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Ho...Ho...Holiday Road Trip!

It's that time of year when many of us are beginning to pack up for a good 'ole fashioned family road trip! While traveling as a family can be fun, it can often go from holly and jolly to a whole lot of naughty if you aren't prepared. Fear not! I've come up with some simple tricks and tips to make the drive more of a "sing along" and NOT a "scream a long". These may not avoid every meltdown, but the more prepared you are to fight these common road trip complaints, the happier everyone will be!

  1. "I'm hungry!"

Near, far and every other distance in between, you are sure to hear this phrase from someone. SNACKS save everything! A few days before your trip, head to the store to load up on all the snacks your kids love. While you are out, stop by your local craft store and pick up one of these boxes for each of your kids.

On the morning of your road trip, lay all the snack out on the kitchen table and let the kids fill their OWN boxes. Lay out any ground rules you may have for how much of a certain snack they can pack and allow them to take over. This gives you the chance to pack the car without little ones underfoot AND they can't blame you for not packing the snacks they like. Win, Win!

Also, make sure to have a game plan in place to stretch out snack time so everything doesn't get eaten in the first 20 minutes of your trip. One of my favorite ways to do this is to have the kids be on the look out for "new city" signs. See a sign for a new city, have a snack. Spaces things out and gives the kids an activity!

2. "Are we there yet?"

Ever heard this one before you've even left your neighborhood? Just me and mine? Those four words can often send parents over the edge, especially when they are spoken during traffic, construction or anything else that may be slowing your trip down. While it's always good to set expectations with your kids about how long a trip will take before you leave, all parents out there know a kid's perception of time can be lacking. One thing I really love is to get the kids going with a little Road Trip Bingo.

The Travel Channel website has some great premade, printable sheets that are quick and easy to use. Going a little farther? Use this template to create your own and highlight sights they will see along the way! Still need a little more? If your car has a DVD player, let each kid pick something to watch along the way. I say something like "We can each pick something to watch on the way to grandma's house." The kids roll dice before we leave to see what order they get to play the movies in. I like to pepper in a little activity between movies so it's not all about screen time. Which can lead to...

3. "I'm bored!"

Finding things to keep the kids entertained during a long drive can be difficult, but it's not impossible. If limiting screen time is important to you, here's a few of my favorite activities that my kids love and help pass the time.

  • Road Trip Karaoke Party - Spend some time with your family before the trip making a playlist of all the songs you each love to sing. Set the list so each member of the family has the same amount of songs to share.

  • Activity Books - Take a quick trip to the Dollar Store before your trip with the kids and let them pick out their own activity book. While you're there, pick up one of these lap trays for each kiddo and reduce the risk of hearing "stop touching me!" The compartments on the side also greatly reduce the risk of crayons, small toys or water bottles being dropped.

  • Game Time - Bring along some car friendly versions of your family game night favorites. I personally love magnetic chess or backgammon, Heads Up, Boggle, Uno or just a trusty set of playing cards.

  • Break up the drive - Map out some stops along the way. You can find some hidden gems along your route by visiting Road Trippers. Fresh air helps everyone!

  • Getting to Know You - Check out this list of family road trip questions and get the conversations rolling! Pack a notebook to write down the most memorable moments.

  • Picture Your Trip - Give the kids an old phone or camera and have them document their time. Don't have one laying around? Pick up a trusty disposable camera for each kiddo to have fun with.

4. "I'm thirsty!"

Make sure EVERYONE has a full water bottle before the trip. Yes, mom, that includes you. For longer trips, I like to pack a case of water for easy refills between stops. And speaking of stops.....

5. "I have to pee!"

We all know accidents happen, and the urge to go can come at the worst time. Try to avoid that by having everyone go to the bathroom right before they get in the car. Yes, sweet teenager, again. Fight the good fight and make everyone try to go at each stop. One has to pee, we all try to pee. Road trip coming with a lot of backroads and not a lot of places to stop? Bring a portable potty along (think back to potty training days). Don't forget a roll of toilet paper, a trash bag and some wipes for easy clean up!

6. "I forgot......(fill in the blank with your child's most prized possession)"

Every mom has been there before. You've planned, you've gotten the kids in the car, you're driving along, everything is fine....until. "Mom, where's Bear, Bear??? I forgot to pack him!" In that moment, no matter what you do, there is no escaping the meltdown that will follow. There will be no coming back from this one, and it's going to ruin everyone's day. Number 1 way to avoid this headache?? PACKING LISTS! Everyone in the family has their own packing list of their unique "essentials". Make sure that special stuffy, book, toy, whatever it is makes the list. Don't mark it off until it is IN THE CAR! Remember, spreadsheets are your friend!

Along with each member of the family having a packing list, I like to have a "car pack" list too. Somethings I find helpful on road trips are empty grocery store bags, wet wipes, tissue, chargers for all the things, first aid kit, blankets and (most importantly, your patience.)

7. "I'm tired!"

Tired kiddos can be cranky kiddos. Cranky kiddos in the car = no fun for anyone. To help dodge a sleep deprived situation, make sure everyone gets a good nights sleep the night before. Leave for your trip after a nice breakfast when everyone is full, happy, and ready to go. Bring small pillows and blankets to make napping in the car a little more comfortable. If you have electronics, don't forget the headphones so others can rest when they need to. Take breaks, make stops and have fun....but don't overdo it and pack too much into a day of travel. And mom, take turns driving on long trips when possible so you can get some rest too!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you out there, traveling for the holidays (or not). I hope these tips will make your next family road trip a little smoother. Enoy this time with those you love and cherish the memories you will make together. Cheers to 2024!



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