My husband and I are both teachers. That means a couple things. First, we don’t have a huge budget, but second, we get summers as a family (we have three boys ages 9, 6, and 4).
Because of this, we have started to travel a lot in the summer! Because we have the time and it’s easier on the budget, we drive most places. Last year we drove from Iowa to Connecticut, Iowa to Colorado, and we also took a trip to Okoboji, Iowa. This summer we are driving from Iowa to Gulf Shores, Alabama, and back to Colorado again.
I learned a lot last summer through our millions (just kidding, but sometimes it felt like it) of hours on the road to help our trips be successful.
Family Road Trip Tips
- Load up on all the snacks. Kids seem to be ten times more hungry on a trip. I mean, I don’t blame them, they’re stuck in their seats for hours at a time. And honestly, I snack more in the car, too. Before our trips I usually head to Costco and load up on tons of fruit snacks, apple sauce pouches, crackers, and more. I try to go for things that are individually wrapped in small servings or I will package things out into baggies. Kids getting restless? Have a snack! Kids fighting? Have a snack! Snacks seem to solve a lot of road trip woes. I will overpack snacks because I never want to run out. It also saves some money by avoiding the high prices of convenience stores along the way!
- Limit the amount of “stuff” your kids bring. Before a road trip, it seems like my kids want to pack everything and the kitchen sink. Usually most of it gets played with for five minutes and then ends up all over the floor of our van. Stick with a stuffed animal or comfort item, maybe one or two small toys, something to draw on (a blank notebook usually seems best), and then I bring the rest packed in an activity bag I can control (see the next tip).
- Get a few fun “new” items to surprise them along the way. Now, I realize that this goes back on limiting their stuff, but I usually find a few fun things that can help when snacks aren’t cutting it. It might be a small toy I’ve stored away, a glow stick from the dollar store, or a new sticker book or activity book. A couple surprises along the way help to break up the monotony.
- Plan breaks to get the wiggles out. We try to allow some breaks along the way whether it be a park, a restaurant with a play place, or a children’s museum. The website RoadTrippers is something my husband uses a lot to find things on the route!
- Screens are your friend. Do we take screen breaks? You betcha! We love to try to get semis to honk. We look at license plates and scenery, but we also allow a good amount of screen time. Sorry, not sorry. It helps. They distract. and limit fights. Screens keep mom and dad sane. We have a DVD player in our van where they watch movies, but each boy also has an iPad with games and some downloaded content they can watch. We also will turn on our phone hotspots for a limited amount of time for them to watch some streaming shows. It keeps everyone sane.