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Most people love to travel, they travel to spend time with the ones they love. Yet, once we have children, packing, planning, and surviving a trip can be anything but spur of the moment or exciting. It is not uncommon for me to hear that parents tend to dread packing for their kids let alone figuring out how to keep them entertained during travels. Taking a road trip with your children can be made easier with a few simple things to remember!
Plan your travel time.
If possible plan your driving time to be when your toddler is asleep. If your trip spans more than 1 day, plan for the driver to be awake at night and the passenger to be awake with the child at your stopover points during the day. Engage your child in movement activities such as walking, swimming, exploring, etc. during the day, so that they are tired.
If driving at night is not possible, try to plan breaks every 2-4 hours. Rest stops with room to run around or restaurants with plays areas are ideal stopping points. Packing items like bubble wands, toss & catch game, and t-ball set are items that don’t take up much room but allow for outdoor breaks and even double as fun things to do once you reach your destination!
Bring a small rolling cooler of healthy snacks for your child. Candy, chips, and granola may seem like a good idea to keep your child happy, but skip the sugar and excess carbohydrates. These will lead to bursts of energy and sugar crashes. I bring string cheese or cut up cheese, cold cuts like pepperoni or salami, mixed berries, sliced bell peppers or jicama for that crunchy sensation. Bring sparkling flavored water for a refreshing alternative to soda.
Bring new entertaining activities.
Pack a waterproof backpack full of a variety of activities for your child that they have not seen before. I love hitting up the dollar store or five below before our trips. I pack beads to thread on pipe cleaners, stickers, flashcards with pictures or shapes or letters, a magnet board with magnets, a drawing pad (We really love Crayola Mess-free Touch-Lights), squishy toys, an eye spy bottle*.
*To create an eye spy bottle use a large plastic or glass container with a lid. Place a variety of objects such as plastic animals, shapes, etc. in bottle then add enough colored sand to cover them. Superglue lid on tight. Give your child a list of the objects to find, and check them off together as he/she shakes the bottle to find them.
Don’t feel guilty relying on technology.
Load up your iPad or Kindle Fire with fun apps, movies, TV shows, etc. We love the Injini app. Your child can shear sheep, help eggs hatch, wash pigs, etc. This is fun to play together to work on farm vocabulary. Netflix lets you download many movies straight to your phone or tablet, with no need for internet connection! (There are lots of free Kindle Apps for kids too!)
Bring along fun CDs or make playlists on an app like Spotify, and sing at the top of your lungs.
Time permitting if you see a fun stop like Snake World, the World’s Biggest Ball of Yarn, etc., then STOP. We have found that some of the most memorable things about our trip have been stopping when we didn’t expect or plan to stop. This allows your child to be engaged and see something new, and gives you all a break from driving as well.
At the end of the day you may have a child who sleeps way more than they are awake, but if not, you at least are prepared for a road trip and plenty of back up for down time at your destinations! Safe travels!
Author: Kim Campbell
I am a 30-something mommy to one beautiful toddler named Charlotte. I always knew my little girl was special and in January 2016, she was diagnosed with autism. Between therapy sessions and being a grizzly mama bear, I enjoy wine (lots of wine), sewing, DIY projects, and experimenting in the kitchen.