Thursday, March 1, 2012

Tips for Cross Country Traveling with Kids

We recently made the long car trip from Connecticut down to Kissammee, Florida with our four kids in tow and we definitely learned a lot from it. We had never done anything like this before, the  longest trips we have taken have been to the New Jersey Shore every summer. Which is about 3 hours or so, depending on traffic. Door to door, the estimated drive time was about 20 hours, covering 1,183 miles. Yikes!

Holy long road trip Batman!
I was nervous about how this was going to go with the kids, especially the two year old who hates being confined in a car seat to begin with. Believe it or not, we survived and the kids did surprisingly well. The ride down went much faster and smoother then the ride back, which I will get into in a minute. These are a few tips that helped us with our trip, so I wanted to pass them along.

Drive at night.
We left on a Friday night at about 8:00pm, about two hours after dinner and a little bit after bedtime. Our thought was that the kids would sleep through the night allowing us to be able to drive for quite a few hours without a lot of stopping. Make sure your driver is rested and alert and take turns if needed. My husband slept the entire afternoon before we left so he was good and fresh. For the most part this worked perfectly. They woke up sporadically and didn't sleep soundly like they normally do, but we only had to make one pit stop for the bathroom in Maryland. By 7:00am Saturday morning we were at South of the Border in South Carolina. By 4:00pm we were in Orlando. A drive that the map says should take about 21 hours, took us 20 hours and that is with 3 stops in there. It was actually quite impressive.  In contrast on the way home we left on a Saturday morning and didn't get home till Sunday night. We will never do that again.

Pack Snacks and Meals
Obviously packing a lot of snacks is a given since you can't  be stopping every few hours to buy something. I packed things like granola bars, cereal bars, bananas, crackers, etc. and filled the kids stainless steel cups up with ice water. I highly suggest packing as many meals as you can as well. Having to stop for meals will cost you at least an hour if you have as many kids as I do. Even at a fast food joint. The day before we left I picked up some mini croissants and mini blueberry muffins from our Big Y supermarket for us to have breakfast Saturday morning in the car. While we stopped at South of the Border for gas, we enjoyed breakfast and were back on our way within minutes. On the way home I packed sandwiches for lunch.

Keeping the kids entertained and preventing them from becoming bored is the biggest challenge of a long trip like this. Each of our children had a backpack next to their car seats which included one small toy of their choosing, Star Wars travel coloring pack (mini coloring book, stickers and crayons) and Star Wars mini notebooks, both from the target $1 spot, plus their handheld video games. My 7 year old has a Nintendo DS and the others have Leapsters.They really didn't do any coloring, but the video games did keep them busy for a good amount of time.

Movies. Movies. Movies.
If you are going to being doing a crazy long drive with young kids like this, I personally feel that some sort of DVD player is a must. Our minivan has a rear entertainment system, which is awesome. If your car does not have a built in one, you can purchase a portable DVD player with screens that attach to headrests at places like Target and Walmart. Believe me, they are worth it even for just a single trip. Pack a portable DVD case with a nice variety of movies. I packed everything from Disney animated movies like Tangled, to my two year old's favorite Thor and of course, all six Star Wars movies. I figured we could do an Episode 1 through 6 marathon. Now this next tip is extremely important. After you put all the movies into the case, make sure you put the case in your car. Triple check yourself. Do NOT be like me and an hour into your trip realize that you left it on the kitchen counter. All we had for the entire trip were the three movies that were in the glove box: Toy Story, A Bugs Life and Marry Poppins. Nevertheless, the movies were still a lifesaver, especially for the toddler. No way could we have survived, especially the trip home, without movies for the kids to watch. And for the ride home we bought a new movie to throw into the rotation: Megamind.

Prepare for Sickness
One of our twins is prone to car sickness and unfortunately has thrown up in the car a few times over the years. Trust me when I tell  you that cleaning that out of the nooks and crannies of a car seat is no fun at all. Even if none of your children have a history of car sickness, its best to be safe and prepare just in case. Anything can happen on such a long trip. My little puker sits right behind the passenger seat so that gives me easy access to him. I took a medium sized, plastic mixing bowl from our kitchen and double lined it with grocery bags. I also grabbed a handful of replacement bags. The bowl was in arms reach of me at all times. Sure enough, just two hours into our ride he got sick but because I had my bowl ready, there was no mess. Thankfully he warned me it was coming and I got the bowl right under his mouth. I tied up the bags and when we stopped for gas, into the trash it went.

Make Time for Learning
While I certainly packed along a lot of electronic devices to keep my kids busy for the trip, that certainly doesn't mean they have to be on the entire time. Let the kids unplug and use the opportunity to learn. For my oldest, I made math flashcards based off of the math problems he gets for homework every day. I made them nice and big so he could see them from the third row and we had fun practicing math skills. He also practiced his reading skills by reading road signs he spotted along the way. For the younger kids, you can talk about things you see as you drive, counting objects like signs and looking for specific color cars.

Making the decision to drive a long distance with little kids probably borderlines on insane. Because it is insane. But if I can do it, anyone can do it. These were just a few things that helped save us time and our sanity on our journey to and from Florida last week. I hope they can help you on your next trip.

Have you ever taken a long car trip with kids? What are some things that worked well for your family?

This post has been brought to you by Appliances Online, the UK's largest online kitchen appliance dealer.


  1. We drove from Massachusetts to Orlando when the kids were 2, 8 and 12. We did everything you said and had a fairly smooth drive all things considered. Our (then) 2 year old had a horrible stomach bug and that made the drive no fun for all of us. We left MANY outfits in the trashcans of gas stations!

  2. You have officially become the bravest woman I know... LOL There is NO way I would have made that drive with kids. The most I have ever - or WILL ever - go is the 7 hours to my grandma's in Clearwater lol

  3. These are great tips, most people forget about learning while on a trip. I'm glad you survived, not sure if I would have fared as well. :)


  4. We go on a 10 hour car trip every summer with my kids. I like to stock up on things from the dollar store or dollar spot at Target and keep them as surprises to hand them while we're on the way. I also get some snacks that we don't usually eat as a special treat. If we break the drive up into two days, I make a bag for each kid for each day so they don't get all the new things as soon as we leave our house. a girlfriend of mine saves all the Happy Meal toys she gets throughout the year to give her kids on car trips.


Thank you for visiting my blog! I love comments, so please say hello and tell me what is on your mind.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...