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We recently went on a family vacation to New York City and then to my in-law’s house in Massachusetts. Let me rephrase that, we recently drove Charlotte to NYC and then to my in-law’s house in Massachusetts—a 1630 mile road trip—with two nearly adult-sized kids in the backseat.
The way there wasn’t so bad because we went from Charlotte to Manhattan and then a few days later, up to Massachusetts, but the way home was a straight 820 miles..on a Sunday…with Monday being a work day.
UGH! Let me just say I am in the market for a credit card with sky miles so I never have to sit in a car for that long again. So if you know of a good one, help me out and send the info. Please and thank you.
For the most part, the road trip went very well, and the kids suffered it with only a minimal amount of grumbling. I think we prepared enough for the long hours in the car, and that helped the four of us keep our sanity (although I will say I was getting a little bit kooky by the time we hit the North Carolina border on Sunday night).
Since the trip went so well, I decided to share our road-tripping strategy with all of you. Maybe it will help you keep your wits next time you have a long stretch of highway in front of you and two (or three) little ones behind you…
Pack All the Road Trip Snacks
To save money and time on this trip, we bought a giant loaf of french bread, deli meats, and cheese to make a bunch of sandwiches before we left home. We also stocked up on granola bars, nuts, fruit leather, pop-tarts, and goldfish crackers for snacks.
We packed a case of waters, Gatorades, and Arizona Green Teas (my teenager’s favorite beverage) in a cooler in the trunk. To save room in the cooler and keep everything from getting soggy, we froze a few of the water bottles the night before and packed them in the cooler in lieu of ice.
With our cooler in tow, we didn’t have to stop for food and drinks. When the tummies grumbled, we just grabbed things out of the trunk at our rest stop bathroom breaks. It saved us a ton of money, we ate much healthier snacks, and it probably shaved at least an hour off of our drive time.
Oh! Don’t forget gum if you are doing any mountain driving. My son and I both have super sensitive ears. If the elevation changes even a little bit, they start popping like crazy.
I saw on Pinterest (after we got back home), people make little road trip food caddies for their kids using one of these types of baskets. You can just stick all the snacks into the different compartments, and it even doubles as a cup holder. This is good for me because my back seat does not have any cupholders, and the kids have spilled a drink (or five) because of the lack of places to put a beverage.
Pack Your Necessities
Pillows. Blankets. Flip Flops.
These are not optional, these are necessities! We have a VW Jetta which would make you think that two kids in the same back seat could share a full-sized blanket…but that does not seem to be the case.
It is necessary for each child to have their own blanket and their own pillow. I am sure if you have more than one kid you already know that everything has to be equal. Heaven forbid one glass of juice is the slightest bit more full than the other, but I digress.
I also make sure both of my kids are wearing flip flops because otherwise, every stop is a 10-minute ordeal until the shoe that is shoved under the seat is found, put on, and then tied—a huge time waster!
Pack Your Road Trip Entertainment
Charge the Nintendo Switch, the tablets, and the cellphones the night before.
Each of my kids downloaded a few phone games that could be played without using wifi or data the week before the trip, and they both packed some reading material.
I recommended a really, really long book. My son was working on The Goblet of Fire, and my daughter had just started Les Miserables (she is a bit of a classics nerd.) If your kids are like me and can’t read in the car without a barf bag handy, try downloading an audiobook for them instead.
I found this cool way to travel with Legos that I thought my son would really love, but he kind of acted like he was too cool for Legos now that he is older. However, I do think it would be perfect for a younger traveler, and it doubles as storage and portable play area.
Pokemon Go was another amazing way to keep them entertained. They were looking forward to each rest stop and gas station so they could search for Pokemon. Even though we were driving much too fast to catch them on the road, they still enjoyed looking for the Pokestops along the way.
There are other similar games like the Harry Potter themed one that would be just as effective.
Pack Your Imagination
Lookup a few games that you can play in the car, or simply make some up. We brought along Harry Potter trivia cards and Star Wars mad-libs which are both easy to do on the road. You can also create a road trip scavenger hunt sheet before you set out.
We also spent an hour or so having a freestyle rap battle inspired by the episode of Jimmy Fallon and the guy from Hamilton. I have added the Fallon clip here for your viewing pleasure, but I assure you our freestyle battle sounded absolutely nothing even remotely similar to this. We had a good time regardless.
Pack Your Road Trip Playlists
Music is another good way to keep everybody happy. Although, making everyone listen to the same music can have the exact opposite effect. My husband likes heavy metal, I prefer 90s gangsta rap, my son is into smooth jazz and pop-punk, while my daughter listens to Frank Sinatra and hipster music.
The trip will be better for everyone if they each get their own playlists. If you have a premium Spotify subscription, you can download a few playlists while still at home on the WiFi. Another option is to dust off the old iPods and fill them up with music for the trip. Make sure everyone has a working pair of earbuds, and you won’t have to listen to BTS or baby shark even one time on your trip.
That is my travel bag of tricks, folks. I hope you found something useful in there to use on your next road trip! What are your road trip secrets for keeping the kids (or you) from going crazy?