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Road Trips with Children

>> Thursday, September 13, 2012

My husband and I both love road trips. We love the time in the car to do nothing but chat. We love how much the landscape can change over the course of one day on the road. And we love ending up in a place that is so different than daily life. This passion is something that we wanted to pass on to our kids. We’ve gone on a couple of road trips now with children and I’ve learned a few things along the way…some of them being invaluable to us. I wanted to share, because I can’t imagine road tripping without these tips!

Our most recent road trip we took was just last month, and we drove Banff, Alberta. It was a 17 hour car ride (one way) from where we live in the Portland Metro area.

Image via Yours Truly!

·         Research and Preparation- Preparing to go on a road trip well before you pack up the car is crucial to having a flawless journey. Because we wouldn’t have the use of our cell phones (including GPS, the ability to look up restaurants, etc) once we crossed the Canadian border, I made sure that I printed off directions to and from all of our destinations. I researched what was allowed to cross the Border, the money conversion rate and the best place to get it converted, and possible places to stop along the way in case we needed a break. I wrote down any and all numbers and important information that I might need (hotel confirmation number, phone numbers of family members we were visiting, etc) and put these in a manila envelope along with passports and birth certificates. I also included in the envelope a writing pad to keep notes on anything I wanted to remember, like funny quotes from my children, cool things we saw, and even how crazy slow the speed limit seemed.

*Did you know? That as long as you are travelling as a family, children under 16 do not need passports to crossinto Canada, only birth certificates. Again, this is only if they are travelling with both parents.

·         Rent a car- This is something that we choose to do when we travel because not only does it save our old minivan from hundreds of miles, but I don’t have to detail it before and after we leave. We drive a 2000 minivan, and the one we rented was (by chance) a 2012 with only 8,000 miles on it. If we were going to drive our van, we’d have to do an oil change, a tire change (which we should probably do soon anyway) as well as a maintenance job on it. All of this adds up rather quickly. I did a LOT of research and deal hunting and got a minivan for about a third of the going rate. With the money saved because of better gas mileage, and the extra room with stow-and-go seating, we were very happy with our decision!

·         Dollar Tree Toys- Before we left, I took a trip to the Dollar Store and loaded up on cheap toys and games to keep the kids entertained when they needed it. I was actually surprised at how much I didn’t use these, but I was so grateful I had them when they were starting to get on each other’s nerves!

·         Bagged Snacks- I loaded up on snacks because what is a road trip without them? Before we left I divvyed them out and bagged them in little snack size bags. Whenever the kids wanted a snack, I would let them pick which snack they wanted, then passed it back to them.

·         Pick-Up Gripper- This thing was a life-saver. This trip was the first time ever using it and now I cannot imagine not having it in the car with me, always. I used it to pass back snack bags, grab a snack bag that was empty or needed to be opened, pick up dropped water bottle lids, etc. It made it so I didn’t have to go spread eagle across the mountain of luggage we had in our van to meet the needs of the kids.

Image via HERE
·         Books on CD – My kids love to read. We decided that for this trip, instead of watching DVD’s in the car, we would listen to books on CD. We went to the library and picked out about 15 different books that they could pick from. We listened to Charlotte’s Web, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Henry and the Paper Route, Magic Treehouse series, and Adventures in Odyssey. The instant one book was done, the kids would beg for the next book to start. I love that they got zero screen time while on vacation, but even more so, I love that this fed their love of reading.

·         Map of the journey- I printed off a Google Map illustrating our drive for each day. Where we’d start, where we were to end, and any planned stops along the way. I highlighted the course, laminated them, and stuck them on a binder ring. This way, when the kids asked “Are we there yet?” or “When are we going to get there?” I could show them on their map. They would put X’s where we were so they could see how far we’d come, and how much further we had to go.  With how young they are I didn’t have high hopes for this. It worked shockingly well.
Image via HERE

·         Bingo- I found some free printables online for road trip bingo. I printed off and laminated them, and stuck them on the binder ring a well, for them to mark with a dry erase to their heart’s content. The kids had so much fun looking out the window for silos, trucks pulling trailers, horses, and trains. Again, this one kept them more entertained than I thought they would.

Because of all of the prep work and research that happened before our trip, the entire vacation was really relaxed and low key. I didn’t have to stress over my van making it, bored children, or being lost without Navigation. We were able to be flexible, but had a plan, which ultimately all led to the best road trip we’ve ever taken with children!

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Emily September 13, 2012 at 8:50 AM  

What a stunning picture!! I hope to make it there someday. Also that pick up gripper is a really smart idea!

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