On Friday morning, we tossed some bags into the car and headed out on a family road trip for the long Labor Day Weekend! Our destination? New York, to hit up the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester and then Niagara Falls in Buffalo. To no one’s surprise, I took an insane amount of photos (just a tad over 250 snaps) and while I clearly won’t be sharing them all here, I’m still going to share the trip over few posts to save everyone from too much scrolling. The first post: all about surviving a long road trip with a kiddo on board! The drive to New York was about 7 hours for us (8 after stops), and that meant 8 hours on the road with a five year old. Here are my top road trip survival tips.
#1. Plan for stops. As I mentioned above, the drive is only 7 hours. But we planned on 8 hours knowing that we’d have to stop for bathroom breaks, snack breaks, and time to run around. Planning those stops ahead of time is crucial to keeping on schedule, and to keeping everyone’s sanity. My little loved getting to run around outside at the rest stops and letting off some steam.
#2. Potentially skip the screens. I feel like the first thing that comes to mind when trying to distract a kid from boredom on a road trip is some form of screen whether it’s a phone, tablet, or laptop with a movie. However, I would suggest skipping that. And the reason why is carsickness. Often with little kids, you may not yet know if they get carsick. That’s how it is in our case – we’re not entirely sure if the little miss gets carsick from screens, but we did NOT want to test it out on an 8 hour trip.
#3. Provide alternative activities! Knowing that we didn’t want her to play on her tablet in case of barfing, we had a few things planned to keep her occupied, and involved as a family on our road trip. The first was a scavenger hunt – we printed this list of things to find while driving (see it above, along with a second one that had pictures that was just for the kiddo to do on her own.) While my daughter enjoyed looking for things, she actually enjoyed her dad and myself finding them even more! Every time we spotted something, we’d shriek about it and she found the whole thing hilarious. The second activity was Would You Rather? questions (kid-friendly, duh.) We printed off this list of random questions that ranged from silly to thought provoking. We all answered each question, and had some great discussions about our answers. It’s a great way to pass time, and also to engage with your kiddo along the way! Other ideas – coloring, special new toys that are ONLY for the road trip, playing I Spy.
#4. Break things up with music! I have a special playlist on my iPod in the car that is all music from My Little Pony. We don’t play it all the time, so when we do listen to the whole playlist, it’s something special for my daughter. My kiddo was thrilled to hear all of it, with everyone singing along (since like most parents, we know all the words too at this point.) If your kid has a show they love that has music as a part of it, it can be really great to give them a special playlist as a surprise. And if not from a show, you can still put together a list of just their favorite songs!
#5. Designate quiet time. About halfway through each drive, we had a specific bit of ‘quiet time’ where we turned off the music, took a break from games, and just chilled. Basically, the hope is to induce naptime by lack of stimulation (parenting goals!) On the drive there, our little didn’t nap, but also didn’t protest the quiet time at all. She relaxed, and chatted quietly with her stuffed animal she brought along. On the trip home, she crashed out like a log, and slept for over an hour of the drive.
We went into this road trip expecting the drive to be the worst part, and in reality it ended up being just as enjoyable as the rest of the weekend! Our kiddo did excellent both on the way there and on the way home, and I couldn’t have been happier about it! Tune in next Monday for Part 2 of our New York vacation – we spent the day at The Strong Museum of Play and I’m sharing all about the experience!
What was the longest road trip you’ve ever been on? Any tips to add to surviving a long road trip with a kid?