How to survive a Family Road Trip!

When we take any trip with all four kids, even those mini 2 hour trips I have to plan and prep. It’s mostly my “type A” mama self creeping in but I find it’s better to be prepared then stopping off route to grab Motrin when you know at home there are three bottles sitting right in the medicine cabinet. Hopefully you don’t need to deal with a surprise illness on your trip, but always safe than sorry, right! You never know when a teething episode will break out. 

This upcoming weekend we are taking a 2 and half hour drive to an incredible children’s museum. I’m excited and so are all the kids! The place is a lot of fun, everyone has something they can do and it’s massive so we will be spending the day there and driving back home after dinner. 

The goal is to swap out our play clothes for some cozy jammies before loading up and by 7:00-ish having the little guys fall asleep from their exhausting day of fun and running, transitioning nicely into their own beds just an hour or so later. Yes! 

While the older two can kick back and watch a movie with some snacks. Anyways, I need to ensure the family is prepared and set so our endeavor goes as smoothly as possible so we can get the best experience possible. 

  1. Packing Extra Clothes

Even if your trip doesn’t include an overnight I still pack a small bag for each kid, myself and my husband. I mean, real small. Do you know how many times I’ve been away from home and freezing my butt off just wishing for a comfy sweater. And don’t get me started on a 2 hr + ride home after a meal stop in jeans! Maybe it’s me and I don’t tolerate being uncomfortable well but I rather have the option of being comfy. 

For the kids, an extra shirt, comfy pants or jammies and a sweatshirt. The kids usually take a little travel blanket as well. Who doesn’t love a good soft cuddly blanket?

On our last mini trip of only an hour, 20 minutes in we ended up on the side of the highway because our then 2.5 year old decided he couldn’t stomach his McDonalds cheese burger (he insisted on this choice) and well, puked all over himself. 

Luckily I had a change of clothes and some cleaning supplies/wipes to deal with it relatively fast and as painlessly as possible. However, I am not a puke cleaner, that is totally a job for my husband. We survived the mishap and moved on. 

2. Pack a small essential bag. 

This is where the bottle of Motrin comes in, adding in a cheap thermometer, a mini first aid kit and the basic hand sanitary wipes. 

You never know when one of the kids may scrape up their knee and Mama having some cool bandages can save the whole day. 

I’m talking about a few bandaids, neosporin and sanitary wipes and some Advil for us parents – that’s all, nothing extravagant. So, no need to rush out and grab the top of the line first aid kid. Keep it simple. 

3. Make cleaning up easy. 

This will all come in handy for snack time, lunch in the car and even those little accidents when your 3 year old pops the cover off his juice cup, landing all over the rug in your van.

So, pack up a kitchen trash bag, a few reusable grocery bags, a roll of paper towels and any disinfected of your choice. Think about my “random throw up incident” and decide for yourself if it’s worth the extra baggage. I can assure you, it totally is. 

Last but still important when snacks and meals are taking place in the car. Use all throw away utensils, and paper plates/cups. 

There are challenges we face with feeding a 4 and 3 year old that must have their own dipping sauce, or the 10 year old who needs a mountain of ketchup to survive her lunch. While the 9 year old little guy is off in the way back row, unsurprised. I foresee a mess, but hey that’s kids

Each kid gets a bag for trash, hand wipe and ta-da, an easy clean up for me.

4. Plan potty breaks, and bring an alternative method.

The bigger kids 9 and 10 are capable of using public rest stops pretty easily. It’s more so the litter guys 3 and 4 who I plan a little more for. 

For longer trips try to plan the bathroom break along with a sighting of some sort. And if anyone says they don’t have to go, too bad, make them try. I have had this issue more than once to only have to stop off route for a potty break 20 minutes later. 

Since both our toddlers are boys, a little “potty jar” comes in pretty handy during times when they just can not wait. It’s nothing fancy, just an old sauce jar, that I let them cover it with different stickers. You need to keep the cover to close and seal until you have excess to a spot to dump and rinse. I’ve taken this into stores when I don’t want them touching the toilets or anything. Works like a charm!

When things are more serious than a little pee time, you can keep a travel potty in the back of the car. This is something I would plan on for a longer ride, but it’s totally up to you depending on your little ones potty training level and experience. I do think an hour is a short enough ride to skip but once your up to 2 or more it’s something I like to add, since it can’t hurt. Just line the potty with a pull-up, diaper, or paper towels something easy to wrap up and toss away. Of course, remember those wipes and hand sanitizing wipes and the extra grocery bags for easy disposal. 

5. Snacks and drinks

I use snacks once they are antsy and getting restless. I like to pack a lunch bag filled with easy grab and go things. The little guys are big on yogurt pouches and cheese itz, I’ll throw in a special treat for a little extra distraction and excitement, this weekend, I snagged Paw Patrol gram cookies.

The older kiddos enjoy the basics but I’ll definitely give them something they usually don’t eat at home. It’s a trip so we give in a little. 

We are a major water family, so everyone has their own reusable bottles they can keep throughout the day. I will add in some seltzer and apple juice for a treat. I’m sure we’ll be grabbing ice coffee, and the kids will need their munchkins too. 

For us, simple cheese sticks, nuts and atkins or kind bars (cranberry dark chocolate are my fav) are the go to. However I can’t turn down cheese itz myself. 

6. What to do in the car?

We start off with simple things for the little boys like coloring, and cars. I have these little tray’s that go directly over their seat for a table spot. 

I also don’t mind giving them a ball of playdough. It keeps them busy and entertained. Once they are bored and need to change it up I allow some tablet games, a pre-downloaded Netflix show or an interactive car game of I SPY or ABC alphabet (games we really just make up to keep them occupied.) 

The older two tend to be engrossed in their music, shows and movies while I do make them shut down for a little and enjoy everyone’s company from time to time. 

Balance it all out with snack times and you’re good to go – the longer trips will also depend on those potty breaks/sightings for stretching and fresh air. 

7. Pack Lunch

For us, we’ll be eating out for dinner so I’ll pack lunch, especially since we can find a place in the museum to sit and eat. I’ll do light foods because with all the fun and excitement I know they rather be playing. As long as we get a chance for some bites and sips it’s all good.

Simple sandwiches, usually peanut butter is the go too but in public I like to opt out and use nut free for the safety of all children. 

We love fluff, or banana with our sunflower butter. I’ll divide out some carrot sticks and cherry tomatoes with a few little strawberries too. 

My husband and I will have a pre-made salad. Nothing fancy, just easy and quick. 

8. Arrival – plan what to take in. 

Wherever you go, once you arrive it’s nice to know what you’ll need while there. I certainly don’t take everything in with us, just the essentials. 

The lunches, waters, change of clothes (museum has water play) and a lock. If you are at an amusement park you can often use a locker. I bring a lock and store my phones and purse since I rather not carry it all around plus anything else I won’t need to hold on to but keep closer then the car. 

9. Picking up

Get rid of the trash, if you can ditch all the things you don’t need to bring back to the car. 

For us, we will eat dinner on the way home so we’ll switch into jammies afterwards. I’ve honestly even contemplated travel toothbrushes for the boys, there is nothing worse than waking a sleeping toddler to brush his teeth. 

Before we take off, once everyone is cozy in their comfy clothes I grab all the trash and get out the blankets for sleepy time. My efforts are all for what I hope, boys asleep by 7:30! So, I can enjoy the peaceful ride back home in some comfy sweats and a cozy blanket. We know us Mama’s sure do deserve it. 

I may get a little crazy and grab a hot tea while watching the latest Grey’s Anatomy episode, fingers crossed. 

10. We’re home

Unload the sleepy kiddies first and get them cozy in their bed. Then unpack the car of bags and depending on my level of commitment, I’ll either go for it and unpack everything or save it for the morning. But either way I like to have it out of the car so I can tackle it first thing the next morning. I can assure you, if you wait because you’re tired and want to chill it isn’t going anywhere. 

But hopefully there isn’t much left anyways if you ditched the trash along the way, everything food related was eaten or thrown out. You’re just left with dirty clothes to hide away in the laundry room until further notice, I’d have the older two toss theirs right into the wash when they get in. 

Hope your mini trips are smooth sailing with these quick little tips! I’ll be sure to include a longer trip at some this summer. Enjoy!

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