Tips for Travelling with Children, Tweens and Teens: How to Survive a Road Trip

Road Trip!

You would think that as your kids get older, it requires less prep to go away with them.
Everyone says that to me. “You’re going away? 15 hour trip? How old are your kids?”
“8, 10, 12, 12, 15.”
“Oh, well that’s good. They pretty much fend for themselves then. They can pack their stuff and entertain themselves.”
Totally. You got it. I can pretty much sit back the night before we leave and do nothing. 
My kids must be really behind in life skills, because I know half of them would pack lots of stuffies and no underwear. One would have lots of underwear, and cutie tops  (but limited “regular” clothes), and one would have one outfit for the 12 days.  Luckily one would have absolutely everything and remind everyone else to bring everything too. So maybe it would be ok.
Just in case it wouldn’t,  here are my pre-trip tips: 
Make a list of what to take for each child. 
Then, hand them the list and ask them to bring the items on the list to a common area. (For the younger guys, I do this with them).  I then put everything in the suitcase as they check off everything on the list.
Make other lists of “common things” to take and have them bring the items  to you as well so they can be packed and checked off.
Basically, make lists. 
Load up on lots of snacks to feed the hungry crew every hour or so. Best to not let them get hungry at all, because hungry kids mean grumpy kids. Hungry Mama, means grumpy Mama too. And Hungry Daddy means falling asleep, driving off the road Daddy.
Let me just say you are also best to find yourself a stellar car packer and driver too. Someone who calmly packs all the suitcases in the truck, without complaining you have too much. Someone who seems to be able to squeeze everything in, despite you adding more to the pile at the last minute. Someone who does not freak out when the roof rack key breaks in the lock, which means he has to stop packing to find some ingenious solution. Then,  someone who happily does all the driving as he understands that you spend way too many hours driving for work, so lets you nod off and sleep as much as possible. Hard to find, but if you do, don’t let him go.
Tips when on the Road:
1. Leave really early so that the kids sleep for the first couple of hours while the sun comes up.
2. Bring breakfast and lunch. Pick things that are a little bit out of the ordinary (not their typical breakfast): breakfast burritos (easy to make ahead and freeze), cereal bars, bagels with cheese. For lunch we had Spanekopita (greek phyllo pastry filled with spinach and cheese or ones just with cheese). 
3. Pack water bottles for all. Are you seeing the theme? Bring it all with you to avoid stopping.
4. Pack a ton of snacks: granola bars, chips, roasted seaweed (seriously, my kids love the stuff), dried fruit, cookies. A variety of sweet and salty. Try to throw some healthy in there – but not too healthy, part of the fun of a road trip is the snacks!
5. Play a trivia game. This was the biggest hit – and we passed several hours doing it. Super fun. I made a bunch of categories: FAMILY (questions about our family and extended family), MOVIES/SHOWS (only ones we have watched together), TRAVEL (all about our past vacations, and our future plans), CHURCH (all about things they have learned at church, things we have talked about during our family nights, things about friends at church), EVERYDAY LIFE (things about our meals, recipes, schedules, sports we play, activities we do, neighbourhood, schooling), GENERAL KNOWLEDGE (I cheated and had a book for this one: flags, geography, human body, animals, math, history etc).
Every kid gets to pick a category, and then answer a question. If they get it right, they get one of these:
If it’s wrong, then it is open for others to say the answer.
6. Word train: Start with one word and the next person has to say a related word. Amazing how our minds think – especially with a bunch of boys!
7. Bring lots of funny movies for them to watch. (Be careful though because the funny could turn to sad and then one kid will claim they hate the movie and stop watching it at the sad part. Especially if this movie was “Marley and Me” and this particular kid is missing our new little puppy tremendously.)
8. Bring the first season of some of their favourite shows. This year, I brought Modern Family. We watch it often, but have never seen the first season.
9. Bring seasons of old shows. Be careful, they may make fun of you for having liked these shows! We have been through some Happy Days, Brady Bunch, Get Smart, and Gilligan’s Island. This time, I brought Magnum PI, and Friends. The kids got a kick out of the what the characters of Friends looked like and asked “Were you the same age as the characters when the show came out?” Sadly, I pretty much was. “Figured”, was the response. Not sure what that means, but I left it at that. I also brought Friday Night Lights – which was not a big show at home so it’s really new for us.
10. Make a playlist that your kids hate and play it over and over again. They will either join in and sing to the crazy songs they hate, or put their own earphones on and leave you alone.
Of course, you need to stop for a few minutes here or there – but seriously, hold your pee. You can do it. Train yourself. We are only stopping a couple of times. 
Happy Travels!
The CDF’s


Tips for Travelling with Children, Tweens and Teens: How to Survive a Road Trip — 26 Comments

  1. Fun post! I make lists for all travels and my sister is that calm car packer! I get so frustrated. I will keep this trivia in mind for when I do a road trip with kids. I can’t wait to play music they don’t like 😉

    • I think they secretly like my music, but can’t admit it because they CAN’T like what their Mom/Smom likes! Although, in all honesty, we often like the same stuff (just not on this one playlist when I need some peace and quiet!)!

  2. LOVE all these great tips!! OMGOSH your family is just so beautiful! Every time I come by, I literally pause for five minutes to just take in those precious photos up top. They are truly breathtaking! I just can’t tell you how they have captured the joy in your family.

    Oh Leah- I am just so so happy for you. SO much love. So much light. I see it!!

    Enjoy the road trip- and eat every hour for SURE!!! 😉

  3. That made me crack up:
    “Totally. You got it. I can pretty much sit back the night before we leave and do nothing. “
    Five kids in a car? Yeah. I remember being 17 and my mom still having to get me ready for trips sometimes. Not a morning person. Now that I’m a mom, even if it’s two and not five, each kid and each unique trip has its own set of deep thinking! I’m in it right now, believe me. More like I’m procrastinating it.

    • I do think it gets easier as they get older for sure, but you still need to be on top of things and it is a lot of deep thinking! Hope you get all set up for your trip!

  4. Your kids are beautiful! These are some great tips. You definitely want happy kids, otherwise Mom might be shouting “are we there yet” louder than they do!! LOL! Traveling with kids is always an adventure but I love seeing the world through eyes. It makes me feel young again.

  5. wow great tips!!!!
    I feel shy to say I have never put into practice any of them! I am such a bad mommy.

    (to my credit furthest we have ever driven is to your place!)

    My definition of a road trip would probably sadly go something like this:

    pack yourself
    help me pack
    stop 5 times for fast food to save me making lunches
    use your cell as much as you want as it keeps you quiet
    don’t talk to me much as I am trying to text
    If we play a game I will lose it after 5 minutes
    lets get some chorelist reviews and study habits training in there!

    PS-But… kids ARE amazing packers so I am proud of that!!! with very little help except for the list help.
    So they are high in the lifeskills area I guess but I am clearly low in the maternal and patience area!!!

    Miss you!!!

  6. Wait… you mean children don’t pack themselves?!!?

    I drive my husband crazy – he packs like a week in advance and I pack pretty much 30 minutes before we leave. Hey! I know what I need to pack! And if I forget something that isn’t that important, such as a toothbrush or my hair straightner – we will just have to get another one! (Word of advice – you can only forget a hair utensil once. He will not allow you to purchase a third one…)

    We always leave EARLY. As in, midnight. The kids still have about 9 hours of sleep time left in them! Hooray!

    Seriously though – I think traveling when they were younger was easier. They didn’t take up as much room in the backseat and had more room to stretch out. We seriously need a bigger family car.

    If only I could figure out how to get Pappa to buy me that Armada I have been eyeing for the last 6 years…

    • Yes, our truck is pretty cramped with growing legs in the back seat! I could not drive through the night as both my husband and I would fall asleep – but i can see how nice it would be to have the kids sleep that long!

  7. My kid are pretty good travelers. I still pack for them, but we start early, charge the ipods, load up the DVD player and we’re off! We did however, discover that we will need to purchase a car-top carrier before we attempt to travel with all five again. Packing was truly a game of tetris!

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