Road Trips: Keep Your Sanity With Your Kids

Road trips: oh my goodness. You either love them (my husband) or you hate them (me). How are you supposed to keep toddlers entertained in the backseat when you’re in the car for hours, and why would you want to when your kids have been on dozens of flights all over the country and they do it so well? This is a question I ask once a year. How do I keep the kids entertained for hours and hours and hours? My husband loves a good road trip. Fortunately, we don’t take many of them. Flying is always easier. However, there have been 3 occasions in which I have lost that argument – one in just a few weeks.

Why Road Trip?

Some people genuinely love it (my husband) and other people merely find it more convenient (my husband). For example, we road trip places that are within a 10 hour drive because we live two hours from the airport, and with that drive, the wait at the airport, the waits we’ve had for rental cars, and the drive to our destinations (which are never within two hours of the airport), it usually takes us 10 hours of travel to get there anyway; even when the flight is only an hour. I’m not a road trip expert, but sometimes it is a little easier to do things on your own time and get there in the same amount of time or even sooner.

Our first road trip was to see my brother graduate from boot camp in South Carolina. We loaded our then 5-month-old daughter and our 3-year-old daughter into the car and drove the 6 hours to see him graduate (a drive that took us approximately the same amount of time it would have taken us to drive to the airport and fly). It went well. Our second was a 9-hour trip to Northern Tennessee to spend a week in a rental house on Norris Lake (go, really, it’s amazing). We did that with a 16-month-old and a 4-year-old. In a few weeks, we’re making the 10 hour drive to coastal North Carolina with a two-and-a-half year old and a five-year-old. Sometimes you just have to do what your husband wants to do because he’s right. Even if you think your way is better.

How to Pack for a Road Trip

What I have learned in our few road trips is that you pack the same way you would for any flight. Our girls each get a new backpack filled with brand new coloring books, crayons, toys, snacks, and books. Additionally, I place a big toy box between their seats and fill it with their favorite blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, and their favorite electronics. We also buy new DVDs they can watch in the backseat – and headphones, because listening to Dora the Explorer scream instructions and questions for 10 minutes is enough to make you crazy. Ten hours would make you positively psychotic.

Diffusing Fights

Kids fight. Especially when they’re cooped up for long periods of time, so what we do is leave very early in the morning so that they sleep for the first few hours. Then they play well with their new stuff for a few hours. Then we stop somewhere for one of their favorite meals, potty breaks, and leg-stretching. After that, hopefully it’s naptime or movie time. When they argue, we bribe them to stop with m&ms, ice cream, cookies, or even vitamins – our kids LOVE vitamins (we threaten them that they won’t get one in the morning if they fight today…works like a charm). We sing songs, we play games. We have a good time. Of course, my husband has a better time. That’s because he’s driving. He’s not the one constantly turning around to reach cups, refill cups, open snacks, pick up toys…you get the picture.


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