There are three wonderful things about road trips with children: 1) You can pack oodles of snacks, toys, and games for the trip; 2) You can go at your own pace and take breaks for playing, potty time, and site-seeing; and 3) If the kids have a meltdown and start driving you nuts, at least they’re only driving YOU nuts instead of a whole planeful of passengers!
Pack Travel Snacks
My favorite way to keep kids’ hands (and mouths) busy on road trips is with snacks, snacks, and more snacks. Start with healthy goodies like whole grain crackers and cereals, trail mix, and sliced fresh fruits. I also like soy crisps and protein bars because many travel snacks are carbohydrate-laden and I want to squeeze some protein in there. Keep everything in separate containers and dole them out sloooowly to get the most bang for your snacking bucks.
Travel Mama Maria Pilar Clark of One Mom Media says, “We love handheld cooler-friendly snacks (like) hard-boiled eggs, Babybel cheeses, yogurt, (and) baby carrots.” She also recommends sneaking a pack of wipes in the cooler to keep kids’ and parents’ hands and faces fresh in hot weather. Great tip!
For babies and toddlers, Travel Mama Farrah Ritter suggests the squeezable fruit and vegetable blends offered by Peter Rabbit Organics and Plum Organics. She says, “My toddler loves them as do my nine-month-old twins. No mess!”
After snacktime, move on to other diversions for awhile before pulling out mealtime items like sandwiches on whole wheat bread, cheese sticks, and maybe a pasta salad with lots of fresh veggies. To save money and time, you might want to consider eating meals on the road or stopping for a picnic lunch outdoors where kids can run around and get their wiggles out. Plus, kids who have been stuck in a car for hours may not be so good at remaining still and using their “inside voices” during a meal in a restaurant.
Reserve some “forbidden snacks” to share as you get closer to your destination for bribery purposes. I like to dole out small, colorful candies like mini M&Ms one at a time for good behavior. Play the “Who can be quiet the longest” game with small treats for the winner of each round.
Take On-the-Go Toys
Of course, you can bring along electronic doo-dads to keep kids content during long road trips, but I suggest holding off on the iPods, Gameboys, and portable DVD players until the last leg of your journey. Start instead with old-fashioned fun like books (a few favorites plus a new title or two), travel puzzles, coloring and activity books, a travel arts and craft kit, and sticker scenes. You can purchase a lap travel tray to help facilitate these activities. It always helps if an adult can ride in the backseat for at least a portion of the trip to help entertain kiddos (and break-up sibling fights)!
I am constantly on the outlook for new toys to bring along on our next vacation but I also keep a separate hidden stash of toys and books to minimize my efforts and keep things feeling fresh for each trip. If you don’t have the time or interest to assemble your own travel packs, check out TravelKiddy’s selection of pre-made actvitiy kits.
Bring Road Trip Games
With all of the modern-day stresses and electronic diversions, road trips are a wonderful time to connect with children. Play old-school games like 20 Questions, Travel Bingo, or I Spy. Travel Mama Joann Wooley, owner of Sign 4 Baby sign language school, says of her family road trips, “We look for American flags and letters of the alphabet and play simple math games.”
Travel Mama Stacey Crumrine – creator of Positively Kids, a site for parents, caregivers, and teachers – suggests simple paper and pen games like Hangman and Tic-Tac-Toe. And on the way home from a recent trip to Florida, she kept her young daughters busy by having them color collected sea shells with crayons. Brilliant!
Many favorite family board games are available in travel versions. For young children, check out Candyland, Hi Ho Cherry-O, and Zingo. Older kids might like Connect 4, Loaded Questions On the Go, Travel Backgammon, Battleship, and Travel Chess.
Pack Safety & Sanity Too
No matter the meltdowns and detours you might encounter during your road trip, the most important thing is that your family arrives safely at your destination (with sanity intact). Allstate insurance has a new Good Hands Roadside Assistance program that can help you do just that. Put your mind at ease knowing that help will be on the way if you need it while on the road. You do not have to have Allstate insurance to use this service. You only pay when you use it; there are no monthly fees. Pre-registering for Good Hands Roadside Assistance provides faster service at time of need on the road. Those that pre-register will also receive a welcome kit in the mail containing a wallet card, key fob and window cling with the phone number for roadside help. Find out more about the Allstate Good Hands Roadside Assistance program.
What’s your favorite road trip snack, toy or game? Let us know in the comments!
A Note from The Travel Mama: I was compensated by Allstate to write this post. I was not required to sign up for the program but I did because I like to be safe on the road. It’s free, so why not?!