We just got back from a road trip to Utah. Eleven hours+ in the car each way with little kids had its challenging moments for sure, but I really loved it and would do it again in a heartbeat. I was actually surprised how enjoyable it was. Have you taken long road trips with kids before? I’m are sharing a few ideas on what makes road trips awesome in partnership with Firestone Complete Auto Care. Here are a few long road trip selling points I’ve been thinking about, and some ideas from my best road tripping girlfriends, if you’re considering taking one…
Before setting out, be sure to get your car road in tip top shape ready with a tune up. Firestone Complete Auto Care makes it simple and most of the services like oil changes, break service, tire rotation, etc don’t cost a lot but can save you some serious headaches on the road. Find tons of coupons here for your next service.
A more relaxed schedule. One thing I love about road trips is that leaving the house doesn’t feel as pressured because there’s not a time deadline you have to meet. A nice break from family travel anxiety. Same with stops, meals, and snack breaks. Take as long as you and your little ones need!
Seeing Beautiful Country. There’s something really amazing about staring out of a window for hours upon hours at the landscape. The wide open road is so inspiring. On our trip to Utah we came across several rainbows, stunning sunsets, some pretty crazy thunderstorms, and even a hail storm that was so intense we had to pull over and just wait it out! So many exciting and beautiful things to experience from the safety of your car.
Spontaneous stops for local exploring. If you do find somewhere amazing, you can stop and stay as long as you’d like! Pull out your camera and take a picture, go for a walk, have lunch somewhere new and different. My friend Kendra says she’s all about the stops: “I usually pack picnic meals and when we stop to eat it at a place like a park or scenic area where the kids can run around.” On our trip from Utah we found a funny warning sign at the rest stop (first image) and Henry insisted on taking a photo of it, it ended up being of my favorite photos from the trip.
Quality family time. It’s a lot of time in the car, but it can be really fun time as well. We love playing games like eye spy, finding every color of the rainbow, travel bingo, 20 questions, and the license plate game. It’s also a great time to catch up and connect. My friend Ashley’s got a chatty 3 yr old and tells me “Sometimes my three year old just likes to talk so we pick funny topics and have a silly discussion. It always burns more time than I think it would! And she entertains us with the hilarious things she says.”
A private vessel for naps and tantrums. With little kids, this can be a real relief from travel anxiety. Knowing that you’re in the car without strangers, you can relax a little about tantrums and can allow for quiet naps. My friend Michelle has a good plan for naps in the car with her kids: “I like to recline their seats just a little bit after lunch to make it easier to fall asleep for a nap (sometimes I shove a rolled up towel under the car seat to help with this – just make sure to re-tighten the car seat straps). Add their favorite stuffed animal and play some Radiohead and it’s lights out.” There were a few moments on our road trip where Edie just had enough with the car and we all heard about it. I’m just glad strangers didn’t have to as well!
Do you plan your family’s road trips around their nap schedules? My friend Kristin totally does with her twin 3 yr olds: “We always schedule around nap times and pit stops. If you know your little one gets ansy after 45 mi – hour, map out the park stop or food breaks in advance. When we go to Tahoe we usually leave around 11, stop in Sacramento for lunch around 12:30ish…and then get back in the car in time for naps which (hopefully) gets us almost all the way there!”
Books on tape and catching up on all that new music. I never have time to read as much as I’d like, but on a road trip I love using an app like Over Drive to check out audio books on tape from my local library (have you used it? It’s so awesome!). You just check out whatever you’d like with your regular library card and download them to your phone. I usually also download one the kids will love too like Harry Potter or The Toys Go Out. I like to catch up on podcasts too. Here’s a list of our favorite podcast episodes about family life if you’re interested. And my favorite podcasts for kids is called Brains On! Our whole family is a fan of that one.
Road trip snacks + new toys. Bring on the sugared soda, bags of Doritos, and sour straws! Am I the only one who looks forward to road trip snacks? You do what you have to do to entertain the kids (and yourself!). Michelle says, “Whenever I travel with kids, nearly all my rules go out the window. Bribery comes into play in a huge way. Treats galore. New toys for no reason.” My friend Carol agrees on the new toys idea, and has this smart plan: “Go to the dollar aisle at Target and buy a small toy or game for every hour we are in the car and wrap them. Then every hour of being in the car they get to open one. I love it because they have a fresh toy to play with every hour and they love to keep driving because they only get to count driving time.” One last tip Michelle had for keeping that car clean: “Get a large trash bag to help keep the car clean. Put it where the kids sit and make one of the older kids in charge of all trash. And if no one wants to do it then bribe with candy.” I’m totally doing that on our next trip!
Great for last minute planning. We are always planning things last minute, so this makes road trips a no-brainer. Plus, you can add/subtract riders easily when people’s schedules change. Our niece Roxcy (above) was planning on driving back with us, and at the last minute her 16 yr old brother came as well. No problem to add in another person into the car! Henry loved having a buddy to play video games with in the backseat.
A time to disconnect. Because there’s one person driving who can’t be on a device, it’s a great chance to stay off yours as well (and often you don’t have service anyway to check instagram!). I love the feeling of disconnecting and being present with your family on the long straight road to adventure.
What are your favorite memories or parts about long road trips?