Itinerary: A long trip with young kids requires a lot of planning. Do not forget the itinerary and do not plan on just driving right through unless you want a lot of unhappy campers. Plan stops alone the way. Know when you are going to get somewhere and plan ample amount of time for stops. I planned for half hour bathroom stops every three hours and at least two one hour stops a day. The first time we went on a long trip I just thought we would find places on the GPS and just stop when we were ready to get out but this was not a good idea because we spent way too much time trying to find something and then we ended up in weird spots or the things that looked interesting to do were closed. So plan your stops and do plan to stop. Plan how much money you will need for gas and stops along the way. Use cash or a recorder to make sure you do not go over budget. It will also help make sure that the kids do not talk you into unnecessary purchases at the gas station or to splurge on the toy with the “happy meal."
Road Map: Print each child their own road map or map of the U.S. for the kids to color. I marked where we were traveling and then we kept track of where we were and how far they’ve gone. It was also neat for them to be able to see what states they traveled in. Do not forget to mark your stops on their map to give them something to look forward to on the drive. The other thing we used our road maps for was to play the license plate game. Long summer road trips are perfect for trying to see how many states license plates you can find. Have the kids color the states of the license plates they found or if your kids are a bit older you could even turn it into a game and have the kids see who can find and color the most states.
Travel Tickets: Another tool that I used to help the kids understand how long we were going to be in the car were travel tickets. For each day I would give them the same number of tickets as number of hours we had to drive that day. I used the GPS to measure the hours in driving time not actual time. This worked really well because even if we stopped for an hour we still had the same amount of driving time left and it was really easy to keep track of how many tickets they had. Each hour they would give me one of their tickets. So let’s say we had to drive 10 hours the first day each hour they gave me one of their tickets and they could see how many more hours were left to drive, so after the first hour they gave me a ticket and could see that they have 9 hours left. P.S. Do not wake sleeping children just wait until they wake and take multiple tickets then. ;) This also helped with the “Are we there yet?” questions, they were not allowed to ask it. If they did the answer is, “How many tickets do you have?” Instead they could ask,”Where are we?” Then they could check their map and see how much longer. It makes the drive a lot more bearable if the kids know how long they are going to be there even if it is a long time.
Make sure that you put a list of these ideas in a travel binder so that you do not forget. When you are angry or stressed or just plain done traveling you will not have the brain cells left to remember all of your wonderful ideas.
Game Ideas: Try to find the alphabet on road signs, See who can get the most animals on their side of the car, I Spy, and Travel Bingo or Scavenger Hunt all make fun games to play in the car. Make Bingo Cards and then they see if they can color in a bingo by finding things on the bingo card, like stop signs, trees, and birds.
Find more detailed travel games on these websites: jumpstart, mini time, MomsMinivan, pbs.org, and kidsactivityblog.
Entertainment Ideas: Do not forget the electronics. While I am not one to use television and gaming as a baby sitter these close quarter conditions call for a little extra screen time...DVD’s, game boys, books on tape (Don’t forget to check out the library), their favorite music (our babe falls asleep to the Frozen Soundtrack every time), your favorite calming music, and tablets. You can use electronics to keep down on the amount of extra stuff you need to bring as well.
Food Ideas: Bring Ziplock bags...You will not regret it! I made snack baggies with a variety of different treats similar to trail mix. Make sure everyone has their own water bottle. If you have to stop for lunch and go to the drive through you won’t have to buy drinks with those flimsy cups and lids. I stored bottled water for refills in our under storage. I also brought individual drink mix pouches for a little something different and they could just pour the individual drink mix into their water. (This is a good idea for one of their reward hours too.) Pack sandwiches for your first meal on the road to save time and money. Keep a small cooler in between the front seats for easy access to food.
Give the kids one small bag for their things and then once that is full they do not get to take anything else on the trip. This will give a place for all of their stuff so it doesn’t end up all over the floor.
Keep a folder or travel binder with all your travel tools. Do not over pack you will not be comfortable! My sister is now coming to visit us this year from Canada. I hope these tips help ya sis!!! Good Luck, because after you’ve done all you can do that’s all you need is some good luck!