We have road-tripped over 40,000 miles, through the past 7 years with our kids. As a matter of fact, the very first road trip we did with a baby was when our daughter was only 7 weeks old. We drove the 15 hours from Virginia to Florida. After we welcomed our second child, we hit the road even quicker and took a 15-hour road trip when he was only 4 weeks old. Since then, we have crisscrossed the United States several times with our kids and learned many lessons along the way.
Throughout these road trips, we have figured out what works best when on a road trip with kids and what does not. This guide will walk you through 10 avoidable mistakes when road tripping with kids and hopefully help you avoid them!
The GPS is wrong
It’s going to take longer! Taking a road trip with a baby or toddler means adding in extra stops for feedings, diaper changes, and to get the wiggles out. If your GPS says it will take 9 hours, plan for at least 11. There’s no such thing as a straight shot when it comes to kids in a car.
Remember time zone changes
When road tripping with kids in the United States, it’s easy to forget you may be crossing 1 or 2 time zones in a day. For example, most people wouldn’t know that the state of Florida has two time zones! So, be sure to check prior to departure, if any place you’re crossing into will be crossing into a new time zone.
Give yourself a break
Not doing so is a typical rookie mistake when road tripping with kids. There is a widely accepted “2-hour rule” that says to take a baby out of the car seat for a break every 2-3 hours to prevent them from getting restless. Choosing stops with a playground or play place to let the toddlers and kids get some energy out is always the best. Another idea is to choose a stop, such as a unique roadside attraction, that is engaging for the entire family. When on a road trip with a baby, you don’t need to plan as much because they just want comfort and snuggles.
Stopping? Make sure everyone uses the bathroom
Don’t ever listen to, “I don’t have to go.” It’s a trap! Not making sure every single person used the bathroom or had a fresh diaper change–another rookie mistake. If your child tells you they don’t have to go, encourage them to try and wait until they do. You’d hate to be back on the road and nowhere near a rest stop for them to go once you’ve already left one.
Take pit stops when kids are awake
I know this cannot always be accommodated but try your best. When a child falls asleep in the car, this is the best time to really get the miles behind you, uninterrupted. This is also the calmest and safest time to be driving since there are fewer distractions inside the car. So, when you are planning to stop, make sure it’s when the kids are wide awake and alert.
Download entertainment in advance
Before every single road trip we take, we pull out the iPads and download as many movies as we can. Streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Disney+ all allow you to download certain movies and shows that can be accessed without the internet. You can also download educational games that can be accessed without the internet! Whether it’s through a phone or tablet, the options are endless, including being able to download things if you have a YouTube Premium account.
Don’t forget the toys
Real estate in the car on a road trip is precious, but keeping little ones entertained for hours in the car is vital. We usually pack a small basket of quiet toys in the car. For babies, we hand the toys back one at a time so they aren’t overstimulated. For toddlers and little kids, it’s a great idea to place the basket of toys where they can reach it from their seats. This allows them to be in control and choose what they want to play with. bring some of their favorites, in addition to adding one or two new toys they can keep themselves entertained by.
Bring lots of snacks
Saving the best for last, I must passionately reiterate, DON’T FORGET THE SNACKS! Snacks will keep anyone at any age entertained in the car. However, if you are on a road trip with a toddler, snacks are paramount. Head to your favorite Walmart, Target, Costco, etc., and grab as much as you can. It’s better to have more than less and a variety depending on how long your trip is going to be. Snacks save road-tripping parents’ sanity…Thank me later.