Parenting

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4 Tips for Summer Road Trips with Kids

tips-staying-sane-family-road-trip-mother-carseat“I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me”
–Walt Whitman

Ah, summer. The sense of openness is palpable this time of year… open spaces, open calendars, and open roads practically begging to appease your wanderlust. A family road trip is the ultimate summer reset because it gives us permission to hit pause on daily life and savor new locales. But extended car rides with kids can drive anyone crazy — if they don’t have a plan. You know how they say it’s all about the journey and not the destination? Below are some of our favorite tips for surviving a family road trip. Even if it’s just a day trip nearby, these tips will help preserve your sanity on the road. Whether you’re driving cross country, checking out a theme park, visiting family or [insert fun getaway here], you can buckle up and enjoy the ride — and hopefully, your destination too.

SAVVY SNACKING

A hungry, irritable child does not make for a fun travel buddy (and let’s face it, hungry adults don’t either). Avoid cranky kid syndrome by packing healthy eats that nourish and travel well. Aim for a mix of sweet treats and savory snacks. There are so many great hunger-busting options for toddlers and kids, like bean chips that taste just like nacho chips, roasted chickpeas, string cheese, and single-use nut butter packs. Some of our family favorites include sugar snap peas, pistachios, mandarins, apples, snack bars made from dates and nuts, whole grain bagels, squeezable yogurt (pro tip: freeze them overnight for a frosty, refreshing treat), and dried fruit. If time permits, we also pack homemade baked goods with a healthy twist – think zucchini brownies, Greek yogurt banana oat muffins, flourless chocolate chip blondies, and carrot cake applesauce muffins (unglazed for better portability).

Water is essential for a smooth ride, so be sure to pack plenty of H2O to stay hydrated. Insulated sippy cups or water bottles keep drinks perfectly cool for hours, which is a major plus on hot travel days! Lastly, don’t forget to pack a bag just for trash. It’s amazing how quickly it piles up in the car.

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FUN, UNPLUGGED

Sure, iPads and smartphones loaded with educational apps are failsafe travel companions. We’re not saying go without them entirely, but dedicate some solid time to unplugging from devices and plugging into your surroundings instead. One easy idea? A road trip scavenger hunt. There are plenty of printables online (or you can create your own), and it’s a fun way to get the whole family working as a team. Classic car games like Mad Libs and I Spy are amusing for all (with a little help from Mom and Dad if needed). For little ones, simple games that encourage counting or spotting things like car colors and airplanes work well. For the older set, consider surprising them with disposable cameras to document the journey from their eyes. They’ll love finding new and interesting things to snap and framing moments in their own perspective. Plus, they’ll experience the thrill of developing photos from film vs. the instant gratification of digital pics. Imagine the lesson in patience there!

Reading is a wonderful way to travel while traveling, too. Try chapter books like Magic Treehouse for school-aged kids and picture books for the smaller set. Everyone loves diving into a fresh story, and you can either read aloud or find an audiobook the whole family can enjoy together (though we know that’s not exactly unplugged!).

REST = RESET

Every great trip starts with an itinerary – not just for your destination but along the way too. Plan your rest stops strategically and your kids will have plenty to look forward to without constantly asking, “Are we there yet?” If there are new-to-you towns along the way, pencil in some planned breaks to stretch your legs, use the potty and explore. Is there a local hole-in-the-wall famous for its small-batch ice cream or BBQ? For a delicious twist on longer trips, try a signature dish in each state that you cross on the map. The point is to discover new places and things together. What better way to encourage kids’ natural curiosity about their world?

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IN THE CAR

Chances are, your car or minivan is already a home away from home, but you can add more creature comforts to make the drive more tolerable, and — dare we say it? — pleasant with little ones in tow. Favorite stuffed toys and light blankets are an easy way to bring along a comforting piece of home. Take some time to create playlists featuring your kids’ favorite songs and you might even find yourselves belting out show tunes or having a movie singalong as you drive.

Traveling with wee ones? That means diaper duty is on the itinerary, no matter how short the drive. Luckily, your trunk can double as a baby changing station. The portable Out-N-About™ Trunk Organizer and Changing Station has everything you need to be a quick-change artist on the go – changing pad and diaper disposal bags included. And don’t forget the importance of a good set of car shades! Not only do they block the frustrating glare of the sun, which is especially hard on little eyes, they keep UV rays out of the car, too. Because nothing would dampen vacation vibes faster than a sunburn before hitting the beach (or anytime, for that matter).

We hope these tips will inspire you to throw caution to the wind and plan a quick getaway with your brood. Here’s to smooth sailing (er, driving) and holding onto that endless summer feeling! Tell us, where will the open road take you this summer?

Ani Morgan

Ani is an award-winning writer and content strategist who has been the voice of many brands for 15+ years. When she’s not busy crafting stories, she's baking healthy treats for her kids or finding her sanity on a spin bike. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two kids.