Mexican Domestic Goddess

10 Tips for Road Tripping with Kids

Travel, CampingJacqui Skemp1 Comment

{read my previous post in this series here}

I’ve done my fair share of traveling as a small child and with small children. In my youth, we flew or drove to Mexico every year to visit our family. Flights were longer than three hours, and the drives were just shy of 30 hours. Needless to say, we got really good at keeping busy in the days before screens were readily available. 


I learned to love those long trips, especially the drives. In preparation, I would borrow or buy books and keep them on my dresser anxiously awaiting the hours where I could sit back and read. I spent the weeks leading up those trips recording songs on the radio, later burning cd’s with curated playlists. 

We started traveling with our youngest when he was only two months old. Most years we only traveled once, but some years we were fortunate enough to get two visits in. A few times a year we travel about three hours to visit family in Minnesota, and last fall we did our first big drive! We drove 18 hours over the course of two days to get to a family reunion in southern Texas. So there are definitely some things that work better when travel days are longer. If you’re flying with littles, read my post on that here.

1. Reduced Drive Time 

When we drove from Minneapolis to San Antonio, our days were long, and our stops were very short. So we put the older boys in pull-ups because I was not down for dealing with any accidents. When planning our trip from Minneapolis to Los Angeles, we had the luxury of time. So we made it a point to keep most travel days (especially ones where we were going to be setting up camp) short, as in, no longer than 5 hours, preferably closer to 3. That made a huge difference for everyone. We had enough time to delve into our car activities, but not be completely sick of being in a moving vehicle for too many hours. 

2. Daily Routine

At home, we thrive on routine. I don’t keep a tight schedule, but a general order to our day makes things run smoothly and helps the little ones know what to expect. It made sense to do something similar with our travel days, particularly because we would be traveling for over a weeks time. Our days went something like this: break camp, breakfast in the car, family prayer time, read books/color/play with toys, stop for gas and then head to a park while I made lunches, lunched in car and then the baby would nap, audiobooks for the kids, dinner at our destination. 

3. Screens

We didn’t do any screens this time, but for other trips in the past we have, and I thank the God Lord for the gift of ipads. The “kids” ipad is one my dad handed down to us. It took some figuring out, but it’s completely safe, and only has educational apps, and we busted it out only a handful of times. We did download a few movies onto our ipad and the kids got to watch a couple of movies during our trip to Texas. Call my crazy, but I think the lack of screens on this trip actually made for better behavior. Another thing that helped with behavior was...

4. Good Food

Did my kids cry for candy and cookies? They absolutely did. Did they get them? They did not. We kept a tote bag full of apples, clementines, bananas, and a cooler stocked with a variety of berries, carrots, sugar snap peas, and cheese sticks. They got pb&j’s for lunches, and water. On a short plane ride I have no problem busting out gummy snacks, but in a car where my husband and I are the only ones who have the pleasure of hearing our children complain about the lack of processed sugar, I am happy to deny my little ones. We also packed salami and cheese and beef jerky for ourselves. Good food =  no sugar crashes = better behaved humans, including the adult ones. 

5. Favorite Lovies

My kiddos each have a small stuffed animal (or superhero) that they love, so we made sure to pack those along with a small blanket for each boy. The stuffed toys danced to silly songs, and blankets became secret caves and tents. It’s amazing what little minds can imagine when resources are limited. Plus, I think the reminders of home helped them feel comforted when they were resting their heads in new places each night.


6. Books

Each boy gets a backpack to fill with their stuff. I had the boys pick out a handful of books that they love, and I also picked out a few that I could tolerate reading. It also helped that this year we have a reader, and since he sat in the middle, he was able to read to his younger siblings. Here are a few we brought a long, but feel free to check out the tab above with more of our favorite books. 

7. Arts and Crafts

This doesn’t get used a ton, but it does come in handy. I packed a pad of blank paper, a few character coloring pages, a bag with color pencils, a bag with crayons, and a bag with Color Wonder markers. If you haven’t entered the color wonder world, please do yourself the favor and get in on that. 

8. Toys for the car that wont make you hate yourself 

I limit toys big time. Kids get maybe one thing because I don’t want to have to go digging around for legos and matchbox cars. We had one Batman toy sneak in, and I know exactly who to blame for that. My all time favorite car toy for the kids are Tegu blocks. They’re really beautiful wooden blocks with magnets in them and they’re large enough to not get easily lost. We’ve also found things like the shoelace boards, and toys that can be strung together useful.

9. Activity books

Sticker books forever and ever, amen. They have saved us when we’ve been stuck on a tarmac for two hours, long car rides, and really my kids just love them at home. I usually pick up several packs when the Target dollar section has them, but a good sticker book is nice to have as well. I let them go crazy and stick them all over the place as long as it keeps them happy. Sticker away, little babies! We also like Water Wow! books because, as you might have guessed, it’s just water. They also love Melissa and Doug sticker books and scratch pads.

10. Audio Books

Last but most definitely not least: audio books. Our eldest has been listening to audio books on the way to and from school for two years now, and they are just great for longer car rides. My aunt gave us two volumes of Classical Kids (vol. 1 and vol. 2) and my kids absolutely love them. We’ve uploaded them onto an ipod shuffle that we connect to a splitter and then each of the big boys can listen. My kids are also very into listening to the Tiki Room over and over and over and over…. So there’s that.

I hope you find these tips helpful and encourage you to load up your littles into your vehicle and see more of the world!

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