Road Trips With Little Ones: Tips and Tricks for Traveling with Children

Road tripping with little ones can be fun and enjoyable for all. 
Disclaimer: Not ALL road trips with children will be fun and enjoyable.
I shared a little about this in my story about Our First Family Road Trip. Here are some tips, tricks, and essentials that have made car travel more pleasant for our family.

1. Borrow What You Can and Buy the Rest (cheaply).

When traveling to visit friends or family, chances are good that they may have or know someone who has some of the bigger items you may need that they could loan you– strollers, pack-n-plays, bikes, scooters, etc. When the three of us were headed to Destin, Florida in our Prius with our cooler, all of our camping gear, and three bikes, there was very little room to pack beach chairs or umbrellas. Purchasing them on arrival was an option, but bringing them home would not be an option. That was a high price to pay for 5 days. So, we checked out Craig's List. Do you know how many people in Destin, Florida are selling beach chairs and umbrellas? A LOT! Problem solved! Also, baby carriers and wraps are a great alternative to strollers, take up very little space, and provide special bonding and snuggle time while out of the car.

2. Less is More!

I thought I needed to pack the whole nursery for Our First Family Road Trip. As it turns out, we didn't need or even use most of those things. Part of that may have been due to the fact that there are new places to explore and people to visit in the new environment. Uncle Andy's lap or Grandma's shiny watch can often provide more entertainment than the most expensive rubber giraffe.

3. Designate a Changing Station and Pack it in the Car Last.

Pack diapers, wipes, and extra sets of clothes individually wrapped in zip-locs with each child's name on them in one big "changing station" bag. Pack this bag in the car last so it will be easy to access in a hurry. This will make diaper and outfit changes quick and painless without having to search through multiple bags. Pull-ups for potty trainers is an amazing back-up in case you get stuck in traffic in the far left lane at rush hour. (edited to add: We have a small toilet-training potty that we used for our daughter when she was little. We still NEVER leave home without it. We line the removable bowl with a diaper sack ($1 for 50 at HEB) and stash a pack of wipes inside. It has come in handy so many times - especially in the middle of nowhere, late at night, and when the bathroom is dirtier than the bottom of your trash bin.)

4. Keep Your Bed Time Routine.

If you have a routine in the evenings, try to stick to it. Consider adding pajamas to the changing station (see #3) if you'll be arriving late. A sponge bath, changing into pajamas, and brushing teeth after dinner can help children wind down for the evening and makes the transition from carseats to beds much easier. If you have room, hop in the back seat for a bit to read a bed time story.

5. Light the Night.

For the older children (or sleep protestors), pack some glow sticks or glow necklaces for after dark. This may prevent them from turning overhead lights on and off.

6. Invest in a seat organizer (or if you're super handy with the sewing machine, make one!).

These are great for storing things like Thieves wipes or hand sanitizer, kleenex, remotes, and extra cables. A lovey or blanket can be hung over the straps until it is requested.

7. Use a Car Charger that has Multiple Ports.

This enables multiple devices to be charged simultaneously and the iPad will always be juiced when you need it. We have one like this.

8. Stop at the Library a Day or Two Before Your Departure.

Load up on audiobooks and DVDs. Our library has these really fun MP3 players that you can check out, pre-loaded with an audio book recording. All they require is batteries and your own headset.

9. Shop the Dollar Store.

We have loaded up a backpack with puzzles, legos, stickers, notepads, note cards, activity books, and small toys from the Dollar Store. It's amazing what can become a “toy” in the car. My sister-in-law found these really fun roll-up chalk mats and sticker books for a road trip recently.  My niece and nephew figured out the stickers stick on the windows too! 

Road Trip Fun

10. Pack Surprises or Incentives for Good Behavior.

These are often an extension of Dollar Store finds, but may also include a sucker, piece of gum, or other sweet treat. A friend of mine wraps little goodies in bags and writes a colorful affirmation on them. I have never gift-wrapped my good behavior rewards, but I have kept them a surprise and out of sight. We enjoy the Trader Joe's Pops and YumEarth Organic Lollipops.

The road trip "hacks" and ideas list doesn't end here! Click on over here for the second part of the series.

Happy Trails to you...till we meet again (next week)!