The migration season for Phoenicians is upon us! It seems that almost everyone I know is packing up their car and heading out on family road trips to escape the soaring triple digit temps. Normally, we are one of “those families” who embark on a road trip with kids as soon as the weather heats up, but with baby #4 arriving any day now, we are homebound for the summer and it has been a little rough.
Our annual family road trips have become quite the anticipated tradition. We usually head up to my parents home in Utah where the days are still on the warm side, but the nights cool down beautifully. Plus, even on the hottest days, a short drive into the mountains guarantees stunning views and fresh, cold air. While there are lots of fun things to do when we are actually in Utah, I have found that my children enjoy the drive to and from Utah almost as much as actually being there. I attribute this love of family road trips to a few fun traditions we have established to help me keep my sanity during a 12 hour car trip while the little ones are occupied and having fun.
* Snacks– What would a road trip with kids be if there weren’t snacks involved!? Normally, I am not one to let my children snack all day long, but on road trips with kids, that goes out the window. Snacks truly help pass the time for everyone in the car. I find that by purchasing snacks in bulk and packaging them into individual portions myself, it really cuts down on cost. I like to include a few fun treats that we would not normally eat like small candies or bite size cookies, but most of our snack bags contain things like grapes, carrot sticks, crackers, beef jerky or cashews. We also love to take sliced cheese, bread rolls, butter and sliced veggies to make sandwiches along the way. Yummy and (mostly) healthy snacks really do help make family road trips fun for everyone.
* The “Reacher-Grabber”– Now, I drive a mini van and getting snacks and other road trip essentials to the back of the van can be a challenge. Enter my road trip life saver- the “reacher grabber” or “grip-n-grab” tool. These can be purchased on Amazon or in the pharmacy section of stores like Target and Walmart, and they are fantastic road trip tools. I put a snack bag or other item into the gripper part of the tool then reach back and drop the item on the lap of the child in need. I really like having two of these in the car- one up front with me and one in the back with my oldest daughter. That way, if she or one of the younger kiddos drops something while we are traveling, she can use the reacher grabber to pick it up. This cuts down on tears over dropped toys, snacks, blankets, etc.
* Audio Books– Audio books have become a much loved road trip with kids tradition. I have never been big on audio books myself. I would much rather hold a book in my hands and have the ability to read as fast or as slow as I wish. But when it comes to long drives, audio books cannot be beat. They cut down on the amount of time my little ones spend playing with electronics, plus we have enjoyed some really fun books together as a family. I have purchased the occasional audio book, but more often than not, I borrow them from our library’s online system. Listening to audio books has become the highlight of the drive for my little ones. Within minutes of pulling out of the driveway, my girls will ask which books I have downloaded and how soon we can start listening. Boxcar Children are our favorites but we’ve listened to plenty of other winners as well. I love that we are enjoying literature together as a family as opposed to being glued to an iPad or iPhone for 12 hours at a time.
* Fun Stops Along The Way– Depending on the length of our family road trips, I like to plan a few fun stops along the way. It adds some additional time to the trip, but our Utah road trip stops have become much anticipated events that help us maintain our sanity while traveling. It’s a good chance to get out and stretch and gives us something to break up the monotony of the long drive. When we travel to Utah each summer, we like to stop in St George at a beautiful common ground area where we can run around in lush green grass under beautiful big trees. Our other favorite stop is an ice cream shop in Beaver where we all enjoy a cone while sitting under some leafy trees and watching a herd of cows in a nearby field.
* Road Trip Binders– While my little ones love all of our family road trip traditions- our ice cream stop in Beaver, listening to fun books as we drive and even the chance to play with the reacher grabber, their road trip binders are the most loved tradition of all. Each child has a 3 ring binder that is filled with blank and lined paper for drawing and writing as we travel. This may not seem like much, but it is the few extras that are in the front of the binder that they really love.
First is a map of our drive. The map outlines the trip from our home to Nana’s with multiple dots along the way. The dots mark the bigger cities we will be going through and rather than asking “are we there yet”, my children have learned to ask what dot we are closest to. For my oldest, I say the name of the city and she is able to locate it, but for the younger two, I tell them the colour of the dot and they find it on the map. They love to follow along on our route and count how many dots we are away from Nana’s house. This has helped my sanity while traveling immensely.
The next few items at the front of their binders are road trip games. I have had great luck finding various activites on Pinterest and Google. A few of our favourites have been road trip bingo and the license plate game, both of which I put in plastic page protectors. I then supplied my girls with dry erase markers so they could use the games multiple times. They also like it when I find fun colouring pages to include, or blank game boards like tic tac toe or hangman. My girls love their binders so much and ask to use them anytime we are getting in the car for more than just a few quick errands. They have even asked to used them on drives across the Phoenix Valley, which to be honest, can at times seem much longer and more stressful than the drives up to Utah!
While our reason for not taking a family road trip this summer is just about the best reason around, we are all looking forward to next year’s travels. I love the memories we make on each of our family road trips and it will be so fun to take our new baby with us next year.
Do you have any fun road trip plans for this summer? What are your favorite tips and tricks for make road trips with kids a fun part of traveling?