I was just reading an amusing post about the Dreaded Family Car Trip. The 7-9 hour trip with 3 kids that this dad writes about has nothing on our December 18 hour car ride to Florida. With 5 kids and no empty seats, to boot.
Five children makes traveling by plane to see grandparents cost-prohibitive. After taking a few cross-country trips to the West Coast and several over-nighter drives to Florida to visit the kids’ nearest grandparents, car trips are still our favorite way to travel. And we’ve got the system down to a science. At least for our family.
How we survive long car rides with lots of kids:
• We always start our trip at night, so that the kids have an hour or two of excitement upon leaving and then fall asleep for several hours. When they wake up in the morning, we have breakfast out, and then get on our way. This method doesn’t work for everybody, but it’s ideal for us. My husband and I can sleep while the other is driving, we trade off when the driver starts feeling sleepy, the roads are clear, and the kids are quiet. By the time the kids wake up on day #2, we’re a good bit of the way there, so it feels shorter for them.
• Everybody packs a pillow, a blanket, and a small bag of treats, books, and games. Individualizing the trip bags is a must for us. This includes Mom and Dad. My trip bag includes a couple of books, my iPod (especially handy for when I’m driving at night and the rest of the family is asleep), my camera, and a portable DVD player–although that is rarely used.)
• Between the front seat, I pack a moderately stocked bag of treats (crackers, grapes, fruit snacks, popcorn, etc), along with empty ziploc bags and paper cups so that I can pass individual servings to the kids in the back.
• I also pack plenty of water bottles. Everybody has their own water bottle next to their seat, and we fill up on the occasional pit stop.
• Our van has a DVD player, so we do bring a selection of kids movies to watch. We don’t go over-board with the movies, though. On our 18 hour drive, the kids watched 2 movies.
• We’re generous on the potty breaks (we stop whenever necessary) but don’t stop for very long. Everyone gets out of the car and stretches whenever we stop. When we drive cross-country, we look for the rest stops with play grounds or grassy areas and let the kids have a few minutes of fun.
• Sing together–turn up the music and belt it out!
• Play car games, such as State license plates or ABC signs.
• Read a book out loud together, or better yet, listen to an audio book together. It’s amazing how fast the time goes when you’re immersed in a story. When you’re not listening or reading, you can talk about the book with each other.
• Rotate seats–Mom and Dad (whoever is not driving) will take turns in the back seat every once in a while. Changing seats seems to help break the monotony.
What are some of your tips for surviving long car trips with kids?
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