With Spring break just around the corner you might be looking for tips that will help you keep your family road trip from turning into something straight out of the National Lampoon’s Vacation movie. Last year we took our boys on two different cross country adventures from Nebraska to California and back again. Here is a list of all of the important road trip lessons I learned from those experiences.
The key to keeping them quiet is keeping them entertained
Bring movies, books, coloring kits, video games, playing cards, and anything else that will hold your sons attention for at least an hour at a time. Don’t forget chargers for electronics and adaptors if they are needed so you can recharge electronics while on the road.
Pack the right kind of snacks.
The first road trip we took I made both boys their own little cooler bags full of snacks they liked. I included things like fruit, cheese sticks, trail mix, and fruit snacks. Their snack bags ended up making an epic mess before we even got out of our state. The cheese sticks got slimy, the M&M’s in the trail mix and the fruit snacks melted, and there were pieces of orange peels all over the car. The second time around I packed smarter. I only brought things that didn’t need to be stored in a certain temperature. Beef jerky, gold fish, pretzels, granola bars, and nut mixes are all good snacks that can last in the car.
Plan where you will stop for gas, bathroom breaks, and food before you leave.
I learned that the boys whined less if I had plans for where we would stop. If I could tell them “We are going to eat lunch in Reno” they wouldn’t continuously ask when we were going to eat. Of course you have to be able to be flexible with your plan. Like if your kids find a sign advertising buffalo burgers and eating buffalo meat just happens to be on one of your son’s bucket list, it’s ok to veer off of your schedule. Basically it’s just meant to be a guide to keep everybody from getting overwhelmed.
Give yourself enough time in your driving schedule for the unexpected.
One of the most important things I learned was that Murphy’s Law definitely applies when you’re trapped in the car with all the important males in your life. I learned that when your son tells you in the middle of the desert that he has to go poop…it means he had to go poop 30 minutes ago when you passed the last gas station for miles but he was too busy playing with his video game to mention it and now he really needs to go. I learned that a fifteen minute drive to the amusement park in LA traffic really takes forty-five minutes. I learned that the open road is full of tourist traps and some of them like fresh fruit stands are really worth stopping at. Give yourself a lot of wriggle room in your schedule so that nobody gets stressed and you can enjoy all the ups and downs together.
Bring a first aid kit, a car sickness kit, and trash bags.
Put together a small first aid kit with all of the essentials. The American Red Cross website has advice on what you should put in it. Take a small bucket or bag and create a car sickness kit. Include things like peppermints and saltines that can soothe upset tummies and motion sickness medicines for older family members. Everything can be dumped out of the bucket or bag in a hurry and it can be used to hold vomit if someone gets sick. I didn’t make a kit our first road trip and I am pretty sure there is a horrible YouTube video somewhere of me puking out the passenger window of our car because we were in a one lane road in the mountains and there was nowhere to pull over. Bring trash bags to help cleanup any messes that happen along the way. You’re going to want to clean the trash out of the car each time you stop for gas.
Have an emergency potty plan.
Your probably wondering what an emergency potty plan is. Since we only have boys I brought Gatorade for them to drink and then I had them hold on to a few empty bottles so in case of an emergency situation they had somewhere to pee other than the seat of the car. I know this is a gross tip and I probably sound like a horrible mom but there are times when little boys have to go right away and you just can’t stop (like while driving up a mountain or while stuck in a tunnel). It’s better to be prepared for these moments than to let a normally potty trained child have an accident.
Don’t forget the music.
I learned the hard way that there are many places where you can’t get a radio station to come in and your cell phone might not work so you can’t rely on Spotify. On our first road trip I spent many boring hours driving to the sounds of my family snoring. Rent a car with satellite radio, bring an MP3 player that doesn’t need internet service, or bring your huge case of CD’s from the 90’s. You’ll be happy when you have something to listen to besides snoring and static.
Don’t just rely on GPS buy a physical map.
We got lost for like two hours in San Francisco. Sometimes GPS lies or there is roadwork, heavy traffic, or other unforeseen situations. Always have a physical map on hand. Plus, it gives you a chance to teach your sons how to read a map which is a skill a lot of kids these days probably won’t have when they grow up.
Final words of wisdom:
Do: Take lots of pictures, play games like I-spy with your kids, talk and laugh, be flexible, and enjoy this moment.
Don’t: Be a backseat driver or let yourself get annoyed, stressed, or irritated.
Have a wonderful road trip! #Lifewithboys
Tiffany O’Connor is a mom to two amazing, energetic, and fearless boys. She is married to her high school sweet heart and has three college degrees. Her hobbies include watching TV shows about zombies, hiding in her hot tub with a bottle of champagne, and writing all about her misadventures parenting in a “man cave” at #Lifewithboys.