Planning a family day trip road trip this summer? As the mother of three tween/teenage kids, we have had our share of road trips, so I thought I’d share some of the tips and tricks we use to make these a success and keep our sanity! With middle grade kids who all play various sports that require us to travel around the region, we take a good amount of day trips, so I thought it might be helpful to others to share my Top 10 Tips for taking Family Day Trip Road Trips.
Summer is a great time to hit the road to explore and make fantastic memories as a family. The temperature is warm enough that heavy winter gear isn’t needed, so packing is lighter, the scenery is gorgeous, and fresh air and new experiences are good for the psyche!
With current GPS technology, our kids can see exactly how long until we arrive at our destination, they learn about distance as they can see how long it takes us to drive various distances, and often relate trivia tidbits as we pass through small towns that they have heard of before. Living in New England, there is a ton of historical sites in the area, and it’s such a great experience for our kids to get to visit these places to see them firsthand.
Here are some tips that work well for us:
1. Pack a cooler with snacks and drinks. Even for short day trips, we always pack a cooler. We bring plenty of water, and I cut/chop veggies such as carrots, celery, and broccoli into snack size ziplock bags. We bring our along a bottle of ranch and bathroom cups to pour individual servings, so the kids can dip their veggies, then dispose of the cups so there is no mess! (Plastic grocery sacks are great for keeping trash contained).
2. Electronic Devices. For longer trips, we have a portable DVD player, so the kids can watch a movie in the backseat to make time pass more quickly. They also have handheld devices they can use. However, we don’t want them to spend the whole trip staring at a screen, we want them to enjoy the beauty! They have small increments of time they can use devices, and they know they must take turns and share, or the devices will be taken away – which eliminates most fighting 🙂
3. Play Games! My kids enjoy playing the ABC game from signs on the road, who can find license plates from the most different states, I Spy, etc. They also play Pictionary, Disney Trivial Pursuit, and asking each other Big Bang Theory trivia questions from their board game.
4. Art Supplies. Each of our children has a drawing pad to use, and a shoe size plastic box to keep art supplies in. They can draw pictures of scenery, people, or anything that inspires them.
5. Books. Some people get car sick reading, so audio books might be a better alternative, but each time we leave home, everyone typically has a book with them to read in case they get “bored” 🙂
6. Baby Wipes. It is so easy for someone to make a mess in the car, so we keep a package of baby wipes with us to quickly clean up.
7. Sunscreen. The spouse of someone close to me has been facing a serious battle with skin cancer for several years. Many people forget or don’t realize that they can get sunburns and sun damage to their skin while in a car. Be sure to apply sunscreen when you are in the car or outdoors, and re-apply as needed throughout the day.
8. Sunglasses. Similar to sunscreen, it’s important to protect our eyes from UV rays with sunglasses.
9. Change of clothes and towels. We learned this lesson 2 years ago. We took a quick day trip up to The White Mountains, and found a beautiful, shallow creek the kids could wade in, and it had a swimming area. We weren’t prepared and didn’t pack swimsuits, so the kids were just wading in the creek. Until one of them slipped and fell in, and his brothers thought it looked fun, and “slipped” too. They had a blast, and we have fantastic photos from the trip, but it was a shaded area, and they weren’t able to really dry completely out before it was time to leave. They had miserable 3 hour drive home, and now we always pack swimsuits, extra dry clothes, and towels with us in case we discover a creek to play in on our travels.
10. Bug Spray. Since many of our trips are in areas with trails to hike, we keep bug spray in the car to apply before we hit the trails!
What are your favorite tips?