Ryan and I both love traveling, and after living in Fort Huachuca and squandering our time there, we made a deal with ourselves and each other to get out and see more with each duty station. Since we’re living on the West Coast right now, we have the opportunity to see Ryan’s family more often than my own – hence our quick road trip through Oregon this past week. Today, I wanted to take the time to share 8 tips for road trips with kids.
Snacks Are Your Best Friend
When in doubt, over-prepare. We packed our favorite Coleman cooler (it wheels like our luggage and keeps stuff cold for over eight hours!) with all the kids’ favorites. We had a gallon each of milk and apple juice, fruit, sandwiches, granola bars, and even my Lyme disease meds packed in there. Everything was easy to reach and accessible, and that’s one less thing to worry about during your drive.
Rethink Your Space
The last time we did this trip, we had a Toyota Highlander and one less child. We took our dog, Danny, and it was a cramped, pretty uncomfortable trip. Lately, we’re rocking down the highway in our Honda Odyssey, and we take advantage of the ability to move things around. We pulled out the two center seats, packed the boys in the back, and kept Mieke close to the front. This gave us ample room for the cooler and Danny’s dog bed.
Keep Them Entertained
The boys don’t nap anymore. I know. It’s a travesty. This makes for a lot of time in which they can get bored, cranky, and overwhelmed. We’re big fans of using the iPad on long trips like this. We bought this headrest mount for the iPad, and we actually use my phone’s hotspot to stream content through our Amazon Prime membership. (Yet another reason why I love Amazon Prime.)
Plan Pit & Play Stops
One of the biggest tips we can offer is to plan your route ahead of time. Along the route, search for local attractions, features, parks, and playgrounds, and plan to build some adventure time in there. On the second day of our trip through Oregon, we knew we’d arrive earlier than our check-in at our hotel. We took to Yelp and found Bear Creek Park, which was perfect for exploring and a late fall picnic lunch.
Break it Up
You’ve probably heard that it’s not the destination that matters, but rather the journey you took to get there. Right? It’s true. We could easily have driven to Medford in one day, but it would have been miserable. If you can, break it up. Our kids love staying in hotels. As IHG Platinum members, we seek out IHG hotels (most of which are dog-friendly) along the way, and they get a fun night in a new place all rolled into the road trip.
Sightsee On the Go
We like to plan excursions along the way. This time, we stopped in Salem to see Ryan’s family, and we found a few pretty little rest stops to explore, as well. Having Danny with us forced us to take the time to get out and enjoy the fresh air, all while exploring new little areas of the state.
We try to under-pack when we travel with the kids. Ryan and I usually share a suitcase, and we’ll use the largest of our three Hauptstadtkoffer suitcases for all three of the kids combined. All of our overnight gear goes in the storage space, while we keep one bag accessible with changes of clothes (because accidents do happen), diapers, wipes, extra formula, tylenol, etc., all on hand.
Timing is Everything
Traveling with three kids is an adventure. Mieke is the only one who still naps, so for us, planning around her schedule was easiest. She takes a long nap mid-morning and a second long nap in the afternoon. We did our best to plan around those naps, so we could take advantage of her sleeping while we drove. In the past though, we’ve done trips super early in the morning to beat the traffic, as well as overnight, to let the kids sleep through the bulk of it. It depends on A) where you’re going and B) whether you want to enjoy the trip or just get it done.
As you can probably guess, road trips with children aren’t always the easiest. The key? Preparedness and flexibility. We’ve learned to go with the flow as much as possible and just do it. These tips for road trips with kids have been developed through extensive trial and error (I’m looking at you, South Carolina, 2017), but they’ve made for some of our best adventures as a family.
Do you like road trips? Do you have any tips or tricks that I’ve missed on this list?