7 Tips for Car Trips with Kids

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The DC area has several great options for road trips! Beaches in four different states are a four-hour drive away or less. Just west, the Shenandoah has amazing hiking, camping, or glam camping. Historic American cities such as Philadelphia, NYC, and Boston are just up 95. And then there’s always the Carolina beaches and cities. 

Now that we are finally in the warmer months, it’s time to start planning a family road trip! Below are seven car trip tips with kids that I have compiled. Good luck hitting the road!

1. Schedule stops every 2.5-3 hours

Plan your route ahead of time and select specific stops every 2.5-3 hours, especially if you have kids in diapers. It’s great to be able to respond with the inevitable “Are we there yet” with “only 44 minutes until we stop for playtime!” You can also print the map for the elementary age kids – they love it.  Or if you have younger kids it is a good idea to plan a road trip with their nap schedules so they can nap on the drive and wake up once you are there! Still another option is to leave early in the morning and carry the kids in their PJs to the car. My kids love road tripping in their PJs! 

2. Smart Stops

Pick a place to stop that offers a playground to really give the kids a chance to stretch their legs on the road trip. Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s, and Sonic are some of our personal favorites. You can check online to ensure they have a play area. Barnes & Nobles is another great option!

To give the kids more stretch time, we usually eat in the car, so get that Happy Meal to go. Make sure that you yourself also are taking a break. Take your time and enjoy not being in the car. If I am traveling with my spouse, one of us will stay with the kids and the other goes to pump the gas.

3. Provide Entertainment

You can purchase a car DVD player for around $50. It’s also easy to order DVDs online or even pick them up at a stop such as Walmart. We also measure times between stops with shows, i.e. “We will be there once we watch Frozen and one Curious George episode.” Another option is to prop up an iPad or tablet and connect the sound to the car. This works great for downloaded Netflix favorites. 

Books on tape are another great option. Libraries offer books on CDs or you could simply listen to a PodCast with your kids.  There are so many great options for podcasts with kids. But also, simply playing eye spy, telling family stories, imagining a story together, etc. is fun too!

4. Busy work

Listening to Barbie Spy Squad on repeat can make your eyes cross, so be sure to bring non-video activities. I love these activity trays for coloring and even eating. The Melissa and Doug sets are great for road trips. Interactive books are also a huge hit. I try and purchase a new toy for each road trip to keep them engaged. Also, don’t forget blankets and favorite stuffed animals! Or pop by the Dollar Tree and get a few (cheap) items to keep them occupied.

5. Pack that bag

Make sure you have a backpack, cross-body, or diaper bag easy to reach. Pack each child an entire extra outfit. Trust me on this one! Also, pack diaper wipes, wet ones, and hand sanitizer. Hide a bag of goldfish and maybe some treats to use as a quick peacemaker when the kids start to get antsy.

6. Snack time!

It’s amazing how much time you can kill by making a big deal about snack time. I try and pack their favorite snacks and have them within their reach. Keeping a variety of snacks for you and them is important! Also, each kid has their own water bottle–I like to make it fun by sometime giving them a new water bottle. 

7. It’s a memory-making adventure!

Most importantly remember to make it an adventure and be flexible! Point out interesting sights along the way–living here in DC, our kids do not get to see horses grazing or rolling fields. Also, I have been told (and from my own personal experience), road trips and vacations are the childhood memories kids remember. Good luck!

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Adrienne was born and raised in Houston, Texas. Even though she is a proud 6th generation Texan, she is thrilled to call Alexandria, Virginia home for the last 10 years. Adrienne enjoys exercising the left part of her brain working for the Federal government, and the right part of her brain on her blog Brunching With Kids.  She is a mom to a smart & beautiful 9-year-old daughter, and kind & rugged 5-year-old son.  Her husband works at a local hospital in Virginia. The entire family loves exploring all aspects of this amazing area, especially anything outside and/or along the Potomac River.  Major likes: a good cup of coffee, fire pit, fried okra, and outdoor happy hours.  Major dislikes: Laziness, a messy house, and mansplaining.