Family Travel Tips

There’s nothing like a good road trip with the family. No lie, I really mean it. We pretty much take one every other month or so. This month we are heading to New Orleans aka NOLA, for the iRetreat Conference. We’re stopping off in Orlando on our way up from South Florida, to help break the trip up a bit.

This week we are participating in a Road Trip Tip Blog Hop with several other travel bloggers and we are excited to bring you some of our tips for hitting the road with kids in tow. Since this hop is running for several days, we encourage you to keep coming back as we will update this post with a new tip each day!

Today’s Tip:

    Entertain Your Brain

When you are traveling with kids, you know they are going to need something to occupy their mind or they will drive you crazy. Fortunately, there are tons of things you can bring along to keep you all occupied. Of course there is always the tried and true music delivering device, whether that be a radio, cd player, mp3 player, satellite radio, cell phone or tablet. (There are also the daring ones who actually sing a capella). Listening to and signing along with music is definitely one activity we associate with road trips. (Adding more tonight.. Only a few hours until the giveaway ends.)

    Pack Light, Not Tight

Those of us travelers who fly, know what it means to pack light. But, when it comes to road trips, we are so tempted to pack everything we possibly can. Unless you plan to sleep in your car, or go camping, there is no need to bring everything. If you pack too much, you might find yourself and your kids squished in between bags just to fit it all. Imagine you are taking a flight, and keep the packing to a minimum. Duffle bags seem to pack better and hold more in your car, so each person could get a duffle for their stuff. We usually pack everything in the back, except a small cooler bag of snacks, a small bag for garbage, and some toys/books/etc. in the front. If it were up to our kids, they would bring 7 stuffed animals and a blanket. We usually allow one stuffed animal per kid for the road. Unless its cold outside or your a/c is super strong, they really don’t need a blanket.

          Be On Alert in Case Someone’s Hurt

Although we might not like to think about it, accidents can happen. Whether the accident involves you, your kids in the backseat or involves someone else driving around you, you should always be prepared to help anyone who might be hurt. 1.) Pack a First Aid Kit. 2.) Have a working cell phone that is charged. 3.) Have all of your insurance information for everyone in the car on-hand (both car and health insurance). 4.) Have a bottle of water. People usually bring water to drink, but forget to bring some water for treatment of wounds. 5.) Optionally, get trained in First Aid and CPR. It’s really inexpensive, and might even help you save a life.

     Don’t Pass the Gas

I know what you are thinking about this tip, and you are probably wrong. 🙂 While there are some unpleasant things we’d much rather avoid while being in a car during a roadtrip, the major one you shouldn’t avoid is stopping to fill up the gas tank. Yeah, many of us remember to fill up the tank before we leave on a major trip, but many of us avoid stopping to refuel, especially when traveling with kids. Stopping at a gas station for families means more than just getting gas. Along with it, comes the cries of “I want to go to the bathroom! Buy me something from the store! I’m hungry!” Stopping for gas becomes a half hour ordeal, an  ordeal we try to avoid. We trick ourselves into thinking, “We have enough gas to get to there.” But, honestly, I’ve run out of gas with kids in the car and that ordeal is much worse. When traveling with kids, its best to accept that you will need to take a break or two. Build that time into your schedule. Use the time you are fueling up to eat your packed snacks/ meals, use the bathroom, get in a stretch. and grab that cup of caffeine. Not to mention, your car runs more efficiently when you are not running low on gas, so you might save a little money as well.

     Go Far with a Good Car

Take it from me, you don’t want to be stuck somewhere with your kids because your car broke down. (That’s a whole other blog post I will share with you later.) If you think your car won’t make the trip, then rent a car. If you plan to take your own car, then make sure you check the oil, fluids, filters, hoses and windshield wipers. If it’s been awhile, you might even want to have a tune-up. Make sure you have a full size spare tire in good working order, some flares, as well as jumper cables.  Purchase a membership to AAA. The price of not taking precautions can be very steep, so make sure you are prepared.

    Take a Break for Your Own Sake

While taking the trip straight might seem like a good idea to save time, it definitely isn’t worth the heartache, nor headache, you will experience in that car. As adults, you might be fine for long distances, but your kids surely won’t. Ideally, you should be looking at taking short breaks at least every 2-3 hours, and meal breaks for extra long trips. If you are traveling with babies and toddlers, this timeframe should be shortened because you will need to change diapers and feed them more frequently. If you have an extra driver, then swap places to avoid fatigue. (Breaks are also a good time to take in some of that caffeine I mentioned the other day.) You’ll find that if you plan ahead so you have enough time for breaks, you will be  a much happier person upon your arrival at your destination.

        Arrange for Change

You never know when a credit card machine will be down, or parking requires cash only payments, so always make sure you have cash on hand. Imagine arriving somewhere and having to leave or that you ordered a full meal for your family, only to learn they don’t take card. When traveling with kids, it also helps to carry some singles because they might want to pick up a souvenir at a rest stop or attraction. It helps them with budgeting and gives them a sense of ownership over how they spend their money.

         Pay Your Toll if You Want to Roll

When roadtrippin’, you will run into the inevitable toll every now and then. While many toll booths have made the switch to electronic passes and toll-by-late programs, you still might find yourself needing change to cover these expenses. I’ve encountered exits in which you need exact change to toss into the bucket in order for the gate to even open. Or sometimes you need the exact electronic pass offered by a county or state, which might be a pain in the rear to try and find. For instance, the SunPass Express down here in Florida can be purchased from a rest stop, but they don’t tell you that it must be permanently adhered to your windshield (nontransferrable and not rental car friendly), that you have to register the plate via the internet, and add an additional $10 into it (which can take until the next day to activate if it is after a certain time of day). If you need something more immediate, you have to buy the transponder, which comes at $25 a pop. If you rely on toll-by-plate, you also get administrative fees tacked on top of the tolls. Your best bet is to check your route before you go, so you can pre-arrange your toll passes and also bring change just in case you run into the change only booths. Also, if you are using a rental, be aware that some rental companies make you opt into their toll service or you will get hit with huge administrative charges for using toll by plate.

        Route, Don’t Pout

There’s nothing worse than getting lost while on a  road trip with kids in the car. Your timing gets thrown off and you could end up spending more time and money on tolls & gas than you needed to. This can be frustrating, and combining that with children who tend to get antsy, you might have a ticking timebomb on your hands when it comes to how you handle this situation.

Before you leave the house, double-check your route, paying close attention to major roads and landmarks. Make sure your phone/gps is charged and programmed with your destination. We recommend having a backup device just in case. Also, in this world of technology, don’t underestimate the power of writing things down. Technology can fail, and having some directions at hand that don’t require batteries to review, can be extremely helpful and reassuring.

Bonus Tip: Get one of those laminated placemats with the map of the US on it (or wherever you are visiting). Then, using a dry erase marker, assist your child in mapping out the road trip you plan to take. Once in the car, using a different color marker, have the child document our path as you go. It will make them feel a part of something, and like his/ her voice truly matters.

Pack A Snack

When you are traveling the road, kids are bound to get hungry. If you don’t want to pay $5 for a bag of chips and a soda that really aren’t that good for them anyway, opt to packing a healthy snack in a portable cooler. Snacks can also be a lifesaver when you are stuck in traffic driving during a holiday weekend and the nearest rest stop is 57 miles away.

We always pack water because you can get dried out, whether you leave the windows open to feel the wind in your hair, or you put the a/c on full blast to keep you cool.  Plus, you can buy a variety of little flavor packets to add some flavor to the water. My kids also like juice boxes, or should I say pouches? The juice pouches fit pretty nicely in the coolers and seem to stay colder than regular juice boxes.

Another fave snack in our car is baby carrot sticks. They are small to fit small hands, pack a semi-sweet taste, and hold well during long trips. Plus, they aren’t as messy as some other snacks so your kids to pick them up with their bare hands. And if one drops, they are pretty easy to find (unlike those Goldfish that seemed to have disappeared into the blackhole that is the backseat). We always try to include snacks that don’t require utensils to eat. It keeps the garbage and the mess to minimal. Yogurt tubes can be a great option for getting in some protein and dairy.

Pack a caffeinated drink. Yes, this might not sound like the healthiest option, but caffeine helps to keep you alert. Driving can send you into a semi-hypnotic state, making it easier to get drowsy and fall asleep. If you are already drowsy, pull over and wait until 30 minutes for the caffeine to kick in.

Have any family road trip tips? Share them below. 

Want more road trip tips? Check out the Blog Hop and enter to win one of two prize packages!

Our Grand prize includes a GoPro HERO (camera only, $129 value), a selfie stick ($25 value) and three Lonely Planet Road Trip Guides ($30 value).

Second prize includes a travel eye pillow, hand-made soap, world map, stickers, Lonely Planet Kids’ books, National Geographic 2016 Kids’ Almanac, and a Thirty-One hang-up activity organizer.To enter, add your contact information in the Rafflecopter widget below and leave a comment on this post with your best road trip tip. You can earn additional entries – see the Rafflecopter widget to learn how.

The Rules

1. You must leave at least one comment on one of the participating blogs to enter.

2. Additional entries via commenting on other blogs in the hop are available to you.
3. You will receive additional entries by performing the actions in the widget, giving you a possible 20 entries (there are 10 participating bloggers, with two ways to enter each).
4. PRIZES ARE ONLY ELIGIBLE TO SHIP IN THE CONTINENTAL U.S.
5. The giveaway runs through June 12, 2015 11:59 p.m. EDT.
6. Winners will be notified via email.

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Read more road trip tips on the following blogs and enter again to win the prize packages!