Are we there yet? Readers give road trip tricks of the trade

MeMe - Raises Her Hand (-_-) (Mommy Of A Toddler And Teen) - posted on 05/29/2012 ( 17 moms have responded )

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Road-tripping with the kiddos this holiday weekend?

Trust us, you won’t be alone. A recent TripAdvisor survey of more than 1,800 Americans found that 34 percent of Americans are traveling for Memorial Day weekend (up 8 percent from last year), and of those traveling, 70 percent are getting there by car.

Makes for a rousing chorus of “99 bottles of (root)beer on the wall,” doesn’t it?

So what do you do to keep the kids occupied (and your own sanity in check) while your minivan’s rubber meets the road?

Anne Taylor Hartzell, founder of Seattle-based hiptravelmama.com, has a whole A-to-Z list of things that help entertain daughters ages 4 and 8 while traveling. While they routinely take hours-long car rides to visit family in Oregon, Hartzell has honed her road-trip skills on the hour commute she makes each day to her child’s school.

“Being in the car a lot is standard protocol for us,” Hartzell says, but on daily hauls she tries to go as tech-free as possible, with items like drawing materials, beads for making necklaces, journals for writing and small tins of clay.

For longer, vacation-style road trips, Hartzell’s smoking gun is what she calls the backpack of surprise. For every trip, her girls get a backpack filled with snacks, age-appropriate toys (which she often finds in the $1 aisle at Target) and other knickknacks. Hartzell uploads new movies to the family iPad and makes special music playlists for the girls.

The key, says Hartzell, is that they aren’t allowed to look in the backpack until they are on the road. “They always get excited,” she says. “It’s the element of surprise that gives them something to look forward to.”

We asked TODAY Moms Facebook readers to share their own car-trip tricks and while some are all about letting kids plug in to DVD players and headset (can you say blissful silence?) others like to kick it old school with family sing-alongs and travel bingo.


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http://moms.today.msnbc.msn.com/_news/20...

I have yet to really go on a long road trip but I do see it in our future.

I know when I was growing up we often drove to my Grandparents, which was a 16hr drive. I had tons of fun, in the back. I made little huts to hide in (of course seat-belts were not required then) and listened to my walk-man. I played license plate games and I played the how many "red" (or whatever colour) cars can you count. I liked to play "I spy with my little eye" but it was a bit hard, since I am an only child! LOL

What do you do with your little ones, when travelling to keep them entertained? Or what do you recall being little and doing when travelling?

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Jen - posted on 06/01/2012

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I just did a 14 hour one way road trip with teenagers, it wasn't so bad. We've been road tripping since they were babies. Some tricks of the trade:

- stop at the first rest stop of the state. Find out how many miles across the state, then try to guess how long it will take (divide total number of miles by 65 to get an average). When they were little we kept a map book (like the ones truckers use) and they marked where we were when we stopped. Taught them math, and to read a map. Now we just use a GPS. LOL

- when you see something interesting posted on the signs, stop. Gives you a chance to walk around and stretch your legs. Plus you get to see some pretty interesting stuff.

- if you have the ability to take back roads vs highways, do so. There's some pretty cool stuff on those back roads and you meet some pretty nice people.

- snacks. Get a small cooler, freeze a bunch of bottles of water, add baggies with sliced cheese, apples, lunch meat, raisins, uh... and don't forget the chips. Keeps you out of the drive through, but on the road. If it's going to be a long trip, start after dinner or after breakfast so the big meal is already done... if it's more than 24 hours, play some sort of game (road trip bingo anyone?) and whoever wins gets to pick the restaurant for lunch/dinner - btw truck stops have the best food.

- games. We try to do a lot at night so that the kids are sleeping, but sometimes, it's just not feasible. We like road trip bingo, and we have magnetic games that you can find at most dollar stores, book stores, and even half price books.

- movies. I know, I know, movies on a road trip... but honestly, when you just can't take it anymore and you need some quiet time, that DVD player comes in handy. We typically use my laptop, it sets between them, and at night they cover their heads and the laptop with a blanket so that the light doesn't distract me. We didn't do this the last time because, well I didn't want to. LOL.

The most important tip I can give is about safety. If you are fighting your eyes and you are the only one driving, for Christ's sake pull into the next rest stop, back up next to bathrooms (more traffic) and under a light. Put up a window shade, and take a nap. There are enough people in and out of those - and most first ones in the state have security guards - that they are actually quite safe. I have slept many a night in a rest stop. My safety tools typically include a golf club, a can of aerosol hair spray and a lighter. Keep the keys near the ignition so you can boogie if you need to, but take a nap. Better to fall asleep in a parked car than to wake up in a tree.

Becky - posted on 06/01/2012

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Janice, you are going to do 16 hours in one day with a 9 month old? Aack, just the thought makes me twitchy! LOL We have found that when our kids were that age, 8-10 hours, 12 hours max was their limit. After that, even fed, changed, entertained, they would just cry. My husband's family lives in northern Ontario, about a 21 hour drive from here and we drove out when each of the older boys was around 9-10 months, and to keep our days shorter was one of the lessons we learned along the way. Even when we go to Seattle, which is about 13 hours, we do it in 2 dayd for the kids. Also, when we stop for the night, we always try to get a hotel with a pool. It allows the kids to burn off some pent-up energy and relaxes them so they sleep well in the hotel.

Aleks - posted on 06/01/2012

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Well, earlier this year we travelled nearly 600km one way for a family holiday in a VW Golf!!!
My kids are 6 and 3. We stopped for a night/break mid-way. We also had a few stops for lunch and coffee/toilet breaks along the way. We allowed our kids to listen to their favourite CD in the car. We also took along drawing portable tables with colouring in books with stickers, etc. They have some toys in the back as well. Their daddy is a bit of a talker when he drives for longer distances (so I have discovered), so he kept us all entertained. We counted all the caravans we saw, all boats pulled by cars, counted semi-trailers, etc. Played "I spy". Spotted cows, sheep, horses and even the odd lama...lol Played "who can spot the ocean first" etc...Neither of our kids complained! Neither had a tantrum and not once did they whine. With not a portable dvd or any other electronic hand-held device in sight. And for that I am extremely proud. I want to teach my kids that sometimes its ok to be bored. Learn to entertain yourself. Enjoy looking at the passing scenery out the window, with the mind running freely rather than over focusing on a small screen. After a journey in the "old fashioned way" one is not only relieved to arrive at ones destination, one can also feel finally happy to get there. And with it there are a whole lot of lessons that have been learned along the way. :-)
However, every week I drive to my parents house which is a 50-60 minute trip one way, so they are kind of used to being in the car for longer time frames, so may be that kind of helps.

Becky - posted on 05/30/2012

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We have made a 12 hour drive every year with my little guy first time at 6 months (EASIEST) then just after 1, just after 2 and a few month ago just after 3. Luckily he pretty much just likes looking out the window, talking, and listening to music (his own CD's, children's songs and a CD with his name in EVERY song). We also have a portable DVD player that we don't use going down (usually two 6 hours trips) but use on the way home (12 hours all at once). But I will say I got a cheap cookie sheet at the dollar store for him to play with magnets on (he did for a little bit) but it REALLY came in handy for eating on the road. We plan stops to be all in one, gas, bathroom (diaper changes, he wasn't fully #2 potty trained), food and some exercise. I also made sure I had a favorite stuffed animal or two and his lovey.

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J is 7 now. The Nook is our staple go-to entertainment at the moment. In addition the the game apps and drawing pad, he loves the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, along with several others, and of course, the classics. We can't let him read the whole time though, so we change it up with conversation about where we are going, or memories about where we've been. We also do the alphabet game, which J LOVES, but I honestly can't stand. We also have a PSP handheld game thingy with videos and games for him to play.

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Elfrieda - posted on 06/01/2012

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Sorry Janice! I will suggest rigging up some sort of a tent with a blanket and bungee cords. Once we did that (at about 4 am) the streetlights sometimes shining in my son's face didn't wake him up and he slept for several hours.
And the reason we did it was because it was so highly recommended by other people with young kids, so obviously it works well for some! Good luck. :)

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I admit I do offer the Nintendo DS and now my 7 year old has confiscated my Kindle Fire for movies, music, & apps.. But also the traditional books, notebook/crayons, and a little imagination. My son came home with all of his school workbooks, so yup....we're going to work on math and reading while on our 5 hour plane ride and driving all over the mid-Atlantic states. I like to sit in the back seat with my son when it's my hubby's turn to drive. We also try to remember a baseball and baseball glove, or a soccer/basketball, or frisbee.

We always pack a cooler and always make pit stops at a local park, or somewhere to get out and play.

Janice - posted on 06/01/2012

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Elfrieda!!!!! You're killing me, we are planning to do most of the driving at night so the kids will sleep. You are not making me confident.

Technically, we can't afford this trip but its my cousin's Bar Mitzvah and we missed his sister's wedding 2 years ago due to finances. Driving is the only way we can do it. At first I actually wasn't going to go because of all the obvious reasons but I regret missing my cousins wedding so much so I am trying to make this work.

Elfrieda - posted on 06/01/2012

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We drove to Manitoba with a 15 month old, and we thought it would be a great idea to leave at bedtime and drive through the night so he wouldn't be awake for most of it. (20 hour drive) Wow, big mistake. He was awake off and on through the whole thing, PLUS we were so tired it was dangerous. I actually had to pull over not 500 metres from a rest stop because I didn't trust that I would make it there safely. I was so tired my face was prickling. Not cut out for it!

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When driving long distances, we try to make meal stops that allow J to get out and run a bit. One fave is a picnic at the rest stops--we get to eat, enjoy a little fresh air, and J gets to run rampant for a bit. I try to plan all of our meals outside. We don't snack too much in the car, but I find baby carrots keep J entertained for quite some time--they take a long time to chew, they don't fill him up and spoil his meals, they don't make crumbs or gooey messes, and I don't have to feel bad about him munching the whole way because they are somewhat healthy.

We also set stop times by the hour, we like to stop about every 2 hours to get out and stretch (we can go 2.5-3 now that he's older), so I will tell J what times we are stopping so he can watch the clock on the dash (his seat is in the center, but he has a watch now too). This keeps him from asking "when are we stopping again" 50,000 times, and it gives him something to look forward to and count down to, which seems to occupy his mind more than you'd think. I alternate the stops between meals and gas/bathroom stops.

The AAA Triptiks are also fun for the 4 and up crowd. It's like a way simplified map. J gets a big kick out of following our path along the triptik.

Janice - posted on 06/01/2012

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I'm glad to see this post. We will be driving 16 hours from NY to Georgia in Sept. My kids will be almost 3years and 9 months. I am starting to have lots of anxiety over the trip. Thankfully, we will be renting a van and while Hubby and I share driving duty my mom will entertain the kids. I'm hoping to only make 4 stops - 2 long food stops and 2 short bathroom stops but I get the feeling their will be more bathroom breaks with my daughter.

Elfrieda - posted on 05/30/2012

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I'm hoping to find some ideas here for a 2 year old who doesn't sleep in the car and gets squirmy after 20 minutes. I'd love to visit my sister who lives 6 hours away, but last time we got in a traffic jam and it took 9 hours to get there! It was pretty horrible.

I like the cookie sheet with magnets idea. Good plan!

Becky - posted on 05/29/2012

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We have a DVD player in the truck. Yeah, go ahead and bash me.
When I was a kid, we used to argue a lot! :) We'd also play this game called "My cow." Everytime you pass a cow, the first person to call out, "my cow!" gets a point. The person with the most points wins. We lived in Africa, there were a lot of cows!
We used to love riding in the back of my dad's pickup and waving to all the kids who would chase our vehicle because it belonged to the white people. We'd arrive at our destinations completely coated in dirt!
I remember one trip to boarding school where the boys sat behind us in the van and tied our clothes to the seats...
Yeah, I have some pretty fun memories of road trips growing up. :)

Karla - posted on 05/29/2012

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We've played ABC games... you know find a A, then find a B, etc. with the whole family working on it as a cooperative game.

I usually get a good recorded book that we all listen too.

One time the kids had new puppets, so they were doing puppet shows for the other travelers -- that was great fun.

Snacks and favorite toys are a must.

I have often done hand puppet shows myself for our kids, one hand was Larry and the other Ralph, they would jump and climb on heads and noses and slide down arms, etc. And you guessed it, left hand was Larry, and right hand was Ralph.

We also have a repertoire of children's song we sing including songs from old shows like Mr Ed, and Gilligan's Island and the Mickey Mouse Club. lol

Stifler's - posted on 05/29/2012

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When I was a kid we made up inappropriate songs. It drove my parents mad, they have no sense of humour.

Stifler's - posted on 05/29/2012

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My kids are younger than 4 but I bring a mini magna doole, and trucks and cars and maracas. And ACDC.

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