After spending most of our lives in South Florida, Alex was offered a job in Omaha, NE. One of the reasons we decided to take the leap and move across the country was because we wanted to get to know our country, experience seasons and share it all with our kids. Granted, we could do that from south Florida, but flying with three kids (five plane tickets) or driving out of FL (10 hours just to get out of the state) didn’t seem realistic to us. Moving to the Midwest has really allowed us to spend more time together not just seeing new places, but making memories as a family.
Over the past two years, we have driven through 13 states and have covered over 9,600 miles totaling about 160+ hours in the car with our THREE kids! Every single mile has been worth it. We have gotten an opportunity to experience things we otherwise wouldn’t and are so excited about where we’ll end up next!
Here are a few previous road-trips:
Utah (coming soon)
I know we are just tapping into our family road trip potential, but there are a few things that we’ve learned about hitting the road with kids and today, I wanted to share a few tips with you!
Here are a few tips on how we road trip with our three kids
Set the expectation – Our kids adapt well to changing environments AFTER we have prepped them. We role-play before loading the car, we talk all about what we are going to and not going to do on the road, we pick out movies to watch on the road and set expectations for them. This way, they are prepared for the long hours in the car and the experience doesn’t catch them by surprise. We also talk about the things that are expected of them. Like having an awesome time, being patient, using their inside voices while at restaurants, treating each other kindly and sticking together. There are bound to be surprises along the way (flat tires, detours, traffic) but as long as we’ve set the expectation, we have a baseline that we can always go back to.
Drive through the night – This is easier said than done because WE are the ones staying up through the night and then staying up to tend to little ones throughout the day. However, there is no greater sound for a parent then the sound of sleeping babies. We plan our travel day ahead of time and skip naps. Then make sure everyone goes to bed around 6-7 pm and they’re all ready for a wake-up call around 3 am. We find it that the kids are still tired enough to drift back asleep and Alex and I are awake enough to sip some coffee, chat and start the drive. Since Alex is usually the one driving, I am able to catch his “tired cues” I know when he’s struggling to keep his eyes open and when he’s doing great. Sometimes driving through the night is dangerous and both the pilot and co-pilot need to be aware of all surroundings. Our rule is that if we are having a hard time focusing, we pull over! We don’t budge on this because it’s more important for us to drive safely than to stick to a timeline.
Smart snacks – It’s obvious that you should pack snacks, but when you’re on a road trip with little ones, you want to pack snacks that make very little mess. I say you should leave the applesauce cups and the yogurts at home. I’d suggest pre-packaged cheerios, goldfish, applesauce in pouches, pre-sliced apples, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cheese sticks. For long trips, we pack a cooler with pre-made ham and cheese sandwiches, fruit, granola bars and almond butter pouches. The kids think it’s a treat to eat in the car and it saves Alex and I a food stop as well as money.
Non-spill sippy cups – We like to have no-spill sippy cups per kid. Grace has a pink one, Haddon has a blue one and Emmy has an orange one with elephants on them. They all love their sippy cups and take great pride in putting them in their own cup holder. It’s too cute. Also, the fact that they don’t spill keeps the van from all the liquids messes.
Activity bags – The only time we watch movies in the car is during road trips. Our van does not have a DVD player. However, our rental cars always do. We make sure to pack 5-6 movies with us and the kids look forward to watching them on the drive. We make sure to space out the movies to ensure that they don’t get bored or tired of watching. Along with a few movies, we pack an activity bag. This bag contains specific zip locks for each child with child appropriate activities. This can get super tricky, but the key is to wait it out as long as you can before giving them the bag. Also, give them one activity at a time. This prevents them from tiring out quickly, making a huge mess and it keeps them engaged.
- Emory- coloring book, magnets, baby doll, magic markers
- Grace – journal, pen, princess themed coloring book, magic marker, threading cardboard shapes, binoculars, watch, chapstick, go-fish cards
- Haddon – journal, pen, boy-themed coloring book, magic markers, threading cardboard shapes, binoculars, watch, chapstick, go-fish cards, race cars
Pilot and Co-pilot activities – My favorite part of going on a road trip, is always sitting down with Alex and getting a chance to talk. It’s not often that we get the opportunity to sit for a long period of time (without so many interruptions) so, we take it all in and really enjoy investing in our conversation. These days, most of our conversations revolve around our dreams, hopes and where we see our family a year from now. We don’t wing it though, I make a list of topics we’ve been wanting to chat about but haven’t gotten a chance to because of the kids (politics, doctrinal statements, climate changes, baby timeline, hiring help during the fall, Grace’s fall curriculum, friends on facebook etc.) It may seem weird, but we really enjoy chatting and about all of these topics and they get pushed to the side because they’re not super important at the moment. Alex also picks a few books for us to listen to together, we grab our wireless headphones and both tune in. I also bring my computer with me and catch up on blog posts, picture editing and get some work done. This is very helpful during the late night drive when the kids are sound asleep and the computer light helps me stay awake.
- These are the two we just finished :
Garbage bag – Garbage is inevitable, so we keep a few grocery bags (I store them in the glove compartment) on hand and fill them up as we go. We try to keep the cabin as clear of clutter as possible to maximize space. When we stop for gas or bathrooms, we toss the full bag and grab a new one.
Porta-potty – This is a game-changer friend. We bring our training potty inside the van with us, a roll of toilet paper and a roll of paper towel. One of the reasons why road trips take SO LONG is because of all the breaks. Alex laughs about it, but we’ve managed to get the kids to sleep, eat, play and poop all in the van! Hear me out… since we drive through the night, no one really has to use the potty. In the morning we make our first stop for gas and bathrooms and keep the potty in the car for those emergencies. If a kid has to go, we pull over, let them go and keep going. I also keep a gallon of water to rinse off the potty if need be. This may be a bit extreme for some, but I would much rather rinse off a potty than have to go in some of those highway rest stops, propping kids up and praying they don’t touch the floors.
Pack light – I am working on a post showing you exactly what we pack and how we store it all in the car. For now, know that we pack with a minimalist mentality. We usually rent homes through Airbnb and make sure they have washer machines. We try to pack things that look decent even if they’re dirty or wrinkled and go with the flow. I also store one change of clothes per kid in the cabin (usually behind one of the chairs) and have it handy just in case we have any accidents. The key here is to not have to stop and dig for something out of a suitcase.
Have a mom backpack – This goes a little further than just a diaper bag. Of course, I have all of the diaper essentials for Emory, but I also pack the following:
- First aid– I never leave the house without a good first-aid kit. With three little ones in tow, you never know when somebody is going to get their knees scratched, have a bug bite, or develop an allergy. In my first-aid kit, I have Band-Aids, anti-itch cream, antihistamines, ace wraps, acetaminophen, Benadryl for babies and adults, antibiotic ointment, and bug spray, a few essential oils, lotion, toothbrush and toothpaste and a nail clipper.
- Wipes– I always take three types of wipes with me. I have disinfecting wipes, regular butt wipes and an all-purpose baby-body wipe that comes in handy when the kids get super sweaty and we don’t have a chance to shower them. I try to bring along as many natural products as possible.
- Towel– A towel comes in handy during every road trip we take. It’s there for spills, for water bottle showers, and as a pillow for the stroller. You can’t go wrong with a hand towel.
What we bring along depend a great deal on where we are going, the weather and how long the car ride is. This is how we’ve been able to survive and enjoy road trips with our kids and I sure hope that it helps shed some light and encourages you to hit the road with your babies!