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Here’s an awesome idea: spend 2 weeks driving cross-country with a 5-year-old, a 3-year-old, a 2-year-old, and a newborn. Any takers? No? Well, my husband and I didn’t have much of a choice in the matter as these were our kids and we were told it was time to move (military). This was our life this past summer. Let’s just say, there were some highs (seeing the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park) and some lows (okay, a lot of lows) along the way. But, if there’s anything I gained from this trip (besides some truly good memories) it was a handful of go-to lifesavers that I will use for every road trip we take from now on.
Below are my top 5 go-to lifesavers when traveling with kids (P.S. I’ve since made several more 10+ hour trips to validate these tips).
1. Special snack bag:
It doesn’t have to be a fancy bag: I literally use brown paper lunch bags and put their name on it, but I fill it with healthy snacks as well as a few treats. I try to buy some snacks that they never get to have so it gets them excited when they open it. I tell them that these are their snacks for the trip. So, it’s up to them to decide if they want to eat all the junk food first or save some for later in the day.
2. Adventures in Odyssey and other audiobooks:
Adventure’s in Odyssey are by far my favorite traveling treats for the kids. They are original audio stories that teach kids good character-building lessons with a Christian influence. They are just awesome! Though they are technically geared toward kids ages 8-12, my 2-, 4-, and 5-year-olds love them!
I actually really like them, too. Each story lasts between 20-25 minutes, and there are 100’s of stories to choose from. When we’re on the road, they will frequently listen to these stories for almost 2 hours straight! They are also great for my kids during “quiet time” when we’re home. It helps them rest a little without getting restless.
If Adventures in Odyssey just isn’t your thing, try renting audiobooks from an online library or purchasing audiobooks through a resource like Audible Free Trial [Digital Membership] (an affordable option because they offer “credits” for free books with a monthly subscription).
3. Tag Reader/Leap Reader books and “regular” books:
I’m not sure why I sometimes think that my children need all the portable electronic and mobile devices to keep them entertained on a road trip. The truth is that my kids actually love to look at books, whether it’s a regular book or using the Tag Reader/Leap Reader. The funny part is that only one of them can even read yet!
To get them excited about the books, I frequently run to Walmart or Target and get them each a new, inexpensive book for the trip. They usually all swap at some point so the added bonus is that it’s like they each got three new books (our youngest is only 8 months right now so he just eats the books)!
When the kids finally start to get restless, which is inevitable no matter what when on a 10 hour drive, I turn on KIDZ BOP and they all start singing and dancing along (mommy does, too). The great part is that this music doesn’t annoy the heck out of me. It’s like listening to very clean versions of popular songs on the radio, all sung by kids.
Yes, we also have our Toddler Tunes and kids praise songs and, of course, the Frozen soundtrack. However, I try to hold off on Frozen until one of the girls has an inconsolable screaming fit. Usually, it only takes getting halfway through, “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” before she snaps out of it and starts singing along.
5. Movies and other portable devices:
Last, but certainly not least, are the movies and video games. I really try to hold off on these as long as I possibly can for a variety of reasons. One is because the battery power only lasts so long and our car charger is not very fast. Another reason is because they always get frustrated with whatever game their playing so then we have to deal with that. And, third, it’s a WONDERFUL bargaining tool in our household. I frequently tell them that they will only be allowed to play on the iPad if they take a nap (my kids are still all under the age of six). As they get older, I will just tell them that the movies/video games are for the last two hours of the trip, if they behave.
So far, these five go-to’s have worked well for us on our road trips. As we prepare to embark on another long trip along I-95, I will prepare my bag of tricks and pray for the best! I hope that you will find some of these tools helpful as you buckle up for your family’s next long trip!