With Spring Break right around the corner and many deciding to venture out. You maybe starting to consider taking a car drive somewhere with family. While flying isn’t out of the question booking a flight, rental, hotels, and entertainment may make or break your travel plans. Traveling with little ones CAN BE DONE. My husband and I are no strangers to driving long distances with our littles in tow. I’ll be honest it’s not always sunshine and peaches. But we have ALWAYS taken them with us on trips, getaways, holidays, vacations, and more. It’s never regretted.
1. Keep the Trips Short While we do go well beyond three hours for many trips. 3 hours has been the sweet spot. We live in the prime location for these trips. 3 hours from Chicago, Cincinnati, Michigan, Cleveland, many lakes, sand dunes, and amusement parks (Indianapolis is only 1 and 1/2 hours). 3 hours is also a good increment to drive on long trips take time to stretch, use the restroom, and get something to eat. Even if you have children who don’t need to get out of the car. Unbuckle them and take them out with you.
2. Snacks Do not underestimate the power of food especially snacks. For longer car rides we pack a small cooler nearby. These can be anything from packed lunches to a bag of donuts. Make the snacks something that won’t make too terrible mess to clean up but something that’ll go a long way and seem as a treat to your kiddos. We’ve gone through boxes of fruit snacks, cheese sticks, yogurts, and yes even a bag of donuts. Happy Meals are honestly great for road trips too!
3. Devices While I don’t heavily support too much screen time for our kids. When it comes to long car rides. ANYTHING GOES. We’ve used DVD players, phones, and tablet to keep the kids entertained. (I don’t recommend car DVD Players with cords because they never ever ever last for very long) Pro Tip: if you stop inside somewhere to eat bring the IPad Chargers to keep devices charged longer and faster. Keep your personal devices charged too for not only entertainment, but back up for the kids, emergencies, and GPS.
4. PLAN FOR THE WORST as many trips as we’ve taken something will always come up. When you add young children to the mix these things only amplify. From traffic jams, potty training emergency, bad weather,diaper blowouts, a 3 hour drive extended to 9 hours, unable to book a room, no AC, and cars breaking down. Literally so many things can happen! Don’t let them scare you, but try to plan ahead. After driving a long way with entertaining little ones the last thing anyone needs is an argument or no energy to find a solution to these issues. Be flexible, be patient, be understanding, and well just enjoy the ride.
5. Don’t be Afraid to Stop At some point everyone needs a break. If you have to make an extra stop just do it or if you need to stay somewhere for the night why not? There’s plenty of apps and cheap hotels these days. Pre-kids we used to drive until we couldn’t drive anymore; often late into the night and yes sleep in our car at a truck stop. With kids we find a decent hotel with clean beds, free breakfast, and usually for a great deal using Wyndham Rewards points.
6. Go with the Flow if your kids are content or napping just keep driving. Stay on top of restroom breaks and gas fill ups so when the kids are happiest just go go go. One year the road was smooth sailing and the kids were so content we drove 16 hours straight from Florida to Indiana. We had every intention of stopping to stay somewhere but we ended up getting home a day early and got to sleep in our own beds.
7. Night Driving Be weary of the night driving. It can be very tempting to drive the entire night and save time as well as a day of your trip. However, not all kids enjoy sleeping in their car seats. (Even when it seems like they do). It can be dangerous if you’re not used to driving at night, and while there are significantly less cars in the road there are other animals or driving in unfamiliar place late that can be treacherous. Some places like to do lane restrictions or construction in the middle of the night.
Having said we’ve done both. Having more than two drivers to rotate sleep and driving can help. If your kids like to sleep in their car seats this could be gold. If you are good at driving in the dark go for it. You can take several hours out of your trip, the cooler nights can be easier on your vehicle, and you could wind up with more time to enjoy your vacation.
8. Enjoy Surprises We have witnessed beautiful scenery, stunning sunsets, rain over waterways, rainbows after driving-impaired storms, fog within mountains, and wildlife. We have also stumbled upon, comets, met interesting strangers, spotted armadillos, and even bears. The longer the journey the more likely you’ll have a pleasant surprise somewhere. We’ve found the cleanest, fastest, and nicest McDonalds, the best waitress in a Cracker Barrel, the nicest gentleman at a Gas Station, great small businesses, and so many more amazing people. We’ve also learned hotels, towns, and many other places of where to steer clear of.
9. Not Sure Where to Go? Ask your kids. No seriously even young littles can guide you on where to go. Ours love saying a hotel, a place to swim, and the Christmas Place aka Frankenmuth, MI. Even when our kids couldn’t talk we went where many of their interest were. Our son loved Mickey Mouse so we took him to Disney World (he was even free), or he liked Paw Patrol so we took them for a trip to Indianapolis Children’s Museum. In most cities there’s something for everyone to find joy.
10. Just Go There’s so much to see and do out there don’t let yourself or your kids miss out. It is very exhausting, but not impossible. It doesn’t take breaking the bank or driving 16 hours but get out and go with your kids. Time really goes by too fast. I guarantee, you won’t regret the time spent with your little ones and they will always have long lasting memories.