If you’re feeling a little too peaceful in this moment, imagine yourself on a cross-country road trip with two toddlers and a preschooler.
Who in their right mind would do such a thing?
This is the exactly the question I asked myself all the way from Norfolk to Nashville on our very first road trip as a family of five. And then I finally figured out how to make this thing work…
Now, not only am I well-traveled, but I can also present you with 6 ideas to make long road trips more enjoyable.
Don’t let them get hungry
You know what happens when you have a car full of hungry kids? I’m sure you can guess, but I found out the hard way. We had a minor setback on the road and the wife didn’t want to push our schedule pit-stop to make up for lost time. Boy, did she regret that decision.
But what I learned from all this is that you should always keep enough snacks in your vehicle to feed a small army. Make sure you have a few choices, so you can switch it up here and there. No one wants to eat the same thing for the entire week.
Make a fun playlist
Naturally, everyone in your car will have different music tastes, especially if you have young kids. But think about the songs you don’t mind hearing (maybe even secretly enjoy). At a pitstop in Arkansas, I downloaded the entire Trolls soundtrack to keep us all happy.
And for those times when the kids just have to listen to the Wheels on the Bus, you can always pop in your earbuds.
Bring coloring books and games
When you’re in the car, the kids are limited as to what they can do. This is part of the reason why everyone starts going bananas after a while. So, before you embark on your long trek, get enough coloring books and crayons for everyone (even you, if you’re not driving the whole way).
Other things you can bring are a variety of guessing or trivia games.
Plan surprises for each state
You probably have your route mapped out, so you’ll know exactly which states you’ll hit. Plan a small surprise for each one. Maybe it’s a trivia game about the state where the kids can win prizes, or maybe it’s the state fruit (yes, every state has one).
You can research and have fun planning the surprise for each one. Just make it something everyone will enjoy. If you bomb on the first state, they won’t look forward to the next.
But when everyone has something to look forward to, you’ll all have more reason to enjoy the journey.
Bring extra chargers
If you’re allowing the kids to use technology, which I highly recommend for a road trip, make sure you have the charging part covered. Charge everything to 100 percent before you leave and be sure to charge them again during any overnight hotel stays. This means that you’ll need at least one wall charger for every device you bring. A few car chargers will come in handy too.
Get your vehicle ready
Well before your road trip, think about how comfortable you’re going to be in your vehicle. Many people rent SUVs for big road trips because their cars are too small, or they simply don’t want to add the mileage. Or if you have an older car, maybe it’s time to trade it in for that new hatchback you’ve had your eye on.
If you’re renting or buying new, you don’t have to worry about this next tip. But if you’re taking your older car on a long road trip, you have some work to do to make sure it’s up for the challenge. You might be surprised to find out that your car is due for spark plugs, but it’s better to learn this at the mechanic than when you’ve broken down on the side of the road.
Be sure to get your oil changed, tires rotated and fluids topped off before you go too.
You don’t have to dread a long road trip with the family – even if you have three that are young like mine were. What I learned is that I was simply a bit unprepared for the challenges we’d face. Once I got us back on track and ahead of the curve, it was smooth sailing.
Do you have any more tips for making long road trips more enjoyable?