SLACKER MOM’s Guide to Road Trips with Kids
This post contains some sponsored products and affiliate links. I only share things I absolutely love and think will make your road trips with kids easier.
Summer road trips with kids can inspire both excitement and pure dread for parents. Our family is big on road trips. We regularly do round-trips of 3-4 hours. We’ve done extended trips up to 14 hours away. We’ve had our share of tantrums (both by the kids and the parents!), disasters, and tears. So learn from my mistakes with these tips for road trips with kids. And turn a ride from hell into a fun, family adventure.
Tips for Road Trips with Kids
Car Seat Shuffle
The placement of car seats in the car is crucial. Obviously, the larger car you have, the better. When we travel, we try to take our car that has three rows of seats. That way, a screaming child can be banished to the back row if necessary.
If at all possible, don’t place your children next to each other. It’s a recipe for fighting, kicking, and “Mom, she’s touching me!” Infant and toddler seats are pretty difficult to move around. But if you have a kid in a booster, get one that’s really easy to move.
Get a few of these bad boys for in front of each child. Fill it with snacks, crayons, small toys, tissues, a bandaid… anything they might need from you while you are driving. It serves double-duty as a kick mat to keep those angry feet scuffs off the backs of your seats.
Choose Your Snacks Wisely
There are snacks that are great for eating in the car and there are snacks that are road trip disasters. I have learned this from many crummy experiences! Avoid things that make too many crumbs. I’ve spent waaaay too much time vacuuming up the crumbs of certain granola bars and those Little Bites brownies. Have you seen how messy my car is? Save crumbling snacks for at home.
Some of my favorite, less messy snacks are: gummies, apples, apple sauce or yogurt pouches, and dried fruit.
Pack some extra special treat snacks that you don’t usually allow your children to have. HIDE THESE and only bring them out when your family is nearing it’s breaking point.
One of our MomCavers suggested getting a plastic craft box with many compartments and putting different snacks in each.
Don’t pack any snacks for yourself that you don’t intend on sharing with your children. My 4-year-old can smell at Nature’s Valley chocolate and peanut butter bar (my fave snack) from three rows back. Nothing gets by her.
Choose Your Music Wisely
Let’s be honest, most kid’s music sucks. And kids love to hear the same songs OVER and OVER and OVER again. Do not bring any music that you don’t want to hear 200 times.
We attempt to select music that both parents and kids like. I know it sounds difficult, but it’s totally doable.
Here are some suggestions:
This album has been a life-saver in our car since my first child was three. Both kids and parents can get into the Beatles!
Full disclosure, I’m going to brag a bit here. The Hot Sardines are a band near and dear to my heart, because it’s my husband’s! They tour internationally (yup, that’s why I’m always alone with these kids…) and have a bunch of kid-friendly songs. One is even on an album of Disney Jazz Favorites.
We discovered the Story Pirates through Kids Place Live on Sirrius XM. These songs may be intended for kids, but I love them, too. “Fart Out Loud Day” cheers up my whole family!
For a Change of Pace, bring Audio Books
When you are sick of hearing even GOOD music, (“Again, Mommy! Again!”) switch to audiobooks. Because I’m cheap (I mean, smart with money…) I never buy these. Check a bunch out from your local library or find some free ones online.
Like music, choose your audiobooks wisely. To find something the entire family will enjoy, pick one of your childhood favorites that you haven’t read since you were a kid. The nostalgia will make you resent it less. In fact, you’ll actually enjoy it.
You can also plan your road trip and audiobooks to coordinate so that you are listening to a book about sites you are visiting.
Earplugs are Your Friend
Years before I had children, I used to watch the TLC Show, “Jon and Kate Plus 8.” I remember that Kate kept earplugs in her car and frequently wore them while driving around her 8 children. At the time, I made fun of her and was completely judgmental. Why couldn’t she control her own kids? (Remember, I said I didn’t have any kids myself yet?)
Flash forward to now, and I feel like a total jerk for judging Kate. (Well, about that. I judge her about other stuff now.) No matter how well you’ve trained your children (okay, I haven’t trained mine that well…) they are going to get loud on a long ride in an enclosed space. And you need to concentrate on driving. It’s a SAFETY thing! Earplugs merely dampen sound–they won’t eliminate it. But they will help you pay better attention to the road and want to throttle someone less.
Before you go, buy a bunch of “surprises” from the dollar store. Don’t give them out all at once! You have to save your ammunition, mamas.
Things that keep my kids busy for a hot second include: window clings, Rubik’s cube, NON-messy art (like those Melissa and Doug books where you “paint” with water), stickers, tiny travel puzzles on a lap desk, and Mad-Libs.
Everyone Gets Constipated
I know, TMI. But it’s true. Most people, and ESPECIALLY kids, get constipated when traveling. The change in routine and diet may contribute, but my personal theory is that humans feel more comfortable pooping at home. If your child is potty training, bring their potty or potty stool (have you seen these adorable Potty Pets from Squatty Potty?) And for older kids (and, yeah, grownups, too) pack a portable Squatty Potty. It makes everything flow better.
You may want to keep a travel potty in the back of the car all the time after experiencing the convenience!
Real Advice from the Trenches
I asked some of my fellow parents their hacks and tips for road trips with kids and here’s what they had to say.
Mini ice chest with individual snacks for Mom to toss in the back seat. Music playlists. Pillows for sleepyheads. -Lauri, Mama Needs a Nap
We do a visit to the library before a road trip to stock up on new books we’ve never read. And then put a bag of books between the seats of the little kids and a bag between the big kids so everyone can reach the books they picked out. Also, I have dollar store treats/activity books/stickers, etc., that I bring out along the way to change things up–and I save some for the trip home! I learned that from my mom and our childhood road trips. -Dana, 39ish Life
I had “surprise” baggies. For good behavior, at the end of an hour, they got a “surprise” Just little dollar store items but it worked! -Alexandra,
Um… screens? Sugar? Bribery? Stay hydrated. It’s good sound advice for all things. Godspeed parents! We are all rooting for you! -Joe, Developing Dad
I kept a small potty in the car for years (and do again with a toddler). My mom gave my kids a mint/gummy bear every 100 miles if they didn’t ask how much longer we had to go. -Rebecca, What Rebecca ThinksMomCave’s Ultimate Summer Giveaway
MomCave Roadtrip with Kids Flashback
Remember the time we took all of our kids on a road trip to a film festival?? Check out the video below.