Road trips come with a slew of extra essentials for kids. Although summer road trips have come to an end, the holiday season is creeping in slowly. With the holidays comes more travel. In anticipation of the busy roads, I am providing you with some of the vital necessities we take with us on our frequent road trips back to Ohio (9 hour drive). Read on to see what works for our three kids aged 3, 5 and 7.
Probably THE most essential supply item for a successful road trip with kids. I would love to say we have found mess free snacking options over our bazillion road trips, but alas, kids are messy crumb monsters. So, we do our best to provide things that aren’t overly sticky and keep our fingers crossed until we reach the first rest stop area to view the backseat carnage. I try to remember that as an adult I love fun road trip foods. I keep that in mind for my kids and relax the rules a bit and let them have some fun.
I’m not saying become the candy fairy (although they are strapped into car seats, soo…), but you can abandon some of the household rules for the trip. One of my favorite mom hacks is to clean out my fridge and cut up all the fruit and vegetables that I can save from certain garbage can fate. It makes me feel better about the inevitable gas station treats (if you can pass up spicy buffalo blue cheese combos, you are a better lady than myself). I package cut up treats in my meal prep food containers along with a portion of some loose foods (chips, pretzels, goldfish) in hopes of trying to contain some spills. Plus, with each kid having their own container, some arguing is eliminated. As for liquids, each child gets a Thermos water bottle.
The adults refill our water from the gallon size RTIC insulated container. I laughed at the absurdity of this jug at first until it kept my water cold the WHOLE 9 hour trip. We also use our insulated beer growler to bring milk with us.
These magical boards are invaluable, especially for tiny kids. Our three year old is obsessed and I don’t have to worry about her being covered in marker (which happens a lot). We have a few different versions and find they are all fantastic. The original one, found here, is a clear favorite. There is also an opaque tracing version, found here, which is fun for restaurants and tracing menus. I recently saw the one with red trim at my local Costco so keep your eyes open. I feel like this one is becoming the hot ticket item on the road. The links provided send you to Amazon, where you can peruse the many different styles and colors available. I love that these last forever (we have had our original version 3 years now) and cover such a diverse age range.
This varies by age as to what is appropriate or what parents feel comfortable allowing children to use. I will talk about what works for my kids. The easiest way to keep everything organized is pencil pouches. I label one for crayons, colored pencils and markers. Stock up on all these items when the back to school sales are on and just keep them in a bin to use when needed. This way, they are new and but you wont be heartbroken when things inevitable go missing or dry out.
As for a writing surface, I got each child a clipboard to use from the dollar store. The bonus: kids can decorate them with drawings on the trip. Speaking of the dollar store, this is a great place to stock up on coloring books, activity books and cheap notebooks. Each kid gets their own notebooks so paper isn’t (in theory) strewn all over the car. Target occasionally has 12-page blank books in the dollar spot which also serve as a readily contained paper source.
I also make sure to pick up some of the prepackaged activity bags from the dollar store or Target dollar bin. They usually come with a coloring book and four crayons and stickers. These serve as our restaurant/pit stop sized paper product we can throw in the crayon/pencil pouch and take in with us. For some tactile work in the car, I have pipe cleaners on hand or Wikki Stix. These are reusable wax sticks and aren’t messy, making them ideal for toddler hands.
BOOKS ON CD or PODCAST
We found a bunch of Disney books with CDs at our local Costco. I find that when the kids are losing it, putting on a book on CD or a podcast shifts their focus from frustration to active listening. They start to follow along with the books and forget to annoy each other. Now, this doesn’t always work, but so far I am at an 80% ballpark success rate. Our go-to for children storytelling podcast is Story Pirates. My kids love this show and never tire of the SAME FIVE STORIES over and over again.
We have to limit this to three per child or this gets out of hand fast. Each child gets to pick an interactive book (ie: find it, flap book) and two books of their choice. The interactive books prove the most beneficial for our middle with simple beginner chapter books being better suited for our oldest(he is a huge fan of the series The Bad Guys). I also bring one chapter book to read aloud if we hit a critical point (and I’m not driving alone).
Each child gets to bring along ONE stuffie. We try to encourage the tiny Beeny-Boo sized ones but will also allow a medium plush. If it makes them happy and we have the room, why not? I find this especially helpful for our youngest. And sometimes I am a softie and they can bring two .
Yes, bring the iPad. We don’t have TVs in our van and try not to use screen time in the car. But sometimes…after 6 hours of driving and no naps, something has to give. Know this: IT’S OKAY! Kids think it’s a special treat. Relish in the time to be the “fun, awesome” parent and hand them a gadget when all hell breaks loose. It will save your sanity and make the drive that much easier for you and your family.
Do you have any favorite road trip tips with kids? Comment below with some of your tried and true hacks!