Over the years, my husband and I have devised a pretty effective routine for flying with our kids. We divide and conquer, each sitting with one child, far away from the other so that they can’t rile each other up on the flight. I keep a carryon bag pre-packed, adding snacks the night before the flight, and whenever possible, we schedule early morning flights because our kids are happiest when they first wake up.
Road trips, on the other hand, are new territory for us. None of us has developed the stamina for a drive over 90 minutes, so I need to get prepared for our upcoming 6+ hour drive down to Southern California. We’ll be leaving after school on a Friday, so there’s a chance the kids will snooze for a little while, but since they’re now five and six years old, they will definitely be awake, and very energetic, for most of the trip.
My strategy is to load up on snacks and entertainment for the drive.
We’ve attempted this drive once before, and I stocked up on snack-sized versions of chips and treats, thinking it would be fun for the kids to get their fill of their favorite snacks. Since those are all empty calories, they never felt satisfied (plus, they were bored), so they kept asking for more and more. Also, our car looked like a disaster zone—so many crumbs!
For this trip, I’m packing a healthier variety of foods to tide us over until we can stop for dinner. I used this list of 30 healthy snacks as inspiration and tailored it to my family’s taste… and also used some common sense. The original list includes tuna and crackers, but I cannot imagine sitting in a car with an open can of tuna for six hours! This looks like a lot of food when it’s written out like this, but if you have children, you know variety is key to staving off meltdowns.
- Carrots and hummus (these single cups of hummus are really convenient!)
- Dried mangos and raisins
- Almonds (wasabi-flavored and cocoa-dusted)
- Yogurt, fruit, and granola parfaits
- Guacamole and sliced peppers (guac comes in mini cups, too!)
- Peanut butter pretzels
- Protein bars
- Sandwiches—peanut butter & jelly and turkey & cheese for my crew
- Kix cereal
- Sparkling water—sometimes we mistake hunger for thirst. Bubbly water can feel like a special drink after sipping regular water in the car.
I may use the kids’ Yumbox bento boxes to pre-pack snacks like I do when we’re on a plane, or I may end up shoving everything into a cooler and doling it out as needed. It’ll be a game-time decision.
My daughter got car sick once watching her iPad, so I save electronics as a last resort (and why we now travel with an emergency puke kit in the car).
I bought these lap trays for our last trip, and they worked out really well. The trays attach around the kids’ car seats, giving them space to play, eat, or watch their iPads.
I’m stocking up on some new activity books for the drive:
Let me just note here that I am grateful my kids can now sit quietly and do these kinds of activities. I remember all too well how difficult it was to travel with toddlers when there was basically nothing that would keep their attention for very long!
I’m also taking some of our go-to toys for airplanes in the car:
- Plus-Plus blocks (having the lap tray is clutch for these)
- Magnetic drawing board (this version of a magnetic board is really cool, too),
- Small dolls
- Hot Wheels cars
I have a rule against playing kid music in the car (you can read all about why here), but for road trips, it’s helpful to have some kid-pleasing songs on hand. Try this kid-approved and parent-approved playlist.
Do you have more road trip tips? Share them in the comments!