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When looking out to the open road, here are tips to planning a road trip with the kids.

8 Tips For Planning an Awesome Road Trip with the Kids

Road tripping may be the preferred American mode of transportation, but it became ten times less enjoyable when you had kids. Your children may fill your heart with love, but they fill your backseat with loud, sticky messes. But you’re in luck! With just a little extra planning, you can stave off the whining and set your family up for an enjoyable road trip with the kids. Whether you’re heading into the wilderness for a few days of camping, or over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s, here are some useful road trip tips to help you and your children enjoy the journey AND the destination.

  1. Make a road trip kit for each of your kids.  If you’re driving a long distance, you can plan ahead to make the journey as seamless as possible. Here’s how: Each hour of the trip, let the kids open a new gift or activity which you keep concealed in the front seat with you. For each hour, have a new toy (small, inexpensive toys you can find at a dollar store), an activity, stickers, a CD, a snack, etc. This helps the time go by quickly, keeps your little ones occupied and distracted from that nagging “are we there yet?” feeling.
  2. Get your kids to look out the window by planning a scavenger hunt.  Create a simple worksheet to check the boxes as they find each item. This can be as simple as finding road signs for each letter of the alphabet, license plates from each state, or color-based items such as a blue building, a red barn, a cow, etc.
  3. Although you might want to avoid buying every toy a child spots at a roadside rest stop, it can be a fun idea to allow your child to pick out one souvenir that is representative of the trip. A great way for them to remember the trip you took together, it can also be an item to schedule in the road trip kit – plan it at a strategic time when they need a good distraction.
  4. No matter what your mother may have told you, it is okay to pack in laundry baskets. Though you may feel awkward arriving at a hotel with baskets in lieu of suitcases, it will pay off when you arrive back at home with neatly sorted baskets of clean and dirty clothes.
  5. This one’s a no-brainer.  Bring trash bags for the car.  Empty your trash ritually at each gas station – a clean car will help maintain your sanity. Don’t forget a plastic baggy of paper towels, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, and a small pocket knife for slicing fruit, cheese, or bread.
  6. Have picnics instead of fast food.  You might have to invest a little time driving around to find perfect picnic spot, but it will be worth it.  Whether you pack food from home or stop at the grocery on the way, you’ll save money, have a healthier lunch, and enjoy a great view. Picnics can quickly become a cherished family tradition.
  7. Even if your toddler is borderline potty-trained, don’t risk it.  Opt for the pull-up and eliminate even the marginal risk of road trip pant-wetting.
  8. Build up the anticipation and eliminate any arguments by selecting a movie ahead of time.  Save the movie for after dark to allow some quiet time before the little ones (fingers crossed!) drift off to sleep.

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