All three kids were piled in the back seat when I realized that it was the first time (in a long time) that there was silence. I think my jaw actually dropped as my husband said, “I miss talking to you.” Me too, I thought.
Have you ever had that experience? When your family is piled in the car and you actually get to have a conversation with your husband? That’s what this post is all about. But, I’ll get to that in a minute…
You see, driving has become a time when my husband and I *actually* get to chat. We’ll take mini trips on the weekend to nearby cities when we’ve had a busy week. It’s our therapy. Honestly, it’s nice to be able to talk together without someone pulling on our leg or throwing cheerios on the floor to feed the dog. But, what about the kids?
Oh, they’re in the car too.
Why is it silent, you might ask?
Because our kids are not only used to driving in the car, but also because we have a series of “fun” things that we ONLY do when we’re traveling in the car.
Does that mean that our road trips are always free from tantrums and tears?
No, I don’t think anyone can guarantee that.
But, these tips WILL make your life easier on the road. Which means that you may get a few moments to sip your Starbucks in peace. *squeal*
5 Secrets to Surviving a Long Road Trip with Kids under 5
Plan for Fun Half Way Through
On the way home
One of the best things that we do on a really long road trip (think more than 6 hours) is to stop halfway for some fun. Normally, that includes stopping at a store. Then, we let the kids pick out a new movie to watch for the rest of the trip.
Now, that’s normally our “on the way home” trick. We try not to watch shows on the way to our destination. In our experience, the drive home is harder. Our kids are tired and cranky from the trip, so they always get extra movie time.
On the way there
Another idea is to stop somewhere fun for lunch like Chuck E. Cheese’s. This is best if you can make it the “half-way” point between home and your final destination. You can grab a pizza and let the kids get a ton of energy out by playing games and even riding on toys. Because you earn tickets when you play the games, your kids can earn a prize to entertain them for a while in the car. This is a win/win! Be sure to look for aChuck E. Cheese’s ahead of time so you’ll know exactly when and where to stop.
Ps. Our Chuck E. Cheese’s is about 30 minutes away, so when my husband and I need a mini vacay, this is where we go! Check out the fun we had on our last trip on Instagram.
Here’s what I love that is new since the last time we visited:
- Chuck E. Cheese’s has teamed up with Kids Play Safe – which is a program that implements healthy and safe cleaning practices store wide.
- Not only that, but Chuck E. Cheese’s received Kids Play Safe certification. This certification is for organizations that make green changes to impact health and the people who come to Chuck E. Cheese’s.
- You get free entry, a stamp on your hand to make sure that kids are check in and out properly, AND there’s wifi. So, the kids can play while you get a little work done at the stop.
- Yummy food – my kids absolutely love the pizza and salad bar options. It really does make for a great stop on a long road trip!
Plan for Naps with this Trick
My oldest has a recent obsession with Harry Potter Books. As we were gearing up for our lonnnng road trip to Yosemite with a 6 year old, 3 year old, and 3 month old, we knew that we were going to have an issue with our middle son needing to take a nap.
He will not sleep if the ipad is anywhere nearby. And, if a movie is on? Forget about it. He’ll keep himself awake.
So, I told my husband that we should try listening to the Harry Potter Book on audio. I wasn’t sure if it would work, but every time we needed my sons to sleep (both the baby and the preschooler), we turned on the book. It was like magic-seriously. Both boys would fall asleep within minutes. However, my daughter? She stayed up until wayyyy too late listening to the book while we drove at night. But, hey? At least the two little guys were asleep.
It’s worth trying this little trick if you’ve still got a napper on the road!
Plan for Snacks
I love remembering all the special things that my parents did when we went road tripping as a kid. One of those was getting to have McDonald’s for breakfast. We NEVER went to fast food, unless we were headed on a road trip, so it was a big deal.
For my husband? His family always ate vacation crackers that they loved to eat on the road.
I know that my kids look forward to a few special treats that are JUST for road trips as well. We normally buy a pack of lollipops (which they can earn as they complete this bingo card), we buy their favorite granola bars, and tons of bananas. Turns out, my kids love bananas on road trips and their easy to have on hand for the baby as well.
The fun part is that if you do this every time, your kids will anticipate getting certain snacks during the trip and it makes things even more special.
Tip: This is a great way to keep special treats “special.” For example, if your little one always asks for a lollipop at the grocery store, remind them that they only get those special treats on road trips!
Plan for a Collapsable Tote
Depending on how far we’re traveling, I normally fill a collapsable tote box (Here’s a close match on Amazon), with my son’s favorite toys and tons of workbooks/coloring activities for all of my kids. I’ve seen wrapping little toys up to give out as gifts, but honestly, I normally prep this the night before and don’t have time.
Here’s what we pack…
My daughter loves to draw, so it’s easy to entertain her with workbooks. However, my son prefers toys over workbooks. So, we normally take these take a part cars. They are AWESOME. Check them out HERE. If you have everything in the tote, it’s easy to hand things back to the kids as they get antsy, but don’t give them all out at once!
Instead, try this trick about planning for Milestones…
Plan for Milestones
One thing that you’re going to hear is: “Are we there yet?”
For little ones, they have NO concept of time, so it won’t make sense to them if you say we’ll be there in about 2 hours. Instead? We try to measure time by shows. We’ll be there by the time Little Mermaid is over. Or, it takes about 1 paw patrol for us to get to the next spot (I’m not kidding).
Sometimes, we say things like,
It’s going to take an hour about the same time it takes for us to drive to your cousins house. Or, it’s going to take us about 2 hours until we get there. That’s about the car trip to Grandma and Grandpas house.
That really helps my oldest child.
But, giving them toys and gifts from our collapsable tote at major milestones really helps too.
Here’s how it works
We use a simple printout of the route that we’re taking. I highlight the roads we’re going to drive on. Then, I circle major cities (normally around the 30/60 minute driving mark) where they will get something from the tote. They also have the option of having “fun bubbles” when we get there (just hold a bubble wand in front of your car vent when the air is on and it will blow bubbles around the car!). These are our fun ways of helping our kids understand how long it takes to drive so they aren’t constantly asking, “Are we there yet?!” If they keep asking over and over, they have to wait until the next circle to get another toy from the tote.
Plan for the Basics
Most importantly, my husband and I make sure that we’re stocked with the basics. Individual water bottles, extra clothes (think: jackets, extra undies, and hats/gloves if it’s cold), and other things we might need that we can access easily. I normally add this to our toy tote. This helps keep my job smooth as the one who hands everything out and my husband’s job easy – to pay attention to the road!
By the end of the trip, you’ll have happy (ish) kids and time to talk to your husband without a dog eating cheerios.
I’d say that’s a major accomplishment, don’t you?
A BIG thank you to Chuck E. Cheese’s for sponsoring this conversation. All opinions are my own and we love visiting there whenever we can ~ you should definitely make a stop there too! Check them out on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Chuck E. Cheese’s. The opinions and text are all mine.