Making long car trip with toddlers can seem ominous, but after making multiple hours treks with our three young children three years in a row, I can tell you it is not at all bad if you prepare for the journey.
One thing we do is to collect a bunch of activities or small toys that are for the car only. This is exciting, and these new things help to make the time in the car a novelty instead of a test of patience. Most of these things I purchase from the dollar store or a party supply store so I don’t spend a lot of money. Some items we like are crayons, notebooks, markers, sticker books, stencils, colorforms, small dolls, printable games, and books. Another key is to not give these to them all at once! Most kids would look at everything and be “bored“ again in minutes. Instead, give one item every few hours. Or on a cross country trip, it can be fun to get a new gift each time you enter a new state!
For older kids, the license plate game, where you look for one from each state, can be lots of fun. Even young children will like watching for different color cars or different objects on signs. Singing silly songs together can occupy tired kids well too.
Reading to your children can help a lot also. It is a great time to read them a longer chapter book, where they can get completely caught up in the story. My family loves the Boxcar children and Magic Treehouse books, even as 3 and 4 year olds!
Not everyone allows their children to have screen time, but I have to say that a portable dvd player can be a lifesaver for long trips. Save these for when everyone is completely tired of riding and offer a new movie they’ve never seen! The novelty will win them over. You can even rent movies on your way, as many gas stations have Redbox machines now!
Snacks are always a welcome diversion too. Another key we use in our suburban is a butterfly net with a telescoping handle to pass snacks back to the third row from the front:) Pack a good variety of clean snacks for the car, as well as lots of drinks and wet wipes.
We also always try to travel with tired kids. We try to go overnight or at least during nap time so some of the driving time can be slept through.
Using these ideas, we travel all over the country with our little ones. People look at us like we’re crazy when we tell them, but honestly, it’s a piece of cake! Our kids have learned to be great riders, and yours can too!