Oct 17, 2012

How to Survive Car Trips with Kids

This is a rare moment on a car trip for us.

My in laws live in Southern California, which is a short 4 hour drive away. Until you have three little kids who don't sleep in the car and then it's the longest 5+ hours of your life. You have at add at least an hour for stops once children are involved. So how do you survive a car trip with toddler or preschool aged children who almost never sleep in the car? After arriving at our destination worn out and stressed out to the max too many times, my husband and I realized that our trips had to change. Here are some of our tips that will make your road trip much smoother.

Our nonperishable snacks from our car trip last year.

Snacks, snacks, and more snacks. I am a total neat freak when it comes to my car. Don't you dare leave a coke can in the cup holder, you will be yelled at. No seriously, ask my husband. I don't allow food to be eaten in my car. EVER! It makes a mess and stinks up the joint. But on car trips I've learned to lower my neat freak flag and let the kids eat in the car. And my wonderful husband helps me vacuum and wash the car seats when we gt home so it's clean again.

So feed your kids tons of snacks when you're on road trips. I give my kids their own bowl that I pour snacks into which makes life much easier. And think beyond junk food since all that sugar will just hype them up anyway. We always bring fruit that isn't messy, (think grapes and blueberries) string cheese, Cheerios, and raisins. We throw in some cookies and junk too, anything to keep those kids happy. They will not eat dinner or lunch when you get somewhere, but who cares? Arriving in one piece without being stressed is more important than one missed meal.

Get a DVD player I'd like to tell you about a woman who judged parents for buying a TV for their cars when she was childless. She had one kid who did OK in the car so the judgement continued. And then said woman had twins and all hell broke loose. Hello, my name is Allison and now I totally get why a TV in the car is essential for car trips.

My cousins gave us their portable DVD system and it changed our lives! Well maybe not our lives, but our car trips were greatly changed. The kids now have something to watch and they get to take turns picking what we watch. I do have the advantage of having three kids within 21 months so they are into the same shows.

Stop to Eat Yes I did say the kids wouldn't need to eat, but you will. Do yourself a favor and plan your trip to stop for lunch or dinner. We pick a fast food place with a play area so the kids can run and play for a few minutes. We try not to stop for more than 30 minutes so our trip isn't extended too long. But those 30 minutes out of the car are so helpful. We've noticed that getting out the car hits the reset button with our kids. OK fine, it mostly sets our reset buttons.

Have a Sense of Humor Even with my 3 tips above that work 90% of the time you have to factor in the other 10%. Mark melted down on us on our last road trip to Disneyland and it wasn't fun. Look at that sad little face, he was screaming and crying and we never figured out why. Although my mommy senses tell me that one of his sisters did him wrong.

So what do you do when they're flipping out? I turn up the TVs (or radio on car rides around town) and try to drown it out. When I'm the passenger, I take pictures and video of the meltdown so we can look back and laugh. We have some car trip videos from our pre-dvd player days that crack us up. Listening to the crying makes us wonder how we ever arrived in one peice.

And when all else fails have a drink when you arrive at your destination. Sometimes a glass of wine or a cup of good coffee makes everything all better. Let's face it, road trips with little kids are tough and sometimes things don't go as smoothly as we would like them to. Have a drink and relax a little, just think the good news is that you get to drive home.

Do you have any tips for a sane car trip?



  1. I am right there with you on the DVD player in the car! When we purchased our Tahoe I wasn't sure it was necessary, but now it has totally paid for it's self!

    Last year when we drove to Disney World I collected cheap toys (from the dollar spot at Target and the Dollar store). I put them in 'Mommy's surprise bag'. Every now and then I pulled out a new surprise (you know like when the old one got boring). It totally kept them entertained for the whole 16-18 hour trip).

    1. 18 hour drive???? That's insane, well at least I would be insane by the time we got there. I love the dollar store toy idea, I'm going to use that one on our next long car trip.

  2. Great idea about the mommy bag with surprise toys!!! I am going to pass that along to my daughter!

  3. That drink waiting at the end of the trip really does help!

    1. Sometimes it's the only thing that gets me through the car ride.

  4. Do you have all three seated in a row? I am about to take a 13 hours trip with my 5 yr, 3 yr, and 18 mth old... all sitting in one row! Where did you put your activity bag?

  5. Yes! Lets drink wine and then drive or babies home!


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