Enjoy road trips with kids? I do … now

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road trips with kidsDid you know that there is a dinosaur museum in Hays, Kansas? There’s also a huge duck pinwheel at an exit near the Missouri/Nebraska border. A bridge dedicated to the old wagon trail spans over I-80 in Kearney, Nebraska. Also, if you can spare an hour, a detour to Wamego, Kansas, takes you to the Wizard of Oz Museum.

I found these all on road trips taken over the past few years – with my children in tow. I actually look forward to our adventures across the country, but it wasn’t always like that.

When we lived in Alaska, I had air travel down pat. I flew out of there with three children and a cat and all went well. Flying was a necessity, though, since driving more than a week just to get back to the U.S. wasn’t appealing to a mother of young children.

Living down in the continental U.S., airfare has to be combined with a minivan rental and it’s just cheaper to drive us wherever we want to go.

I dreaded car trips with the children at that point. We were in the midst of potty training. I’ve learned that is one of the two child stages where road trips aren’t so fun. The other one is the first year when they are nursing or drinking bottles every few hours – it makes for many, many stops along the way.

Getting to FUN Family Road Trips

Then we started to have some enjoyable road trips with kids: New Mexico to Colorado, Colorado to Nebraska, Nebraska to Missouri and back and back and back, Missouri to Virginia, Missouri to Colorado, Missouri to Ohio, Ohio to Colorado.

We get to stop wherever we want along the way and see the tourist stops. We get to visit family and friends without breaking the bank.

The fun part also comes from being prepared. I always a case of water and basic emergency supplies in the car (for more on that, watch this video). I also always try to stop for gas when the tank gets half empty in case we end up on a long stretch with no gas stops. If you have a concealed carry license and plan to carry on your trip, make sure to check if you have reciprocity in the states you will travel through.

Here are a few of my tips:

  • The children wear tennis shoes on travel days so their feet are covered in case we encounter weather, a playground or a great place to walk around.
  • I bring a whole bag of snacks and food in case the next restaurant is farther away than we planned.
  • Water bottles (including mine) are brought in at every stop and topped off.
  • The children each have a bag of toys and books.
  • I have a list of road trip games we can play (like the license plate game).
  • If you put papers (like a homemade bingo board) in plastic sleeve protectors,  you can use dry erase markers on them for reusable, personalized game boards.
  • I check out books on CD and some new movies from the library before we leave to use on the trip.
  • I pack a medicine bag, including essential oils, so we’re prepared for any kind of sickness.
  • Each child also has a pillow, blanket and stuffed animal for comfort.
  • Every seat has a grocery bag nearby in case someone feels sick (a bag with towels, wipes and deodorizing spray is tucked in the bag, just in case, too).

One of our latest tricks was to buy a headphone splitter for our portable DVD player and headphones for each girl. When we did put on a movie, the adults could then listen to the radio, which made everyone happy.

What do you look forward to on road trips? What makes them enjoyable for your family?

3 thoughts on “Enjoy road trips with kids? I do … now”

  1. We keep a small dry erase board for each kid, too–tic tac toe games keep them busy for a long time! I like to keep back a few small books, favorite snacks, and activity pads in my own bag. It’s good for the kids to be able to reach the things they’ve brought for the ride, but keeping a few in reserve provides a little surprise boredom buster. 🙂

  2. We’ve been using Dvd entertainment for yrs. They each also now have a tablet to play games. They’ve figured out how to make a portable Lan hotspot out of an old router. http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/set-wifi-network-play-lan-games-neighbors/ . I always have a backpack we call the “snack bag”, a Med. Bag, and cooler for drinks (cold water is so refreshing on a hot day. If we stop for lunch we get cups of ice water to refill our water bottles. I like soda bottles for refill water bottle because they are more sturdy. You can freeze them and then have cold water as they thaw, they fit in hotel rm freezer too. Check out Roadside America (same name with .com) for fun stops along our route.

  3. We use to use small metal cookie sheets with magnets to help keep the kids entertained. Not only was playing with the magnets fun but the lip of the cookie sheet would help catch the errant crayon or pencil. Now that they are bigger they bring books.s for when they are bored.

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