17 Travel Tips For Long Car Rides With Kids

Everyone is packing up and heading out! 

Since so many families are leaving for their summer vacations right now, I decided to gather some of the best tips for long car rides and put it all in one post.

 I have to admit that, I think the DVD players kept my kids quieter than anything during our 8+ hour long journey to Cape Cod, but, many of these other tips were life-savers too. For example, don't underestimate the power of a quick stop at a rest area.  Having a potty break, walking around for 10 minutes and eating a popsicle made a world of difference when my 4 year old was getting extremely fed up of being in the car during our drive home.

I asked some moms for their top tips for traveling with kids in the car, and this is what they had to say:

 1) Make a Roadtrip Countdown - Jessica got crafty and "wrote a city name or border that we would pass every two hours or so. On the back of the paper, I wrote a task. They included things like special treat, read a book out loud, special present (I bought some dollar store items) draw a picture, play a game, etc. As we passed the city, we ripped the tag off and completed the 'assignment'! This was a huge hit and the hours flew by." Click here for free Printables for Road Trips

2) "Rent Redbox Movies and Return Them In Other States Along Your Route. You can use the free Redbox app to find kiosks near wherever you may be"  says Heidi of Free Fun In Austin. This is much cheaper than buying new DVDs and since it's so affordable, you can really stock up!

3) Play Games - Joey, from RealMomMedia.com, reminded me of all the fun car games you can play with kids. The license plate game is a classic.  You can also count things on the side of the road (like animals or objects), make Road Bingo cards, and play I-Spy. 

4) Expect Delays - As soon as you become a parent, you learn that everything takes longer with kids.  "Just Just know that 7 hour trip will become 10. Consider when you leave and factor in traffic," Chrissie from London Mod Girl.

5) "Load up your ipad or Leap Pad with apps and videos they've never seen before." - Lisa from ADayInOurShoes.com

6) Books on tape are ideal for preschoolers and Early Elementary age kids.  Susan reminded me that I can borrow audio CD's from my local library. Susan said that when she went on vacation "Sometimes the kids were so engaged they refused to get out of the car." A few titles to check out include: Magic Tree House, Junie B. Jones, The Freddy series, and The Castle In The Attic, Winnie the Pooh with Stephen Fry, and Skippy Jon. Here is a great resource to find audio books for kids. 

7) "Take breaks every 1.5-2 hours depending on how long they can last. Let them stretch, have a snack, potty" - Brandi of One Great Mom. 

8) "Make up a "fun bag" for each way (down and back) with items like coloring books, small toys, new books, magnet boards, model magic, etc. I also got them a small lap desk. They love it. Last time back they barely watched any movies!" - Heather of Diapered Knights

9) Make a Sandpaper & Felt Travel Board - Melinda from Look What Mom Found told me about this sensory activity from Gummy Lump which you can make with this Sandpaper Felt Board Tutorial. 

10) Have lots of fun snacks that they never get at home. "Single-size cereals were their favorites" - Alissa of Fun Finds For Families

11) Get Creative - It's amazing how a few simple Wiki Stix or pipe cleaners can really entertain a kid. Have a contest to see who could create the coolest thing.
12) Leave super early, like 4am. Put the kids in the car (in their pjs) and they'll typically sleep for the first few hours and be groggy for a while when they first wake up. Then with breakfast and a DVD it's usually not too painful. - Sarah of Finnegan & The Hughes

Or, if you're not a morning person...

13) "Drive 1/2 the way late at night stop at a hotel" - Sherri of SuperExhausted.com

14) Before you go, download online kid's books to your Kindle or IPad. Here's a great post about finding online books for kids.
15) "Stopping for a play break is essential. Kids need time to run around a bit. Try finding out
where a playground is on your way to stop at for a 15 minute play break." - Diane   
16) Don't be afraid to abandon all rules - Heidi says "We did Texas to Canada and back this summer and I abandoned all rules/ It was a DS + movies +iPod + iPad + snacks children's paradise. All electronics all the time. Everyone was happy for all 50+ hours (because I usually don't let them have that much screen time, and we wouldn't let them play at all while we were in Canada).

17) Please, Relax. It is a vacation after all!- "It's always much easier than I anticipate it being. I think the anxiety beforehand is the worst part!" - Bestie, of SuperSuburbs.com

If you have specific questions about a certain area, just ask. I find that the best tips come from my friends, family and other parents who have already ventured to my destination. They are your best source of information!  There are also tons of local blogs from moms that are full of tips as well as helpful travel sites such as Trekaroo.com.

What is your best tip for long car rides with kids?