Traveling With Kids – my tips!

I’ve had some requests to post about my tips for traveling with kids – huh?!? I’m no expert!!  Then people point out that we’ve driven from KC to Florida, and KC to the top of Idaho more than once – both those trips are about 22 hours of driving time.  But guess how I handle it – – drive at night when the kids are sleeping so I don’t have to deal with them :)

So that’s my number one tip – – best way to travel with kids – do it while they’re sleeping :)  Also know as – – best way to deal with kids while traveling – don’t deal with them :)

UPDATE: – – I thought this list was pretty accurate, but Trevor thought it was sugar-coated – – here’s his version: Traveling with Kids – unedited!

I guess I can dig up some other tips….

  • Take a fun picture of the kids loaded up in the car.  For some reason I guess I haven’t – these couple were all I could dig up, and the kids are really young in them…..

  • Seating is KEY!!  Make sure you give it some thought.  If you have a baby/toddler, you probably want them near the front so you can reach them.  Kids that can buckle themselves can be in the back. Consider sitting an older child next to a younger one, so if the younger one drops snacks or drinks or toys, the older one can pick it up, etc.  Consider personalities – – right now we always sit our 2 girls in the back together – they get along so great.  When my older two (9 year old boy and 7 year old girl) are back there together they annoy each other and cause lots of contention.  So the girls are the perfect combo for a happier ride.
  • Books on CD - – we don’t do a lot of “screen time”, so books on CD is a great option.  For our kids (ages 9, 7, 5, 3) I would suggest Magic Treehouse and 39 Clues – books I don’t mind listening to.  They can all get the gist of what’s going on, except for the 3 year old who just zones it out.  We hit pause occasionally to review what’s going on for the younger ones.  Last year we got all the books to The City Of Ember series and they loved those – and so did I!!
  • Grab Box - – have a box of new-to-them toys (dollar store, garage sales, etc) and let them pick out of the box every hour or so.  Ours is an old Lego container and I blogged about it HERE.
  • Electronics - – they have their place – tablet, DS, DVD player – – whatever you want to bust out and rotate around the kids.  
  • Snacks! — we don’t buy a lot of snacks – until it’s vacation, then the amount of junky food I buy is unreal.  Kate saw my load once and was in awe.  I buy lots of candy, fruit snacks, etc – whatever the kids will get excited about.  And then use that as treats for good behavior.  I don’t do a whole lot of drinks because I don’t want to make a whole lot of bathroom stops….
So, how we normally execute our trips:
–head out around 4pm – – drive about an hour, which is like normal – it’s not a long time and shouldn’t require any extra car help than running errands for an hour.
–drive thru for dinner around 5pm and eat in the car – – eating in the car means that the kids are occupied (eating) but we are still traveling, so win win (except for the stinky messy car – it’s on the losing end)
–put on a movie around 5:30 or 6 on the van’s DVD player – it pulls down from the ceiling so everyone can watch – so pick a movie everyone can agree on (lately we’re loving Matilda – – also, we often grab a Redbox when we stop for dinner – I jump out of the car, Trevor drives through the drive-thru, then I meet him on the other side of the building with the redbox – that way it’s a new movie for everyone)
–the movie should finish up around 7:30 – – bathroom and gas break if we haven’t had one yet.  That way they’ll hunker down for bed.  
–read books, work on coloring books, etc – quiet activities til 8 or 9 – whenever they should be falling asleep.  Claim it’s quiet time and everyone has to have lights off (if you were letting them use flashlights)
–they’ll fall asleep and you’ll still be trucking!!  keep it up – you’re doing great!!  I’ll list some tips for YOU on driving through the night, below
–they’ll wake up earlier than normal cause of the light – maybe 6ish – – have them read books again, etc
–stop for breakfast around 8am – get out of the car, etc
–if you have any fun games, etc, now’s the time for that.  Maybe a round of electronics swapping.  You just need to kill some time from 9-11ish
–around 11 we start another movie.  So it’s only the 2nd movie of the trip – not bad!  watch it all the way through
–after the movie, drive thru for lunch, eat it while driving – you’re getting closer!!
–You’ll get there in the early afternoon – you made it – wahoo!!  That wasn’t that bad!!
Driving through the night info – – 
-when we first traveled to Idaho with young kids, we planned on getting a hotel in Denver – the halfway point.  It had been a rough trip, trying to entertain kids for 10 hours – and when we finally hit Denver, they had fallen asleep!  We realized that THIS was the way to travel, when they were sleeping, so we kept right on going with out stopping and reached IDAHO the following morning.  Ever since then, we’ve deliberately planned to drive through the night.
  • enjoy it!!  I have Trevor trapped in a car with me, with no kids awake to distract him – it’s fun!  we get hours and hours to talk – sometimes it’s hard to find time in day-to-day life to just talk.  We talk about life goals and money and raising the kids, etc.
  • take turns!  I’ll admit I couldn’t do it – but Trevor takes the bulk.  He drives most of the trip anyways.  At night he’ll drive and I’ll be awake til about midnight.  Then I’ll sleep til about 3am til he gets super tired.  Then since I rested, I’ll drive my turn – which is pathetic – maybe a couple of hours.  By then the sun is started to come up, so Trevor’s back awake and ready to go.  When we get to our destination we can sometimes sneak in a nap to catch up on the sleeping.
  • while driving myself at night, I constantly eat to be alert – I love Pringles and pretzels because they’re salty and Spree and Sweetarts for sweets.  By the end my tongue is raw.  Also Dr. Pepper is a trip must.  We highly recommend listening to podcasts (our favorite – Dave Ramsey) – something about listening to talk radio and thinking about the topic makes you stay away and alert versus listening to music.
  • admit defeat – – if you’re getting tired, wake the other person up.  No reason to push it.  If you’re both tired, pull over and sleep at a rest stop for a couple hours.  No problem to take a break.

Any other great advice you have??

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  1. says

    Great tips! Although I would never drive at night- just isn’t worth the risk. My family did always leave at 5am though going from Seattle to Salt Lake and then the kids would sleep for a couple hours but it wasn’t too early for the driver

  2. says

    I haven’t dared drive at night because I’m a wimp and can’t stay awake. My husband THINKS he can stay awake, but I often find him falling asleep at the wheel. So if he is driving, I can’t sleep.

    My one tip actually comes from my sister. She is quite a bit older than me, and was married by the time was was the age of your kids. She made us a travel box. In side were small packages that were labeled with names of the towns we would drive through. When we came to that town, we would open the package. Sometimes it was just a joke, or a story. Other times it was a game, or some gum. We couldn’t wait to get to the next town so we could open the next box. :)

  3. says

    WOW! Where were you when I had a wee one & we all loved to road trip? Shoot, you were prob still a toddler yourself!! This is one of the greatest reads, (of things that no longer help me but are still interesting enuf to keep reading)that I have read in a LONG time!! What a smart couple to drive @ night & let the chillens sleep. GENIUS!! The Chief NEVER lets me drive, therefore the Airman & I never got to eat till C would get hungry. Then it was a HUGE meal, the Amn & I would sleep & C would drive for MILES!!!!! Now it is just the Chief & I. We make a great road trip couple cuz we always have good convo, even after 20 yrs!!!! Keep up the good work Team. Obiously y’all are a GOOD couple too!! With a pretty good crew in tow!! Thanks for the read.

  4. says

    We just made an 18 hour trip with our two kids (4&almost2) and we left early in the morning and drove all day, getting in around midnight our normal time zone. Our kids only fell asleep the last 45 minutes or so after screaming for an hour. They just do not sleep in the car, but are professional screamers. I did a lot of prep before our trip and that helped some. I gathered their favorite toys days prior to leaving and kept them hidden, picked up some stuff at the dollar store and Michaels, made a book of mazes and connect the dots for my oldest, packed lots of snacks, brought leap pad readers I got from a garage sale, downloaded free kid apps on my kindle fire, and kept my expectations low.

  5. says

    Awesome advice! I have a 21-month old and we’ve been back and forth to my granny’s a couple of times and it’s been challenging, for sure! And it’s only a 4 hour drive, lol!

    I also included you in my nominations of The One Lovely Blog Award and The Very Inspiring Blogger Award! You’ve inspired me in more than one ways from posts like this to your awesome skirt tutorials! Love them and your blog! =)

  6. says

    Reading this post is like reading about my life! 4 kiddos (boy-9, girl-7, boy-5, girl-3) and frequent trips to see family about 14 hours away. We always drive through the night and the husband does most of the driving! We spend way more time listening to audiobooks than watching videos (a last resort when my 3 year old starts displaying her crazy side!) and Pringles are my absolute favorite car trip food! I like the schedule you outlined here and I just might have to give it a try on our next trip! Thanks, Mandi!

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