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Are We There Yet? Tips for a Successful Road Trip

Taking a summer road trip with little ones? Here are some tips for a more peaceful journey.

As we sit in traffic on our way to Ohio for my cousin’s graduation party, I start to realize what I thought was going to be a long day is going to be a really long day. Our trip odometer tells us we’ve gone 67 miles. We’ve been in the car two hours (thanks I-95 and George Washington Bridge). We have about 450 miles to go. Oh, and did I mention there are four kids in the back of the minivan–10, 6, 4 and 7 months.

I did all I could think of to prepare to handle the boredom and the ‘Are we there yets?’ We’re now at mile 157 and 3 ½ hours of car time (oh yeah, add another hour in for lunch in a random Mexican restaurant just over the Pennsylvania border), but on the bright side, we’ve only heard “When will be there?” one time. Here are some of my tips for a successful road trip.

Pre-Trip Prep

Make sure your car is ready to go. Are you due for an oil change? Take care of it in the days leading up to the trip. Clean out the clutter the accumulates that you won’t need, making room for luggage and people to stretch out. Fill up with gas before you get going so you can put a solid dent in the driving before having to stop again. And of course, be sure that everyone uses the bathroom before you leave.

Pick Some Flicks

If ever there was a time to let the kids watch movies in the car, a long road trip is it. I remember making this trip when my sisters and I were little (my parents would take the middle seat of our minivan out and we’d just take turns sleeping on the floor–imagine that now! All four kids are securely buckled in with three of them in five-point harnesses!) and wishing there was a way to watch a movie in the car. Now we have a portable DVD player for this reason alone. Grab a selection of movies and some headphones and let the movie marathon begin. It certainly is helpful if the kids know how to operate it so they can switch movies or restart it when they accidentally unplug it.

Pack Some Snacks

My youngest daughter loves to snack. Her mantra throughout the day is “I’m hungry” or “Can I have [insert name of snack here]?” so to prevent the ongoing requests, I gave the kids a variety of snacks and put them in the cubbies near their seats so they can help themselves. I gave them each a granola bar, a pack of peanut butter crackers, a baggie of Pirates Booty and a bottle of water. When choosing car snacks, just make sure they’re not going to melt, crumble or turn into a sticky mess.

It’s In the Bag

While our 10-year-old is still happily watching movies, the younger two are looking for something else to do. Each of the kids has a bag with some things to keep them busy–their backpacks were perfect. So what’s inside? An MP3 player, books, a mini Etch-a-Sketch, a notebook and pencil and a favorite stuffed animal or blanket. They also have their Pillow Pets to lean against when they get tired (hopefully that will be soon!). And then there's always the other car games like 20 Questions, Eye Spy and, perhaps my favorite, The Quiet Game.

Tune It Out

When all else fails, turn up the tunes. Baby screaming? Kids complaining? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Nothing a little mix on Pandora or iTunes can’t handle. So crank it up and belt out a tune. 

Editor’s Note: We’re at the four-hour mark, have traveled 184 miles and have 327.3 miles to go (who’s counting)–the baby’s screaming, the kids are saying their DVD is skipping. Did I say peaceful road trip? Not sure it exists. 

Lisa Massey Cain July 01, 2011 at 01:00 PM
I just wrote a post about my favorite healthy packaged travel snacks. http://www.snack-girl.com/snack/healthy-travel-snacks/ I hope it is useful!
Doreen Currie July 01, 2011 at 01:37 PM
Jenn you have all my sympathy, we have taken long road trips with our kids over the years, and some can turn ugly! my parents invented a game for us that we used with our kids, before we leave we come up with a list of things you have to see; church, fire truck etc. As the kids get older we throw in some obscure things to keep it interesting. Make it competitive and it can keep interest going for a long time! We also made a point of stopping every couple of hours and getting the kids to run around so they didn't get so antsy having to sit in a car seat. Now they are teenagers we make a road trip play list for the i pod, everyone picks songs this way we can listen to something everyone agrees on. Of course they will plug themselves into their own i pods at some point or watch movies, but at some point it's good to get everyone "together". Hope the drive back is quicker!
Noah Golden July 01, 2011 at 03:19 PM
Love this article, Jenn - but stop being so dedicated and have a vacation! :-)

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