Road Trip Tips for Summer (or anytime of the year)

cows crossing road in sunset

Summer means road trips and camping–or maybe it means you want to take a road trip or go camping, but something is keeping you back.

Namely your kids.

Or rather, namely your chief fear of taking children along for the ride and adventure…which can be a scary proposition indeed.

But it doesn’t have to be!

My little ones, ages five, six, and seven, have gone on road trips and camping with us since I was pregnant with them.   I’ll be the first to admit that caring for a child while inside of me is a lot easier and less stressful than taking care of it after I’ve given birth to it, but with a few quick pointers I think anyone can have a fun and enjoyable time vacationing with small children.

Pee stops, whining, and “are we there yets” included.

You think I’m kidding right?

Well you’re wrong.

Maybe.

Let’s begin with road trips.

The  most important thing to remember while driving for any type of long distance (one-and-a-half hours is a long distance for a child) is comfort. If you can keep your child’s relative comfort in check, it will go a long way for both you and your child. While you can’t totally eliminate whining, pee stops, and annoying questions, you can drastically cut down on the number of occurrences by following these simple measures:

  • Plan accordingly–know where rest stops, scenic overlooks, and Walmarts are. Even if you hate Walmart. Why Walmart? Because Walmart is everywhere and has everything.
  • Keep the sun out of your child’s face.
  • Stock up on formula, water, and clean bottles/nipples if  you are traveling with  a baby.
  • If breastfeeding, well dang you’re just lucky. Breast pads and nipple cream?
  • If the child is eating semi-solid to solid food, bring extra baby food jars or dinners with you. My favorites were the kinds that needed no refrigeration or preparation that I could use in a jam.
  • STOP to eat or feed a child. Rest stops and scenic overlooks are great opportunities for you and your children to get out and stretch your legs and/or clean up.
  • Bring extra diapers and wipes–in fact more than you think you need–and change that kid’s diaper. Again, rest stops and scenic overlooks are great places to do this (just don’t spoil the view).
  • For each day stuck in a vehicle, bring two extra pairs of clean clothes and underwear for ages 2 and under and one extra pair over the age of two. Dress your kid in the ugliest outfit first, and arrive in nicest if visiting family or friends. Why? Because spills, spitups and blowouts happen.
  • Bring a comfort item from home–this could mean a favorite blankie, a doll, a pacifier, or in my youngest’s case a string to put in his nose.
  • Pillow for older kids to rest their sleepy heads on.
  • Blanket to keep them warm (the warmer they are the sleepier they are).

The  second most  important thing to remember for road trips is distraction. That’s right, keep that kid occupied and you’ll be less likely to pull your hair out at the end of the day:

  • DVD players anyone?
  • Favorite toys (keep to three maximum for older children). Suggestions: Cars, dolls, rattlers, stuffed animals, balls, action heroes, play thing that straps to a seat for infants, and more.
  • Simple games like goldfish, battleship, connect the dots, checkers, chess,   etc. Keep these games in a designated box or tote.
  • Silent distractions: Books, crosswords, puzzles, etch-a-sketch, coloring book with nine crayons, doodling pad. Keep these distractions in the same box with the toys.
  • Road games like ABC, license plates, and I Spy, cost nothing.
  • Snacks.
  • Headphone and a music playing device.

I highly recommend not traveling for more than eight hours in one single day if your trip is going to take longer than fourteen hours. This means that if it typically takes you all morning, afternoon, and evening to get to grandma’s house, then start traveling at 8 am the day before and stop for the day at 4 pm. Do this twice unless camping or hotels are out of the question. Yes, this means that your usual one day trip now takes two days, but I promise you that it will be worth it in the end. I live in the Dallas area and it takes me 24 hours of straight driving to visit my husband’s family who live in central Utah. We used to travel all day non-stop, but last year we got smart and spread the road trip over four days while camping for the night. We were all much more relaxed, happy, and less stressed when we arrived at our destination.

If you are just attempting road tripping, travel no longer than two hours from your home to test things out the first time. Go to a historic place, a state park, a hike, the lake, or even a museum for the day.

man and dog on beach towel

Anyone else hitting the road this summer with the family?

How do you manage to navigate the interstates, highways and dusty trails of our great nation with kids in tow?

One Comment

  1. great tips. we have traveled with our children since they were ittybitty too. starting when they’re young makes it easier when they’re older – it’s practice for everyone! when we make the 6 hour road trip to Granny’s house we always bring a ziplock bag full of crayons, lots of free printable color pages, each child’s lap desk, *special* snacks (treats they don’t normally get at home), and stories and kid songs on CDs.
    road trips are also a great opportunity for “car schooling.” this summer i am taping sight words to the back of my seat, facing my 3yo, so he has to stare at them the entire time 🙂 and i’m giving my 6yo a map to track our destination and journal along the way.
    thanks for sharing your helpful road trip tips!

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