6 Mar
2014
Posted in: travel
By    1 Comment

Tips for Road Trips with Children

Road Trip

I’m a huge fan of the great American road trip. My family likes to travel, and when we do, it’s by SUV. I realize 1,600 miles with six people in one vehicle, is not everyone’s idea of a vacation. We’re known to travel 16 hours or more from our home to our ultimate destination. I have this road trip thing down to an art form after years of practice.

  1. Make the journey part of the vacation. We, mainly my husband, research our route for unique places to stop that are on the way or within a short detour. Getting out to stretch legs every few hours is necessary. We try to coincide stops with interesting places if possible. On a trip to Washington, we stopped in Deer Lodge, Montana at Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site for a potty break and lunch. We discovered an American cattlemen history lesson. We’ve also walked into the crater of Capulin Volcano National Monument in New Mexico. I had no idea there were volcanoes I could trek up in New Mexico. We’re known to stop at the kitchy as well. We stopped at the Corn Palace one year in Mitchell, South Dakota on our way home from Chicago and have posed in front of the Octopus Tree in Oregon.
  2. Limit screen time before leaving. We don’t watch much TV, never during the day, and most of our TV watching aside from football season is in the form of family movie night. We rarely allow video game playing during the week. Even with our limited screen time for the kiddos, we basically have them unplug entirely before heading on vacation. They’re allowed to bring electronics (Nintendo DS for the younger boys and iPod Touch for our oldest) and watch movies while we’re driving. That’s a whole lot of screen time for children who don’t watch TV. Limiting screen time before we leave gives them something to look forward to in the hours we’ll sit in the car.
  3. Bring audiobooks. Our boys would watch movies and play video games for an entire 10-hour driving day while our daughter is more than happy to chat away to whoever will listen. I can’t let them stare at a screen for 10 hours, even if we are trapped in a vehicle. The kids will watch a movie and then we’ll listen to an audiobook as a family. Check your public library for access to free downloadable audiobooks. Our library has a nice collection of books to choose from. If we can’t find a few to download, we’ll check out audiobook CDs or Playaways. The Origami  Yoda series by Tom Angleberger make for highly entertaining audiobooks, especially if your knowledge of Star Wars is extensive. Harry Potter is also a great book to listen to, although each are extremely long. The Fudge books by Judy Blume and Dragon Slayer Academy series by Kate McMullan are other audio favorites in our home. We try to keep audiobooks to no longer than three hours, which helps to ensure attention spans aren’t being pushed.
  4. Bring food. We are that family at rest areas fixing lunch out of a cooler. Our general rule when traveling is to bring enough food to fix a few breakfasts (depending on hotels) and lunches. Dinners we’ll eat at restaurants. Bringing food is much easier on our budget. We primarily use rest areas with picnic tables for lunch but have sought out parks in small towns if rest areas are limited, which they are on a lot of U.S. highways. On more than one occasion we’ve eaten out of the trunk in a parking lot. Sometimes you just have to roll with it. Another benefit of bringing food, is knowing exactly what we’re eating and not completely loading our system with typical high-fat, high-carb and high-sugar vacation food. I keep small bags of snacks (dried fruit, nuts, popcorn, etc.) easily accessible in the vehicle for nibbling on between meals.
  5. Be prepared for the unexpected. Road trips have taught me that something always comes up….always. We’ve suffered through pink eye in Chicago, massive vomiting two hours into a 22-hour trip, a 15-month-old crying from Wyoming to California, a poop blowout in a hotel bed, vehicle keys flushed down a rest area toilet and constipation. We survived them all. Each story has become legendary in its own right and talked about as part of the adventure.

Corn Palace Mitchell, South Dakota road trip

I look forward to discovering someplace new within this expansive country during each road trip. Each new region and state we visit gives me a greater understanding of what it means to be American. Thousands of miles have been logged in the car with my family. While some may view that as torture, those miles encompass some of my favorite family moments.

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