For me, it’s a 10 or 11 hour trip by car to Disney. It’s 30 when we drive to Ohio. I get carsick so I drive at least 90% of it. You can see why my husband wishes we would fly more. Considering the cost for a family of 5 to fly, especially when you include the rental car needed at many destinations and the pain of luggage, flight delays, and security -the car is an easy choice for me. Here’s a few tips to help you survive.
Pack all of them. I portion out things in baggies and keep them within reach of the driver. I can toss back baggies of grapes (sliced if they are small), cheez its, animal crackers, etc. The kids don’t need much, but it keeps them happy and no one complains that they are hungry and need to stop. Why do car rides make you hungry? It’s not just psychological, you can hear tummies growling after a couple hours in the car. Snacks also keep my husband happy, so I pack jerky or a few of his favorites.
Some people prefer to drive overnight and let their kids sleep. That never worked for me, I’m not good with no sleep and would not be able to be up with the kids when we get there! I’ve found leaving at 6 am is our best bet. The kids are woke up just before getting in the car, I’ll hand them a yogurt or frozen waffle for breakfast on the road. They stay in pjs, have blankets and are pretty good with no stops for the first few hours. I fill a couple Yeti-type cups with coffee and I’m good to go. When we leave later people want lunch earlier on the trip and we end up stopping at least 2 x as much. Find your sweet spot for timing and stick with it.
Remember when we were kids? Single row backseat stuffed with siblings, the only good part about the middle was the a/c from the front might actually reach you. We had to listen to whatever our parents picked, if we were lucky enough to be in range of an FM or even AM radio station.
Now you can hand your kids a kindle to read, they can watch a travel dvd player or listen to an ipod. But non electronics are great too. We bring along legos in old wipes containers, they can build small things. I highly suggest only bringing the bricks-not the small tiny flat pieces that easily get lost. Alphabet magnets and a dollar store cookie sheet are also good for keeping small hands busy. Melissa and Doug have great products that travel well, from actual road trip games including hangman and bingo, to sticker pads with fill in funny faces or meals. They are available on Amazon but TJ Maxx and Homegoods are a great source too.
Games like I spy or the alphabet game keep kids of all ages busy too. My kids love the most simple games-like when we take turns saying words for each letter of the alphabet. I mean any word, not even in categories-I don’t get why they love it but I’m not questioning it! Once Upon a Child and the dollar store are also great sources for cheap things to do. Wrapping them up so each kid feels like they got a gift or a surprise goes a long way in keeping people excited about the open road too!
We also get books on tape from the local library. They have choices for all ages, from Roald Dahl classics to Harry Potter to Bernstein Bears for the small kids. You can also find sets of the cd and book to read along. The actors doing the reading are so fantastic I find myself getting lost in the story as well. Roald Dahl’s James and Giant Peach is one we’ve repeated-the actor is entertaining.
If you’re like me you want to get there as fast as possible, eating lunch in the car if you can. But my kids require more breaks to wiggle around. Both Cracker Barrel and Chick Fil A are good stops, the former for their store to explore, the latter for their playground. Neither are my favorite for food but they work for what we need. You can also pack a picnic and run around at a rest stop. Some actually have playgrounds or pretty picnic areas these days. Florida border is a good one, photo ops, free juice, and a small play area for kids. They also have charging stations and SunPass vending machines.
No one can travel if they are uncomfortable. Keep the kids in pjs if it’s early, no one will judge. Bring blankets, pillows and loveys, whatever they need. A comfy kid will often become a sleepy kid, which means quiet for you. Let them relax and you’ll be less stressed yourself.