It’s summer!! Unlike last year, we have the potential to travel this year. Praise God! In our almost 20 years of marriage, we have never lived in the same town as family. Therefore we travel a lot, and we have become experts at 3 hour and 5 hour trips. We have even successfully tackled driving vacations to Boston, Gulf Shores, South Dakota, and Utah. If you missed our post on packing check it out here.
Today we are going to talk about how to make the car ride more enjoyable. With purposeful planning you can make the time in the car one of the highlights of the trip. Here are some tips and tricks we have learned over the years. You will learn that the Dollar Store is one of your life savers!
The worst thing that can happen is hangry kids or adults! Even better than a supply of Snickers, here is how we keep hunger pains at bay without breaking the budget.
Individual Snack Bins:
Friends, this is a game changer!! No longer am I asked for a snack every 5 minutes. Instead, before we leave we fill each person’s bin with a variety of snacks. The number of snacks is dependent on the length of the trip. We have a variety of healthy, not healthy and special snacks. The bins are refilled each day as needed, and each person is allowed to eat their snacks whenever they want. I purchase my bins at Dollar Tree. Just make sure you pick a bin that closes securely so that a sudden stop doesn’t send all the snacks flying.
It is fun to see the personalities of the kids come out in how they eat the snacks. Some go for the sweet treats first, other’s save them for last. Some eat them all in the first 1 hour of the trip while others have almost all of them left at the end. As the trips go on, the kids build their self-control and learn how to better regulate themselves, which is a good life skill!
If individual bins don’t work for your family you can create a similar effect by having the right containers. Just bring the box of snacks. Then use Dixie cups, sandwich bags or store bought snack containers to pass out the snacks. These also work when you don’t have time to fill up the bins beforehand.
Any trip over 30 minutes can seem too long when you have kids, so it is awesome any time you can save a few minutes. Here is how we save time.
One Stop- Do it All!!
Whenever you stop, take care of everything. If you are getting gas, make everyone go to the bathroom. This will prevent the inevitable stop 20 minutes down the road for the one kid who didn’t have to go 20 minutes ago. If you are getting food, get gas, even if you don’t need it. This can save you from stopping when you have a sleeping kid!
Time Your Stops
We use a watch to time all stops. It all started because of curiosity. Instead of getting annoyed that we had to stop again, Nathan started to time our stops to have objective data that our stops weren’t as long as they felt. Now it has become a game. Each time we stop we see if we can beat our previous time. This has helped us cut down on wandering through gas stations buying expensive treats and taking our sweet time deciding what to order.
Here are two tricks to make your stops more efficient. Know what food you are going to order before you get out of the car. Subway is our go-to stop on car trips. We literally order the same thing every time. The only thing that changes is if we are going to buy chips or not. But even if you don’t have a regular order, you can still plan ahead. You typically have a general idea of the menu. Make a Plan A so that you can quickly get the ordering completed with only a few adjustments. The second tip is have the driver drop you off at the restaurant. Then the second adult and kids can order food and go to the bathroom while the driver gets gas. Just remember to order the driver’s food too!
Pack a Meal
If you are traveling over a meal time, pack it. This works well when your kids are a little older and don’t have as many wiggles to get out. Plus it saves a lot of money. Even if you don’t pack the whole meal, packing some sides will help the budget and allow you to eat a little healthier on the road. Just make sure you think about how the kids will eat it in the car. We have found that Dollar Store cookie sheets are a perfect addition to the meals in the car. Each child then has a table to place all their food. This is super helpful for the driver of the car to keep track of all their food. Nathan just slides it onto his lap and the cookie sheet catches anything that he drops.
These are our second game changer. I just mentioned them in my trick for eating meals in the car, and they can also be used for entertainment. For younger kids it can be used as a tray for magnetics, Mad Matter, coloring or Legos. Mad Matter is a great alternative to Playdoh since it never dries out! When the boys were little I packed Duplo Legos in a gallon bag for them to build while in the car. For the older kids it can be used for card games, drawing or crafts. Target also has bins at the beginning of the school year that have higher sides and those work well too.
Trip Specific Activities
The License plate game is always a winner. We have also used state worksheets to help pass the time. These can be found online or in the Target dollar section before school starts. When you travel through the state you can pull out that state’s activities.
Set Up the Scene
We recommend preparing the kids beforehand so that the sites you will be seeing will come to life. If you are seeing any historical sites we recommend Liberty Kids. If you are going to see animals, Wild Kratts, Answers in Genesis and Animal Planet (especially Blue Planet and Planet Earth) are our favorites. Getting books on any of the topics from the library are also great options too. On our way to Boston we just happened to listen to the Liberty Kids episode on Deborah Samson and we ended up having Deborah Samson lead us on our tour of downtown Boston. (Tours are led by people in character from that time in history.) This made our tour even more memorable! We are going to Cape Canaveral this summer so we have checked out a ton of books on Neil Armstrong, Katherine Johnson, NASA and space. (Check out our Summer Reading List, and also our list of history books and videos.)
An Adventure Awaits
Vacationing as a family is important. Coming back as a close-knit family takes purposeful planning. These are our tips and tricks to remove some of the stressors of traveling and set us up for a grand adventure.
What have you found helpful? Please comment below! Also, don’t forget our Purposeful Packing post.