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Survival Guide: Road Trip w/Kids

Updated: Aug 15, 2020

Melissa Garchie DIY circa 2015 (Aka The first road trip where I felt like I had actually mastered it!)

With everything going on this year (the evil one shall not be named, but it starts with "c" and rhymes with movid - UGH), most vacations are canceled or have morphed into some sort of long road trip.

If you're one of the ones that have opted for a long road trip, and you have young kids, you're perhaps a little terrified. And you should be, because being locked in a box on wheels with young children is terrifying. BUT - and that's a big BUT, you're not alone. I've been there, as have many mothers before you, and I am here to impart some wisdom on behalf of the rest of us.

#1 Bring a portable potty. I'm talking the $20 kind that you attach a disposable bag to. It's a game changer and the easiest way to stop for potty breaks without having to mess with a questionable truck stop. This is a good one.

#2 Bring snacks - and present it in a fun way. I use this hack for every long trip - whether it's by car or plane. I make one of these for each kid and they get to pick at it the entire time. It's a simple craft storage box I bought from a local store, but it instantly makes snacks more fun. I usually have adults begging me to make them one - they're fun and a great way to avoid anyone getting hangry.

#3 Time Prize Game (aka bribery) - I know some of you see the bribery word and you're automatically turned off, and some of you are sitting there saying, "tell me more," so wherever you fall on that spectrum, stick with me a little longer. Here's how I work this game...

Walk your mama cuteness into Target. Hit up that dollar section. Raid it for all it's worth. I am talking art projects, games, books, puzzles, whatever they have. Anything that can be easily completed in the car is free game.

Don't have a Target? Don't live close enough to Target? Don't like Target (who are you)? That's ok. Really... go anywhere... Amazon, WalMart, Dollar Store, I want to say Toys 'R Us, but I can't. Just go somewhere where you can get fun, small activities that are appropriate for your kids' ages and equal for all your kids. If you have a longer road trip, get more. If you have a shorter road trip, get less. The longest road trip we've done was ten hours in one day, so I got ten prizes each and ended up spending around $35 for my two kiddos.

Once you get home, wrap those suckers up - keeping them separated by kid and marked so you know which ones are which.... you don't want to end up with one kid opening up a puzzle and one kid opening up an art activity.... that's just asking for trouble. Now, put them in a bag and throw it in your car.

Don't want to wrap them up? I. Get. It.

Don't wrap them. Just keep those prizes hidden away.

When it comes to road trip time, here's how you set the stage. Let them know you have a prize bag. They get their first prize now, to kick off the road trip. If they're well behaved, they will get to open their next prize in (insert amount of time). This will continue for every (insert amount of time) we are on this road trip.

For our long one, I let them open a prize every hour. This seemed to work for us. By the time they were getting bored, it was time for another prize that would provide them with a new activity to keep them occupied. The key is choosing things that will keep them busy.

And please do not get the impression that I'm advocating against screen time on a road trip - I am 100% not. However, from my many road trips, I've learned that screen time, after a while, is simply not effective in keeping them occupied and content. They get bored and need something new to occupy their brains. I actually use a mix for screen time and prizes to keep my kiddos engaged and happy. In fact, one of my prizes is usually a new movie they can watch during the tip - which usually gives me two hours, instead of one. If you're planning to bring DVD players, like me, this is an awesome gizmo.

The point is finding a balance and keeping them excited about what's coming next. It takes the focus off of getting to the destination (and the constant "are we there yet?) and gets them excited about every little step of getting there.

A little tidbit - I have a kiddo that has developed massive motion sickness. She can't even read a book on a normal drive (I'm talking from school to home). It has eliminated certain things, but kids dramamine has certainly helped. We've learned, for us, it's better to tak it 10 or so minutes before you hit the road.

Plan to use this on your next road trip? - I would LOVE to hear how it works for you!

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