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SkyMoms > Parenting Tips

Eight Tips To Save Your Sanity On Family Road Trips

I remember our first road trip with picture-perfect clarity.

Three kids. Eight hours.

Our youngest wanted a snack, so I passed him a bag of grapes. After eating the entire bag, he puked all over the back of our car. We found ourselves in a Whataburger parking lot, unpacking to get spare clothes from a suitcase at the bottom of the pile, and cleaning puke out of a car seat with drive-thru napkins no thicker than the top layer of skin that peels off after a bad sunburn.

Since then, we’ve had our share of road trips filled with flat tires, detours, rocks in the window, potty breaks on the side of the road, and hysteria from the back seat. The number of times I’ve been asked, “Are we there yet?”

I don’t even know.

But I’ve come to adore road trips with my family. They’re some of the sweetest times we share. It’s nice to be in one place without the distractions of home, and the memory making along the way is priceless. As soon as we hit the highway, our kids begin the jaunt down memory lane, recalling the victories and defeats from prior road trips with joy.

We’ve got this down and will be making our fifth road trip to Colorado this summer to spend time at Sky Ranch Horn Creek and Sky Ranch UteTrail.

But as I visit with other families who have less experience on the road, I hear how intimidated they are to stare a road trip in the face. So today, I’m sharing some tips we’ve learned that make road trips a whole lot of fun!

Have a Plan

Before leaving town, learn your route, identify places to stop, and create a schedule for travel and passing time in the car. Make hotel reservations in advance, and book a hotel with a pool so your kids can burn some energy at the end of the day.

Enjoy the Journey

Build in time on the road to do fun things. Stop at a playground, get a shake from the drive-thru, or visit an attraction along the way. Consider your road trip part of the vacation, not simply the means to get you there.

Pack Backpacks

Pack a backpack for each person. Include the following: a change of clothes, pajamas, swimsuits/goggles, toiletries, sunglasses, raincoats, walking shoes/socks, and items for entertainment. When you get to the hotel, just grab the backpacks instead of unloading the entire car!

Bring Healthy(ish) Snacks

Be relaxed about nutrition on vacation, but maintain some level of healthy eating on the road. Nothing is worse than sugar-amped, thirsty kids in the car! To save money and control sugar and salt intake, consider packing lunches and snacks. Ideas include: sandwiches (pre-made and stored in the bread sack), fruit, veggies, hummus, nuts, string cheese, apple sauce pouches, and popcorn. Always bring baggies for reasonable portions (remember the grapes incident?) and insulated cups to keep beverages cold.

Stop Efficiently

When you stop for gas, require that everyone use the restroom. When you stop for the restroom, top off the tank. If you stop for treats, choose a place to do all three! When you do stop, rotate cleaning trash out of the car.

Plan Activities

Time on the road is a great opportunity to bond, stirring up a stronger sense of family identity. Some ideas include: conversation cards, a family devotional, or listening to books on Audible. I also recommend the National Geographic Kids Road Trip Atlas. Our kids love following our routes, reading about the states we pass through, and doing the activities.

This year, we’re also playing Did You Know? List family members and close friends on individual recipe cards. Draw a card out of the stack, and share a story about that individual your kids wouldn’t otherwise know. It’s a great way to teach heritage and create interesting conversation.

Embrace the Ebbs and Flows

Regardless of planning, you will hit some potholes that wear down patience and ratchet up frustration. Don’t fret! Instead, take a time out. Let the kids plug in, listen to classical guitar or spa music, or turn on a DVD series like Planet Earth. While limits on technology are a good idea, I would never suggest banning them altogether. Let them serve your family well so everyone gets a good measure of community and alone time, and so you can enjoy some adult time too!

Be Prepared

Nothing is worse than being caught off-guard on the road. Packing the following items will help: plastic grocery sacks, baggies, Febreeze, antibacterial, wipes, batteries and car chargers, headphones, a first-aid kit, Dramamine, and small blankets and pillows for each child. In addition, stow flip flops in the pockets behind each seat because someone will lose their shoes!

I hope these tips will serve your family well as you hit the road this summer. And I’d love for you to share your own road trips tips in the comments for the benefit of our tribe. My prayer is that, together, we can hack this thing called road trips and turn them into something special that will bless our families!