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Road trips with kids: What you need


Last summer our trip to Italy was canceled, so we decided to road trip across the country. The farthest we had ever driven before that was from southern California to Idaho-- we did it in two days, which was no longer than our usual trips up to northern California. This trip was different-- we didn't plan on sight seeing on the way to the east coast, so our driving days lasted about 10-13 hours. Vacations are looking different these days with more families driving to their destinations, rather than flying. Here are my tips for a successful road trip:

1. Snacks, snacks, and more snacks.

We always pack lots of snacks because our kids never stop eating and it helps us avoid buying unhealthy snacks at the gas station. My favorites are:

Both My Superfoods and Sweetpotato Awesome pass the packaged snack test in our house. They are organic and only use the best ingredients (and they're gluten free if you need that, too!).

2. Entertainment.

Audiobooks are our #1 form of entertainment in the car. Our kids occasionally watch movies (we do have a screen in the car, but we don't want them to miss the sights), but a well narrated audiobook can be just as good. Our favorites (and fun for the whole family) are:

The Roald Dahl Collection narrated by Roald Dahl himself (so good)


3. Make naps comfortable.

I used to bring a full size pillow, so I could sleep comfortably in the car without waking up with a sore neck and needing to go to the chiropractor. My kids used to be in car seats, which prevented their heads from flopping all over the place. Now, we all use one of these:

Car Headrest Pillow

I actually wish I could use one of these on an airplane. They're neck-savers! 

4. Bring your own toilet. Ha! I am a serious germaphobe and bringing the kids into gas station bathrooms really creeps me out. If I can avoid it at all, I do. So, we bring a portable potty with us (no #2 allowed in the portable potty- my kids are old enough to wait until we stop for the night). 

Portable Potty

If you do have to go into the gas station bathroom, bring some of these with you. 

Covers (I keep one of these in my purse at all times)

5. Someone in our car always manages to spill something and make a huge mess (it's usually me). Our cars are always stocked with plenty of wet wipes and soap/water. (The soap/water is very useful, especially if you do go into the gas station bathroom and there is no soap!). 

I never thought I'd still be buying baby wipes so many years after my kids stopped wearing diapers, but they are life savers!

Water Wipes

6. Last summer, we chose not to use GPS on our phones. We used printed TripTik maps and let the kids help navigate. Because my dad let me do this as a kid, I am really good at reading maps (a skill that is not common these days because we all rely on our phones). We circled points of interest along the way, so the kids could look for them along the drive. It kept them entertained and also kept them from asking, "are we there yet?!" because they could see how far along we were on the map.

7. Budget extra time. Google Maps may say that the trip will take 6 hours, but if you're traveling with kids... add another hour or two to that number. Sometimes, we all just need a break (or a Dairy Queen blizzard). Maybe you're passing one of those circled points of interest and you really want to stop and see it. If you're not on a serious time crunch, do it! Last summer, we went to The Grand Canyon and we passed a wild animal park along the way. We had no idea it was there and the kids really wanted to go, so we did. It took two hours from our drive, but we had given ourselves extra time just in case something like that happened. 

Above all, try to enjoy yourself and just breathe! Remember, the vacation doesn't start when you get to your destination. The road trip is a part of it, so have fun!


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