This post kicks off a new summer series here at RegistryFinder: Travel with Kids. Over the next few weeks, we’ll cover all the necessary details (and realness) of hitting the road, flying the skies, and conquering the theme parks. Today we start with the iconic family road trip!
Confession: I did not grow up going on road trips. My family stuck to an approximate 3-hour travel time limit for car and plane rides (luckily for me and my siblings, Disney World and the Caribbean were within a 3-hour radius!)
Maybe that’s why a family road trip seems so charming to me: I imagine piling in the car, taking in the scenery, and enjoying cozy, uninterrupted quality time with my husband and daughters.
I imagine that would last for about five minutes.
Then, my imagination turns to traffic jams, temper tantrums, and general claustrophobia.
So as I prep for summer road adventures with my young family, I knew I needed the help of a seasoned traveler and mom, my good friend Jenny Dansby. Jenny and her husband have posted enough Instagram photos of their travels for me to know that they are complete road warriors when it comes to taking kids cross-country and living to tell the tale!
Jenny shares, “We took our daughter, Lottie, on her first road trip when she was only a few months old. I needed to see friends and God’s creation, so #lottieslovetour was created. We’ve been traveling ever since with our girl! Such a blessing!”
Buckle up: here are the tips and products you’ll need to hit the road this summer (and have fun doing it)!
Jenny’s General Road Trip Tips:
- Start ‘em young: The more you travel with kids the better they get at it! Don’t be afraid to begin road trips while your kids are very young: in my opinion, traveling with a 0-3 month old is easiest since they just sleep and eat!
- Give yourself MORE time than you need: Don’t just go by Google Maps’ travel time for planning your trip: you’ll need to factor in breaks. You’ll want to plan to stop at least every two hours to stretch, use the bathroom, and take a quick walk. Just ten minutes of running around will give you another two hours of contentment. It’s remarkable!
Packing like a Pro:
- To avoid feeling overwhelmed, make lists and start early! Make an individual packing list for each family member.
- The week before your departure, open up the suitcases and begin filling with each family member’s items.
- If your kids are old enough, let them help! Have fun teaching planning and organization skills—a colorful suitcase is a great way to start!
- Highlight last-minute items that you’ll need to throw in right before you walk out the door (ex: sleep sacks or sound machines you’ll be using the night before the trip!)
The Sleep Secrets:
- Go with your kids’ habits: you know your kids when it comes to how they sleep best. If your kids love sleeping in their car seat, maybe an overnight drive is best. If not, do the bulk of your driving between wake up and naptime.
- If you’ll be stopping for the night, try to recreate your child’s sleeping environment as much as possible at the hotel. Get creative to create a dark, quiet place for sleep! Try requesting a suite or handicap room, or use a large bathroom to put your child to sleep. Other odd, but genius options: use a closet as their sleep place, or drape the curtain around their crib or Pack n Play!
- I recommend bringing your own Pack n’ Play from home instead of relying on hotel cribs. We love the Graco Pack n Playard Jetsetter!
- Pack a portable sound machine to block out hotel noise, and bring familiar blankets and sheets from home.
- Once your child outgrows the Pack n Play, transition them to a blow-up toddler bed like this one.
- For toddler activities, think “mess free!” Some of our favorites are a magnetic sketchboard, paint-with-water coloring books (you won’t have to worry about your car’s upholstery getting “decorated”), twistable Crayola crayons (no more broken crayon pieces!), and reusable sticker pads!
- For older kids, pick up something like this license plate game and a kid-friendly map to mark your journey. If the kids are engaged in the trip, they will have more fun and the drives will be worth it!
- Store everything in a backseat organizer to keep your car feeling clean!
- Pack your kiddos’ favorites. You can keep the main stash in the trunk, and at each stop get some more out to keep within reach. We like cooler bags with freezer packs to keep milk, cheese sticks, yogurt, fruit, and drinks cold.
- Use large bibs to avoid having to clean car seat straps. The bib will also come in handy if your child happens to get carsick.
- For the adults: our go-to travel apps are Trip Advisor, Gas Buddy, and Google Maps. I also recommend that you sign up for stay rewards at your favorite hotel and download their app to track your points.
- Consider upgrading your phone plan to “unlimited data” for the trip.
- For the kids: Try holding out on technology for the kids until you absolutely need it. Don’t have the DVD player or iPads strapped on so the kids can see (and beg for) them. On our most recent trip with our toddler, we made it 2,000-ish miles before watching movies! Try to limit in-car screen time by only starting within 2 hours of arriving at your nightly destination. But when all else fails on those long days, just don’t worry about “too much.” Do whatever it takes to keep your family content!
Remember, it’s about the journey:
Road trips are more than just getting to your destination! Plan fun stops along the way to visit far-away friends, national and state parks, and other attractions. You’ll be creating life-long memories with each mile!
Ready to Hit the Road?
This piece is the first in a summer travel series here at RegistryFinder.com. Subscribe to our blog to make sure you don’t miss a post!