I am soooo excited about today’s guest post because it is by one of my most favorite people in the whole world…my mom! My mom is awesome at a lot of things, but one thing that really stands out in my mind is how amazing she was at traveling with us when we were kids! And we’re not just talking a two-hour drive to Thanksgiving dinner! Our family would drive from California to Minnesota (and back!!!) about every 18 months and my mom was a pro at packing the car and keeping all three of us entertained! Now that I think about it, that’s probably why I like traveling so much…my mom made it look fun and easy! Since I love traveling and sharing my travel tips and adventures with y’all, I thought it was time for some tips on traveling with kids. But since I don’t have any kids yet, I figure my mom is the perfect person to share those tips with you!
p.s. another thing that my mom is awesome at is sewing, so you should probably go and check out her Etsy shop!
When you take a road trip with kids, organization is key! You want a place for everything and everything in it’s place.
We packed each of the travel kits listed below into whatever boxes or plastic containers we had handy, but now you can buy a huge variety of organizational totes that will make packing fun and easy. My favorite organizational items can be found HERE!
As you are preparing, please keep in mind the ages of your children and adjust as needed….
Bathroom kit: Everything the family needs for grooming.
Bedtime packs. Jammie’s, toothbrush, and any sleep aids …blankie, stuffed animal, etc. Depending on thh age of the age of your child, you may need more than one jammie pack 🙂
Car activity kit: This kit stays in the car and doesn’t come into the hotel at night. You can choose to have one kit for the whole family or one kit for each child. There are more details below about what to include in the car activity kits!
Car upkeep kit: A dust buster type mini vacuum, paper towels, extra roll of toilet paper, towels to cover car seats when you are not in the car to prevent buckles from getting so hot, and trash bags for each day…it is easier to throw the whole thing away rather than emptying it and reusing it, especially if there are any liquids or sticky things in it!
First aid kit: Aspirin, bandaids, medications, cough drops, kleenex, wet wipes, and hand sanitizer.
Hotel kit: This is for items you will want in the hotel at night and these items don’t get used while in the car! It could include a devotional book, travel journals, a game or two to play as a family, pens and stamps to write postcards or letters. The less you take into the hotel, the less you have to remember to pack in the morning, so if you can limit what comes into the hotel for the kiddos to this one tote, it will be much smoother in the morning. When you have multiple nights in a hotel, it is really helpful to always take the same kits into the hotel. This makes packing up in the morning so much easier and lessens the need for open suitcases strewn all over the floor.
Kid packs: Each child had a one-gallon ziploc bag per day with their name on the outside. Each bag held an entire outfit, including socks, underwear, and hair bow for the girls! Before going into the hotel the kids can pick their outfit for the next day and grab their pack along with their jammie pack Dirty clothes go right into the bag the clean clothes came out of for easy clean up!
Parent kit: Maps, hard candy, envelopes for daily receipts, phone cords, wallet, cell phones, sunglasses, and anything else you want to have easily accessible.
Trip Details kit: This included all of the necessary details for our trip and a large manila folder for each day of the trip. Print out copies of confirmations/reservations, itinerary, phone numbers, special notes, etc. With as much technology as we have today this might not seem necessary but you never know when you hit an area with limited wireless service and you’ll be glad you brought hard copies! I also wrote each day (both traveling and destination) of our trip on a large manila envelope. We would then use these folders for each day’s receipts, travel brochures, entrance tickets, souvenirs or other memorabilia.
Car Activity Kit Details:
Activities That Require Prep Before Leaving
*Map Quest – If you have AAA go to your local office and ask for a trip tik for your planned route. If your destination is a surprise, ask them not to highlight the route or bind the pages. Take each segment of the trip and put it in an envelope, seal it and number them in order. Your kids can take turns highlighting the route with a highlighter as you go. When they get to end of their segment, the next child can open the next envelope and highlight that section. If the destination is not a surprise, AAA will bind the segments into booklet form. It can then be highlighted as you go
*Travel Bingo – I found that cooperative games work better than competitions on a road trip. They come up with enough ways on their own to fight and annoy each other…you don’t want to give them a reason to fight :). Give each child a matching bingo card. When they see the item listed on a square they can shout it out and everyone can mark It or put a sticker on it. Celebrate each bingo. Set a goal and when they meet the goal they each get a small prize, such as a dollar or two for each child that they can use at the next gas station mini mart, small piece of candy, or other small items.
*Felt Boxes – Take a shirt box and glue a piece of felt to the inside of the box bottom. Using the patterns found HERE, make a set of felt tangrams. Your kids can use the shirt box to store the pieces and the base to create the designs on…it is harder to lose pieces because of the felt! You can also just cut out random shapes and let them design whatever they would like.
Activities That Require NO Preparation
*Finding license plates from all fifty states
*Take turns finding each letter of the alphabet in order on a sign, storefront, license plate, etc. The first person finds the A, second person finds the B, etc. Or put scrabble letters in a baggie and each person picks a letter on their turn that they must findcatch phrase
*Take turns telling a story. One person starts with a sentence and everyone takes turns adding another sentence.
*Pick a category and a letter (you can use the scrabble tiles again). The first person has to say a word that fits the category that starts with that letter. The next person has to use the last letter of the previous person’s word to start their word. Continue in this manner.
*Pick a fixed point in the distance that everyone can see. Everyone guesses how long they think it will take to get to that point. The person who guesses the closest gets to pick the next point.
*Everyone, except the driver, needs to lift their feet up when crossing water, close their eyes when going under bridges or in tunnels, and hold their breath when passing roadside cemeteries.
Eating on the go – We always allowed our kids to eat in the car! We would stop at fast food places with play areas or in a rest area, and let the kids run and play to get rid of pent up energy while we ate. Once we got back in the car, we would give them their lunch and they would typically sleep right after eating. I did make a point of giving the van a quick vacuuming each night with a dust buster, and we put a beach towel under each car seat to help with clean up.
Surprises – We would have a surprise bag labeled for each day of the trip that included something for each child to look forward to opening! The bags were never anything much…a book, coloring book, travel game, Madlibs book, snack they really like but don’t get very often, note telling them what our sightseeing stop would be that day, etc. We would wait a couple of hours before giving it to them. For toddlers it could be really simple things – a roll of scotch tape can keep little ones occupied quite a long time, as can a roll of aluminum foil or a garage door opener. Our son once spent an hour zapping every car that passed us with our garage door opener!
What other tips do you have for road trips with kids?