When we moved to Tennessee 6 years ago, road trips to visit family in Michigan became a regular occurrence. If you add in the occasional trip to Pennsylvania to visit my sister’s family and various day trips around East Tennesse and the Carolinas, I think you could consider us experts. That’s why today I’m sharing my Ultimate List of Road Trip Essentials.
Road Trip Essentials – Food
Food is always a priority and what’s a road trip without snacks! Our trips to Michigan are typically at least 10 hours of just driving so we have to be strategic with our stops. We also try to avoid breaking the bank with expensive items at gas stations or lots of fast food drive-thru.
We stick to water in the car. It easy to find along the way, is less of a mess if it gets spilled. We use the Thermos Funtainers that the girls take to school every day. I have a weird thing about putting anything but water in them so that’s another reason we stick to water.
These Munchkin snack cups were great when the girls were little and more spill-prone. They can reach their pudgy fingers in and pull the snack out but it won’t spill when tipped. That’s a huge plus in car rides.
Whenever we take our long road trips, I like to try to have lunches packed ahead of time. That doesn’t always work out but it’s such a huge help when it does. I’ll make some sandwiches or homemade “Lunchables” and fill up our EasyLunchboxes. Throw them in a cooler and we have the flexibility to stop wherever we want without worrying about what fast food restaurant will be at what exit. There are the cost savings too which always a huge benefit!
For snacks to eat while we’re driving, we try to keep them simple, not messy and not terribly unhealthy. Some favorites include trail mix, Goldfish, granola or breakfast bars, and fruit pouches.
Road Trip Essentials – Activities
Food and snacks can only hold them off for so long and in our experience, rarely does anyone nap. (Ugh!!!) So we’ve come up with an arsenal of activities that can keep them from the Kindle & iPod Touch & iPad as long as possible.
A family favorite is the license plate game. We’ve even brought this out on trips to Brooke’s Girl Scout camp and the girls who are riding with us love it! Keith & I play a hyper-competitive version even when we don’t have kids in the car with us. Plus, it’s fairly educational with the learning of state names and where they are located geographically.
I’m excited that as Leah gets older she can start to play the next games with Brooke – Bingo & Hangman. More classic games that have been packaged to be perfect for car rides!! We have a magnetic set of each that is compact and fun. We’ve done a pretty good job losing pieces here and there so we also like the Melissa & Doug version that flip. I will tell you though – sometimes the “thwap” of flipping the pieces drives me bonkers!!
Ever since Brooke was a toddler and we took short road trips in Texas, Crayola Color Wonder markers have been a road trip staple. These markers only write on the special paper so I don’t have to worry about writing on car seats, clothes & skin. As the years have gone on, they’ve introduced fancy paper and even stamps which Leah has really enjoyed. My sister’s family does the drive from Pennsylvania to Michigan several times a year too so I got this Art Desk for my youngest niece to use in the car. It has everything all in one place.
Our family is a big fan of audiobooks & podcasts. It can be tricky to find something the whole family wants to listen to but the Disney Read-Along Storybooks with CD are usually a safe bet. Leah typically gets at least one for each birthday and Christmas so we’ve amassed a pretty good collection. They are typically about 10 minutes long so I get them all loaed up in the disc changer and we can go from story to story without skipping a beat.
We’re also fortunate that our library offers audiobook & eBook loans through OverDrive. I’ll browse through those collections before a trip as well to get some longer audiobooks to listen too. Amelia Bedelia books tend to be a hit. I can download them to my phone and push play whenever we’re ready.
We try to keep the electronics to a minimum in the car but they will come out eventually. Leah usually takes the Kindle Fire and plays her games on there & we have Frozen on there somehow. Brooke has her iPod Touch and now her school iPad to tinker with. No matter what they’re playing or watching, however, I can tell you that I don’t want to hear it. So headphones are absolutely necessary. We have these adorable ones for Leah and she loves them and they work well so it’s a win-win.
Do you take many road trips? What are your best tips & tricks for keeping everyone happy in the car?