Saturday, January 23, 2016

Travel With Children: 5 Easy Tips

I can't tell you how often I've heard parents lament about their inability to travel because they have kids.  "It's too hard to travel with children, they'll be cranky after an hour," is also something I hear often.  My family travels a lot and once we found the groove of how to travel with kids, we found that we quite enjoy it and so does our daughter.  In fact, taking road trips with kids or traveling with family doesn't have to be hard at all.  With a little preparation and planning of activities for kids on road trips, things can be smooth sailing all the way.

5 Tips For Traveling With Kids

1) Travel Prepared - Take snacks, tissue paper, a towel (in case of accidents or messes), warm and cold weather clothes, a first aid kit, and something for the kids to do.  

Perhaps the most important thing while traveling with kids (especially if taking a long road trip) is knowing where the bathrooms are.  Having a GPS can help with this, but we often look up rest areas on our route.  Remember that children have smaller bladders and will have to go more often than adults.  I find that it also helps to limit fluids while we're on the road.  It's important to stay hydrated (especially in the summer), but there's a difference between a bottle of water every couple hours and downing an entire bottle of water or juice and then asking for another one right away.

When we're coming up on a rest area we always ask our daughter if she has to go, and if I know she's had a lot to drink we stop even if she says no and have her try anyway.  There's nothing like being on an interstate where there's no cities or place to pull over to use the restroom, and having your 7 year old crying because she has to pee 'real bad'.

One last thing about being prepared on road trips: bring your own soap.  Usually when we travel 3 out of 4 road side rest areas we visit are out of soap.  We usually get a disposable hand soap pump from the dollar store and just keep it in the glove box and take it into the rest room with us.

2) Take toys, books, DVD's, or games that your kids like.

Planning activities for kids on a road trip is essential.  When we're going on a road trip for 4+ hours I take my daughter into her room with her backpack and tell her to pick out a few things.  I usually have her pick out 2 books, 2 Barbies or action figures, 2 toy cars, 2 My Little Ponies, and a small stuffed animal.  She also takes her Nintendo 2DS (which we bought specifically for long road trips) and her Kindle Fire which is packed with educational learning apps.  Sometimes for very long trips (trips that will take several days to complete), we bring a small case of DVD's she likes and a portable DVD player that charges in the car.

As homeschoolers we also tend to bring some schoolwork, but it tends to be things that are more fun and interesting to her like Mad Libs, though I try to sneak her math book in there as well.  I also generally take a composition book or other notebook and a pencil case with 5 or 10 crayons and several pre-sharpened pencils and an eraser so she can draw.  Sometimes I encourage her to look out the window and draw scenery, or write about the places we're going and what she's excited to do when we get there.  Needless to say, she is rarely bored in the car when we're traveling long distances.

3) Bring Comfort Items

A stuffed animal and small blanket can go a long way in making long car rides comfortable for children ages 1-10.  Long trips in the car can have a tendency to make kids tired and cranky, and while they will be occupied for a while with the toys and other things you've brought for them to do, they're bound to fall asleep at some point.

4) Try To Make Things Fun

Unless you're in a big hurry, there's no reason you can't slow things down and enjoy the areas you're traveling through.  Pack a  picnic lunch and stop at a park instead of getting fast food and give the kids a chance to stretch their legs and explore.  You might also want to stop at museums, visitor centers, or theme parks.

You could also buy a disposable camera for each child to use on the trip or have your kids bring their camera if they already have one.  You can give them a list of things to take pictures of and have them check things off the list as you go, or let them just be creative and photograph the world as they see it.

Something else you can do is make up a scavenger hunt ahead of time and give one copy to each child with a pencil or crayon.  They can mark things off as they see them on the road.  The hunt will be different depending on the area you're traveling through (especially if you're going to a National Park), but a few basic ideas could be:
A red semi-truck
A bird of prey (eagle, owl, hawk, vulture)
A welcome to (insert state here) sign
A VW Bug
A convertible
A cow
A buffalo
A police car
A dog

In fact, scavenger hunts are a wonderful way to make any outing fun, especially a hike or walk in the park.  To get ideas for an outdoor scavenger hunt list, see #1 in our Activities To Do With Kids On Earth Day post.

One more thing I want to mention is audio books.  You can download them fairly cheap these days from Audible, or you can get them in CD format from your local library.  Our library also has little MP3 players they loan out with audio books pre-loaded onto them.  Sometimes we take my daughter to the library before a trip and let her pick out one audio book to listen to, or we use Audible to download an audio book on her Kindle.  With headphones she's good to go and not bothered by the radio in the car, and others in the car aren't bothered by her book when they want to talk.

5) Avoid Junk Food

When traveling it's easy to pack bags of individual potato chips, cans of soda or sugary juices, pop tarts, and other pre-packaged foods or to just stop at McDonalds for all of your meals.  What's not easy (and frankly pretty miserable) is having kids who are cranky and crying for an hour because of a tummy ache from all the junk they ate, or kids who are throwing up in the car.

It's not bad to pack some processed or prepackaged foods to enjoy on a long trip, but I encourage you to do a little food preparation at home and pack things into a small cooler instead.  If you want individually packed foods for convenience, put them in half size zip lock bags.  Some ideas for healthy and easy to prepare snacks are:

- Pre-washed baby carrots
- Pre-washed celery
- Pre-washed apples
- Individual applesauce pouches
- Cheese sticks
- Whole grain Goldfish crackers
- Peanuts or almonds
- Dried fruit
- Raisins, Craisins, or dried cherries
- Bottled water
- Fruit snacks made with real fruit juice
- Granola bars
- Powerbars or Tiger's Milk (I wouldn't recommend eating more than 1 of these per day)

With a little preparation, taking road trips with kids can be enjoyable.  Planning activities for kids and being prepared are key ingredients to road trip success.

Have you had a miserable family road trip before?  Do you find traveling with kids enjoyable?  What are some tips you've used in the past to keep kids happy while traveling?  Let us know in a comment below.


  1. I love these tips!! I wouldn't hesitate to travel with my children if we had the money. I have great memories of family trips from my childhood.

  2. We always travel cheaply. We never stay in hotels. We bought a used van and built a King sized bed into the back so we could take it camping, and if need be stay at rest areas when on the road. We've taken that van everywhere and enjoy 3-10 day trips in it for basically the price of gas and a few nights of camping. I'm not sure about where you are, but gas prices are falling pretty rapidly here and we're looking forward to a couple of nice long road trips this summer! :)

  3. Those are really great tips!

    Hi! Stopping by from Mom Bloggers Club.
    Have a nice day!

  4. Great tips, thanks! I also find that avoiding junk food on trips is important to keep us all happy and healthy.

  5. Thanks for the tips. I printed them out for my upcoming trip!

  6. Love the tips! Have definitely used some a time or two. One thing I often forget is bringing along healthy snacks. --NT

  7. Comfort items are a necessity even on trips that only take about an hour for us! And I love the idea of stopping and having fun along the way.