-of craziness so all you have to do is wrangle the kids into the car and go. And two: it gives you a chance to remember anything you may have forgotten to pack the first time around. There’s no feeling worse than getting to your destination, and realizing you left the paperwork for your rental house on the kitchen counter.
Tip 4: Games, Games, Games
An entertained kid is a happy kid, and a happy kid won’t have a meltdown or pick a fight with their siblings. Keep kids busy with toys, books, games, and more screen time than usual. Lots of moms swear by packing a bag with new activity books and handheld games. This will hold their attention longer since they’re playing with something new. We’d just recommend staying away from stickers, markers, slime, or anything that could possibly damage the inside of your car. The dollar store is a great resource for this!
Besides activities, pack more snacks than you ever think you’re going to need. Bring favorites and reward good behavior with a special treat. If you’re traveling during a mealtime, consider stopping somewhere rather than packing sandwiches for the car. It’ll give everyone a chance to spread out for a bit and hopefully reduce those pesky back seat crumbs!