I’ve always loved road trips.
For me, there’s just something about being packed inside a vehicle with people you love and being together on the open road, heading to a magical destination or to an exciting adventure or, as the case was for me and my family in early June, a wedding celebration in Salisbury, Maryland.
Now, I learned real quick that road tripping with little ones is not the same as road tripping with friends who are, for the most part, adults. Well, let’s be honest, sometimes it might be easier traveling with littles because you can plan ahead, anticipate potential road bumps and pack distractions, and rather than being cramped in the backseat of one of your friends’s cars, you can choose the vehicle that best fits your family’s traveling needs.
For our trip to Maryland, KIA delivered to us a top-of-the-line Kia Sedona, a minivan that not only offered us a truly comfortable ride, lots of leg room, and plenty of space for my overpacking, it also comes equipped with a long list of safety features that I wished our minivan had—360 degree cameras, lane surveillance, and keyless entry and ignition. We were so grateful they provided us with this vehicle for the trip!
As the parents of three kids who have a varying degree of interests and temperament, Matthew and I have learned a few things about what is essential to ensure that your family road trip is a happy one.
Road trip essential #1: Roominess
A road trip with your children is only as happy as the spaciousness of your vehicle. Trust me. As a mom who spent a handful of years trekking all over the country with my kids in a small SUV, there’s no vehicle better equipped with kid-friendly roominess than a minivan like the Kia Sedona. Room gives you options, options for packing all of the seemingly endless things you need when you’re traveling with kids, options for putting the right kids next to one another or separating the right kids from one another, and options for comfort when the drive lulls your kiddos to sleep. And I admit, I’m an over packer. But I don’t like being unprepared. And space gives me the ability to not only pack how I like, but provide the kids a safe and comfortable ride.
Road trip essential #2: Snack options
Yes, this might seem obvious. But you’d be surprised how many times I’ve left for a long trip without having shopped for snacks. And while gas stations and convenience stores offer a plethora of options, they’re much pricier than what I can buy at Walmart or Costco and usually far less healthier than what I want my kids eating. I like to have a mix of snacks, from nuts and fruit and carrot sticks to fruit bars and pretzels and Cheezits.
Road trip essential #3: Things to do
At some point during a long drive, the thrill of the road trip begins to wear off and my kids become restless or “board” or repetitive with “how much longer?” That’s why I, at least a week or more prior to leaving, begin organizing a list of options that the kids might enjoy. Sure, I could just let them keep their faces in iPods or Gameboys if I wanted to.
But I like mixing up their screen time with other things to do, like games, coloring, books, audio books, conversation topics, workbooks, etc. I try to always cater my list to each child’s likes and dislikes, and of course, I let them offer their own list of things that sound like fun when stuck in a car for hours at a time. As far as entertainment goes, I try to let each of the kids choose a movie or two that they enjoy, and then I’ll either pack the DVDs if the van has a player or I’ll download the movies onto their devices.
I also download a few audiobooks. We have been listening to the entire Ramona series by Beverly Cleary, and I love how quiet the kids get listening to it – and then the bursts of laughter that happen now and again!
Road trip essential #4: Individual Backpacks
Let your kids pack their own backpack for the trip. Packing their own backpacks has not only become a highlight for both Elias and Adeline, it empowers them to include things that they enjoy while also limiting what they are able to bring. It also allows each kid to keep their own backpack close to where they are sitting, so it saves me from either not being able to get them what they need or from having to pull over in order to get a kid what they need or want. Now of course, be sure to go through it after it is packed to make sure it has a good range of books, toys and activities.
Road trip essential #5: Comfort Items
Always pack a few of those special items that your kids not only use at home but might really need/want when away from home. Pacifiers, pillows, their favorite blankets or stuffed animals. Having a few comforts of home in the van always proves to be a win-win.
Road trip essential #6: Remember, it’s a road trip, not a race
Prior to getting on the road (and at least once or twice during the drive), I usually have to end up saying to Matthew, “honey, we’re traveling with our kids—we have to make stops.” He knows this of course, but because he’s also thinking about traffic, the arrival, how long he’s been driving, and not wasting time, he still needs the reminder sometimes. One thing that’s helped a lot is prearranging our stops along the way. Sometimes we’ll plan to stop in a certain town or at certain visitor center (like our stop on Chincoteague Island); other times we’ll arrange it by a time.
But offering our kids our plan ahead of time will often give them a goal to think about and encourage them to make every stop count. All of us need stops every now and then, everyone from Matthew and me, to all of our kids. Now, if Ezra has a massive blowout or if Adeline drinks too much and is on the verge of peeing her pants, we change our plans. But still, planning and making time for stops really has helped us manage all of our road trip hangups.
We had so much fun on our road trip to Maryland. As nervous as I was about the length of the ride, the kids did great, we were comfortable and are more eager than ever to do another trip together!