Are you looking to do a long car ride with babies, toddlers, and/or kids soon? Are you looking for some car ride travel tips? Well, I have some tips on how to survive long car rides with toddlers and kids.
We have done a lot of car ride travel lately thanks to the pandemic, and it’s honestly not as bad as I thought it would be. Our longest trip was a 24-hour trip to visit the in-laws and it was more enjoyable that I thought it may be.
So here are a few ways to survive long car rides with children because there’s definitely better ways to make the long hauls than others!
Driving overnight is the best when traveling with babies, toddlers, and kids.
I know it’s not always possible, but when it is, it is so much easier!
We drive from New England to Florida, and we leave at 6-7PM at night, and arrive in the later afternoon/early evening the next day. We go straight, and we find it preferable from driving two full days and a hotel stay in between. (But we are also crazy.)
It’s exhausting for the parents, but you get quiet kids for a big portion of your trip if you travel overnight! My husband and I have a system… 6 hours each back and forth until we arrive, when humanly possible.
We are EXHAUSTED, but it’s so much better! Especially when the kids are sleeping for half the drive!
We have also done half overnight where we will go to bed at home early and sleep for awhile and then wake our kids up in the middle of the night to get an early start. They will go back to bed (usually) and we get to sleep in our beds and get a few hours of shut eye before we begin our journey.
Whenever possible, try to do some or most of the drive during the overnights. The road and the car is more peaceful and you’ll make better time because you’ll have less rest and food stops and you’ll need less mental breaks too!
Be Boring Beforehand
I think one reason why my kids do so well with long car rides is that they are use to being bored. We don’t always entertain them– especially during car rides. We never had a DVD player or any screens in the car, and don’t really entertain them during short or medium car rides.
Keeping kids bored can be such a blessing because they can figure out how to entertain themselves and enjoy the little things.
Start training your kids now to be bored and entertain themselves so they will do better in the car for future car rides!
Take Breaks Wisely
We like to plan out our breaks and use them wisely. We usually start at the evening, and plan to go through until we need gas (and pee), which is usually six hours in our case. And then in another six hours we get gas again and then get out and grab breakfast.
We usually take our breaks only when needed. Sometimes we just do McDonald’s or other foods to go and eat while we are driving, because the kids keep busy eating their meal in the car for a half hour while we don’t waste any driving time, and sometimes they need that time to get out and run wild for a half hour out of the car.
You’ll kind of know when you can get away with more travel or when you need to just stop. And sometimes just bringing them into a gas station and picking out snacks will do the trick, and other times, you may need to find a playground or restaurant or something else to break it up.
We like to stop only when we all need it, because sometimes we’d rather just get to our destination and other times we need more time.
Plan for Anything
One thing I didn’t realize when we started our road trip adventures was how interesting it was driving in other parts of the country was.
I didn’t realize that the South didn’t have the convenient travel plazas that the northeast has with gas, bathrooms, and food right off the highway. Once we hit Virginia on i-95, I realized we would need to get off the highway everytime.
We would try to find big gas stations attached to restaurants to help us save time, but sometimes it was hard to read maps to make sure we would pick correctly.
I found that we made a lot of mistakes our first go around. When we first started our road trip adventures, we wasted more time on our breaks, just because we didn’t have it planned out as well as I thought.
We’d arrive at 24 hour gas stations, but the inside would be locked because the gas was credit card only, so we wouldn’t be able to use the bathroom, and would need another stop.
We also would hit more traffic or make better time and not be where we thought we may be on the road.
I would try to plan for everything or as much as possible and try to be flexible.
You may want to keep a travel app like Priceline on your phone so you can book a hotel on the road if you need it and other handy apps on our phone like gas apps and such.
I also made a list of playgrounds right off the highway and other short travel stops if we needed a break for my kids.
You never know what can happen when you travel, so I always find that planning for different scenarios can be helpful.
Dollar Store Finds
I love going to the Dollar Store beforehand and getting some new toys and new finds. I find it’s a great way to keep the kids busy with something new without spending a lot of money.
It’s amazing how something new can keep someone busy for a little while. I also like to bring in some of my kids favorite toys that I don’t let them play with as much for the sake of keeping them busy when I really need it.
Some other toys that I like for road trips besides dollar tree trinkets are:
The Best Snacks
Snacks. Snacks. Snacks.
Snacks can be a lifesaver when traveling. My kids get the best snacks when traveling. Usually new snacks to try or their favorite snacks they don’t get often.
I usually try to go with less messy snacks and snacks that take a long time to eat like fruit roll-ups.
You may also prefer to have them pick out their own snacks beforehand or at a truck stop so they have something to be excited about too.
It’s one of my last moves, but movies or tv shows can be great for long car rides with toddlers and kids. We usually do so to either reward very great behavior or to save our own sanity.
I especially put a movie on when I need to sleep and everyone is wide awake and making many requests to me while I’m riding shotgun.
Because I’m cheap, I never invested in a portable DVD system or anything. I usually just put my kindle fire on the arm rest and let the kids use that, but there’s so many different ways to use movies and screens as entertainment.
Bring a Potty with You
If you have new potty-trained children or children that need to go quickly, you may want to bring a potty with you.
I have a fond memory of my son always picking the worst times to need to go the bathroom, so the potty can come in handy for those emergency stops in unideal places.
Practice Makes Perfect
The more you travel, the easier it gets. At least, that’s been my experience. Our kids have gotten so much better with driving in the car. I remember feeling so defeated when it took us DOUBLE the time it would normally take, but now with my kids 4&6, we don’t take nearly as long when they were younger.
We’ve been better at picking places to stop, and we’ve learned when we really need to stop and when we can push it a bit. Also, the older they get, it’s gets better too because you can stop less and they will be more comfortable with longer trips!
Good Luck on your road trip travels with young kids!