I have always loved traveling, and never intended to stop after having kids.  However, after having my first son, I quickly learned that it is essential to have more than a few tricks up my sleeve when taking him along for the ride.  Throughout his life, my six-year-old has accompanied me on frequent long weekend trips, and even plane rides, but his longest travel time has only been a few hours.

This summer, I decided to take a road trip 12 hours south of home to visit family.  My husband thought I was crazy when I told him of my plans to take both my six-year-old, and my one-year-old.  I reassured him (and myself), saying, “Oh, they’ll be fine.  They’re good kids!”  But really, I was scared!

Prior to embarking on this unpredictable journey, I went into Super Mom mode, asking around, and doing my own research on Pinterest.com.  I found tons of great ideas to help parents traveling with little ones, and now I want to share my collection of tips and tricks with you.

I’m proud to report that both boys were amazing during the trip, and my husband is already planning another vacation for Spring Break.  I couldn’t be more pleased!

When staying in a hotel:

  • Try to keep your kids on their normal bedtime schedule and routine.
  • Bring something to provide white noise for the kids.  We used a small space heater.
  • Create a familiar atmosphere.  We used a lighted turtle that shined stars on the ceiling.  I began incorporating it into my one-year-olds bedtime routine two weeks before the trip.
  • Bring blankets, pillows, and their favorite sleeping buddy.
  • Bring a spare flat bed sheet for kids to play with in the room; they can make forts, tunnels and parachutes.
  • Bring painter tape; the kids can play with it, you can use it for labeling, and it can be used to cover outlets.
  • Bring toys in a separate bag that are only one or two pieces; the kids will be occupied while you get ready.

While on the road:

  • Travel during naptime, if possible.
  • Try to limit stops, but when they are unavoidable, plan on stopping for at least an hour so the kids can burn some energy.
  • Pack a cooler filled with drinks, and a snack bag filled with pre-portioned bags of non-messy foods.
  • Bring Crayola Color Wonder paper and markers – they are mess-free!
  • Bring twistable colored pencils and crayons with paper – they do not require sharpening!
  • Bring along a journal to log your trip – this is a great activity for school-aged kids.
  • Bring books!
  • Listen to audio books.  Some libraries rent them out, or they can be download for free at BooksShouldBeFree.com.
  • Bring a disposable camera for the kids, and encourage them to take pictures while on vacation; it’s neat to see the vacation through their eyes.  Make a book after the vacation to keep and share their memories.
  • Bring a DVD player and headphones, preferably with movies that haven’t yet been watched.
  • Bring a lap desk for writing and drawing. (Rose Art and Crayola $7.99)
  • Bring an extra change of clothes, separate from luggage.  If it can happen, it probably will.
  • Bring a package of pipe cleaners for making crafts.
  • Buy a $5 tape recorder and let your children listen to stories told in your voice.
  • Sing silly road trip songs.
  • Play the license plate game!  Marathon has a great app!
  • Bring a white board and marker.
  • Keep kids’ pillow and blanket within easy reach.
  • Pack a “Rest Stop Box” and stock with jump rope, Frisbee, inflatable beach ball, and Nerf ball.
  • Bring Post It Notes to draw on, and then decorate the car while stopped.
  • Bring stickers, Magna Doodle, and cookie sheet with magnetic alphabet letters.
  • Make a map of your trip, and track it with the kids.
  • Make an “I spy” jar, and fill it with tiny treasures for the kids to count and identify (paper clips, candy, button, penny, ring, key, etc.).
  • Have a personal light show, where each kid has a flashlight or light sticks!
  • Bring aluminum foil to make foil animals, shapes, and statues that can be made and re-made.
  • Perform a Puppet Show on Wheelsmake paper bag or sock puppets.

Road trip must-have items:

  • Ziploc bags: Bring LOTS of Ziploc bags and a permanent marker.  They are great for everything, including wet clothes, snacks, toys, crayons, and special treasures the kids find along the way.
  • Wipes: Diaper wipes are great for cleaning faces and surfaces.
  • First aid kit: Pack Tylenol, Motrin, Band-Aids, Neosporin, Tweezers, disinfectant wipes, thermometer, prescription medication, eye drops, Benadryl, etc.
  • Spill-proof cups: Sippy cups work great, even if your kids have grown out of them.
  • Cups NOT for drinking:  These are great for snacks; they can easily be held or stored in a cup holder when not snacking.
  • Portable potty: If your kids are potty trained, put a disposable diaper into the bottom of your portable potty to easily dispose of the waste.  Great for they-have-to-go-now moments!
  • Art supplies caddy: This is a great tip for preventing on-the-road meals from ending up all over the floor!  They perfectly hold all of their food, and can sit right in their little laps.