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With a few road trips under our belt, I’ve definitely collected my own list of hits and misses for our time in the car! None of these are crafty, life-hack type things. These are legit, go online and buy them because if you’re reading this, you’re like me and you either don’t have time to craft, don’t have the skills to craft, don’t care enough to craft, or all three. Here are a few of my favorite road trip survival items…
Kid’s Amazon Fire
I know what you’re thinking, there she goes putting up the screen time first! But let’s be real, at one point or another the tablets are going to have to be broken out! And a few years ago I scowered far and wide trying to find our old-school versions of travel games like Sorry and Connect Four only to find that there is really no market for them anymore because they’ve all been turned into apps! What has the world come to? We do make the kids wait a while before they’re allowed to take them out of the backpacks. They have to play some form of a car game, work in an activity book, and a few other things before we have screen time. Recently we bought the boys the Kids Fire. Do yourself a favor and go ahead and buy the whole package with the kid-proof case and throw some kid proof headphones in while you’re at it! What I like about the package is that it comes with some preloaded apps, 2-year protection (because kids happen), and the case has saved Luke’s tablet on many occasions! It really is kid-proof!
And besides, if you find yourself on a road trip without proper entertainment, you wind up with 6 hours of this! Now, in our defense, this was not supposed to be an actual road trip! It was a massive standby fail that found us driving from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas after spending a few days visiting my brother & his family. Poor guy!!! When that inevitable meltdown does come from someone, remember to keep your eye on the prize! Whether it’s laughing through it like in the video above, or keeping the picture of your destination in your mind like below, just remember to keep your cool and go with the flow! The kids (and you) can only handle so much.
I LOVE a good activity book! They’re perfect for not only road trips but we use them on summer breaks, weekends, at family events, at the doctor, or in a restaurant. Usborne Books & More makes some incredibly well crafted and well thought out books for kids of all ages (pics link to where you can order them). On our last road trips, we brought along these:
These books are so fun! Luke loves animals, mazes and adventures so Wild Survival was perfect for him! Sometimes he needs a little help with the reading, so big brother helps out! Landry loves history and trivia! Across the USA Activity book gives him a little bit of trivia for each state and fun activities like word scrambles to engage the mind.
Landry LOVES “This is NOT a Math Book” and any of the “Write Your Own” books. They’ve been my trickly little secret to get him to work on his math skills & writing skills without using the dreaded words “study” or “workbook” which both seem to induce immediate arguments. He took the math book on our last road trip and it was a solid hour of entertainment before he even mentioned screen time.
Both boys love trivia and maps. It’s something we have inherited from my mom! Neither my mom, nor myself can remember what we did yesterday, but our heads are full of random, useless trivia of places or history. Before we go anywhere I go pick up the guidebooks for that place and study up (nerd)! On the way there I’m the one pointing out the window saying “Hey guys! That field over there is where this totally random battle between cowboys and Indians happened!” I’ll tell them the story, and that will usually get their imaginations going enough to start a whole conversation about what we would do if we were alive during that time. I also get them both a roadmap. You’ll be surprised at how much fun your kids have following along the road on a real map, not Google Maps! Before we leave the house we will get out our map pencils or highlighters and trace the path we are planning to take, put stars on where we are thinking of taking a break, and circle spots along the way that might be cool to check out!
I love good printables and will usually print out a good stack for them to have, but did I mention I’m NOT crafty? They’re so handy, cost me nothing, and can be thrown out at the end of the day so you’re not all junked up on your way home. You can find just about any kind of printable you’re looking for to even go with the theme of your trip on Pinterest. Not sure where to start? Head over to my Pinterest page! I have a whole board of them saved!
Yep…I said coolerS. See above, don’t they look comfy? Nope! I’ve found now that the boys are bigger & spreading out a bit more that it works a whole lot better for us when we have 2 coolers. I keep a smaller one in the back seat where I can easily grab it. I keep just enough drinks in there to get us until the next break. The bigger one doesn’t fit well on the backseat floor so it has to go between the boys taking up all their space! I now keep a larger one in the trunk that has drinks to refill the smaller cooler, and whatever fridge items I’m bringing with us for the trip. Usually, I’ll throw in a few basic groceries like lunch meat & cheese, a little bit of fruit, and some juice so that we can make it until the next morning before one of us is going to the store to stock the kitchen. This is especially true when we make our longer trips to Gulf Shores. The last thing either of us wants to do after a 10+ hour day in the car is to turn back around and go to the store (although Matt normally will since odds are I forgot something we need, but at least I tried, lol).
This is my favorite for the larger/trunk cooler. They make bigger options, which we have for sports and other stuff, but this one is usually just the right size for drinks for the day and to not take up all the trunk space either. It’s also handy to take along on kid’s field trips because it doubles nicely as a small table for the picnic or a seat!
Matt found this little guy after our first trip to Gulf Shores. On our first trip down (the “rookie excursion”) we only took the big cooler and had to haul that bad boy down to the beach every day from our room. That was MISERABLE! This one is awesome! It has room to put enough drinks in for a few hours in the back seat and to take down to the beach with you. The hard part comes out and can go in the dishwasher, and then the soft part shakes out really nicely after your youngest inevitably tries to jump over it, then kicks sand all over inside and outside! The smaller pouch is perfect for chapstick so that doesn’t get all gross and melty in the beach bag. This little guy has also gone with us to Disney, the neighborhood pool, soccer games when I’m not snack mom, and just day trips around town.
In my 10 years of parenting, I have tried ALL THE BACK SEAT ORGANIZERS! I have spent a small fortune on them only find the same result of smashed snacks, and junk all over the floor time and again. We tried the over the seat ones when we drove to Colorado – one ripped two hours out of town when Landry couldn’t get his toy unstuck. We tried lap desks and they went unused. I tried getting all Pinterest-y and using pencil boxes, lunch boxes, and cute colorful bins only to have the pencil box of legos dump everywhere, and the crayons spill under the seat forever imprinting a rainbow in the back of Matt’s car! This car organizer seems to be the one that works the best. I don’t keep it anymore for day to day but for road trips, it works well for their activity books, markers, and other small/quick-grab items.
Years ago my father-in-law told me to always pack gallon baggies when we travel. I can’t tell you how useful that tip has been over the years. I keep a whole box of them in the quick grab, snack bag when we are on the road. I have used them in all kinds of situations like saving leftover snacks, throwing wet clothes into after a spill, a place to put markers or crayons after we rip the box, bathing suits on the return trip if they didn’t have time to dry out, a place to keep “treasures” (rocks) we find at parks & rest stops, and more!
Don’t forget the cheap sunglasses and flipflops. I keep a bag with an extra pair of cheap sunglasses for me, super cheap glasses for the boys, and a couple pairs of flipflops. Everyone kicks their shoes off in our car, and the sunglasses go on and off. It never fails that when it’s time to get out of the car for a potty break we are missing a shoe, or it’s too bright and the sunglasses are buried somewhere. Keeping a bag handy of the cheap-o ones has made a huge difference in the daddy grumpy factor when we get out of the car! You know what I’m talking about; when dad has been driving for a few hours, is a bit cranky but still insisting that he doesn’t need a break, has already gone in to do his business and you’re still fumbling around with the kids’ junk trying to find the missing shoe, and he’s coming back out ready to go and giving you the WTF look? Yeah, we’ve been there too! I just roll my eyes and go get myself a chocolate bar!
It’s probably a given but you’ll want to bring a bunch of snacks! Just play the guessing game and bring an assortment of all the snacks in your pantry because if you bring the Goldfish but not the Teddy Grahams, they’re gonna want the Teddy Grahams! Also, bring cash for when they want the snack at the gas station that you didn’t bring! It’s not worth the fight!
My husband also keeps an emergency kit handy (post coming on that soon). Among the bizarre random things he brings, he, of course, has the jumper cables, and flashlight (anytime we have gotten a flat tire with the kids in the car it has been in the dark).
Finally, don’t forget the pillows and blankets. Not that I get to sleep in the car anymore as the mama, but having my soft blanket and a pillow to at least lean on the door with goes a long way in my comfort factor when we are traveling a long distance. You may even get lucky and the kids will sleep. Mine finally do wear themselves out for a little bit…then wake up with plenty of energy, totally amped up to finally be there!
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