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Tips for Traveling With Kids

My family and I take several road trips each year to visit family, go camping, and explore the area surrounding our home. Throughout their lives my 4 and 6 year olds have taken dozens of road trips, and have rarely had screens to busy themselves with while traveling. Here are a few suggestions I have for making trips go smoothly with kids.

The first tip I have is to know that your trip will take longer than you expect. There’s no getting around it, trips always take longer when kids are involved. So plan accordingly and try to be okay with that. Leave early or plan an extra day for travel, if necessary.

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Before your trip, go to a thrift shop and let each child pick out 1-2 new (to them) toys that are just for the trip. Toys with lots of pieces aren’t good for travel, but things like drawing pads and tracing toys are great for traveling. I usually let my kids pick out one electronic toy that makes noise… something we usually don’t have in the house. The kids love these types of toys since they aren’t usually available. My additional suggestion for the noisy toys is that you put several pieces of tape over the speaker to lower the volume.

Before your trip, go to your local library, a little free library, or ask a friend if you can borrow some books for your trip. Get some books that your kids already love, as well as some new stories. The books don’t all have to be picture books or easy reading books for little kids, you can also bring books with interesting pictures of the world, animals, famous artwork, etc. Your kids can enjoy the pictures even if the text is beyond their reading or comprehension level.

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Prepare great music and some audio books for your trip. Also, make sure to test the music and books out on your car’s stereo or listening device. No one wants to find out the music didn’t load properly an hour into a long trip.

Bring a portable potty and make sure to pack it in an accessible place. You’ll use it more than you think, and it avoids stressful situations when your child realizes they need to pee thirty miles from the next town or rest stop.

Additionally, thirty minutes before each stop, have your kids drink plenty of water. They’ll be ready for a bathroom break once you arrive at your stop, and they’ll be less likely to get dehydrated if you remind them regularly to drink before an already planned stop.

When packing for your trip, make sure to bring plenty of snacks and keep them where you can reach them. Bring foods of different textures, like muffins and pretzels and cheerios. If you’re okay with people eating in the car, snacks are a great way to occupy kids when they start to get antsy. You could also bring a cooler and ice packs for cold items like yogurt, juice, sandwiches, etc.

Consider making an extra stop to let kids get some energy out. The place you stop could be a playground in a random town, an empty parking lot where kids can run or bike around (if you packed bikes), or even a short hiking trail in a place you never would have thought to go otherwise. The kids will get some energy out and you’ll have a nice break from driving for a bit.

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Be prepared to play classic road trip games or make up some yourself. Sing songs, have fun, and do your best to enjoy each other as you travel. After all, the destination is great, but the way there is important too.