1. Snacks are a must!
This may seem like a no brainer, but make sure it’s snacks they love and get excited about. I always pack a gallon sized ZipLoc bag for each kid (the easy open and close ones, with the sliding zipper) and let them pick whatever snacks they want to fill up the bag. Just make sure it’s a good balance with healthier options. Then, I’ll secretly add their favorite candy in their bags before packing up. Bonus: these ziplocs will also be their personal trash bags to make messes a minimum. A small soft sided cooler with an ice pack is perfect for yogurts and cut up fruit. When it’s empty, you can fold it up and put under a seat until your ride back home.
2. Small, Compact Road Trip Games and Activities.
I think it’s safe to say most kids have their own ipad or tablet. Fill those suckers up with downloaded movies, shows, and games and make sure they are fully charged before hitting the road. Games that don’t require wifi are good if you’re driving through mountainous area with shotty service. But, any trip over a couple hours will need more entertainment than just screens. You can purchase string and beads to make bracelets and necklaces by taping an end to the back of the headrest. My girls love to read and draw, so books, a simple pad of paper, and some fun gel pens do the trick. My youngest loves sticker books, fun window clings, and a mini play doh set.
3. Spend time in the backseat with the kids.
I think this is super important, especially if you still have littles who are rear facing. The kids will love to have you next to them for a portion of the trip and will help put a stop to any sibling fights that are brewing. With pillows and blankets, this could be a great nap time!
4. Divide the trip into “Surprises!”
If you are traveling through multiple states or for more than 5 hours, this will help keep the motivation of the trip alive. This can be done as big or small as you want, from small treats to fun planned stops, or a combo of both! This is a time to spoil the kids. You can usually find a cute town or state park along the way of any road trip, so make the stop. Grab lunch to-go and have a picnic in the park. Most parks will have a playground or great trees to climb. Use the apps ParkFinder or PlayGround Buddy to make this easier. I wouldn’t veer off course too much for these because we don’t want to add unnecessary extra time.
5. Time to hit up all the fun foody spots!
This may be a selfish item on the list (but I’ll make up for it) and probably not a great tip for super young kids, but my girls have become just as big of foodies as I am. The Food Network show “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” has a search-by-state feature on their website, so you can look up all the restaurants they’ve featured in whatever state you are traveling through. If that doesn’t work out, you can also search things like “Best Milkshakes” or “Best Waffles” on the Yelp app for restaurants near you.
6. Get the wiggles out at potty breaks.
Make quick bathroom breaks a multi-tasker. Set a 5 minute timer and see who can do the most jumping jacks, or funky dance moves. We have done this is a Chick-fil-A parking lot and it’s a good way to get some fresh energy into the trip. We’ve also had to get off an exit, on the side of a road for a “nature pee, so that goes to show, this can be done just about anywhere. But of course, be safe about it.
7. BONUS! Told you I’d make up for it. Prep with the essentials!
You have the snacks and games, but do not forget everything else. Some additional “Road Trip Must Haves” include: