Many of us are starting to travel again with are kids. Flights are getting expensive and one of the best way to save a little money is to hop in the car and drive to the destination. With kids this can be a scary thought but it doesn’t have to be. You just need to plan a little bit and understand what you are up against.
Taking a road trip instead of flying can be a lot of fun with the right amount of planning. Sure it might take a little long to get there. However, there is a good chance you saved a lot of money driving instead of flying. That’s even when you factor in tolls, gas, food, and possible an overnight hotel stay.
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Below you will find our tips on how to survive a long drive with kids. It could be anything from a couple hours to a little over a day. I will usually drive from Philly to Florida in one shot. Sometimes I will stop in Bluffton, SC and visit an old Marine Corps friend of mine but that is still a 12 hour drive. My daughter and I have made this trip for the past five years and have really gotten it down. I will rarely even hear those four dreaded words “Are we there yet?”
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Clean out your car
This is one of the most important things to do when you are getting ready for a long drive or road trip. Now, I don’t mean wash your car. However, that never hurts. I am talking about making sure there is nothing in your car that you would not be using on your trip. If its summer, do you really need the ice scrapper?
If you have kids, I am sure there are all kinds of things stuck between the seats or rolling around on the back floor. Clean all that stuff up so you can start with a clean slate. When my daughter was younger she would drop, spill, and lose all kinds of stuff. From crayons to toys and everything in between. And let’s not starting taking about the crumbs. It seemed like nothing would end up in her mouth.
Go and give your car a good cleaning on the inside. Restock up on paper towels or napkins. Have a full bottle of hand sanitizer ready to go.
One of the worst things you can do is to over pack. Make sure you are packing for the currently adventure. I know we can all go a little overboard especially since you will have your car. It’s not like flying on a plane where you have a very limited amount of space.
Just think, do you really need two big suitcases per person? Does each person need their own suitcase? Do you need to bring the biggest cooler you own? Depending on the trip the answer would probably be no.
Another thing to keep in mind is if you will be stopping over night or night. If you are do you really want your suit case on the bottom? Would it be easier to pack a smaller bag for the night? I like to use travel cubes when I am just stopping somewhere for the night. I find them to be the best thing when you are tight on space. I don’t like them to pack in my suit case but for an over night stay they just don’t compare to anything else.
Packing smart helps everything move smoothly when traveling with kids. If you paid attention to where you put things you won’t be spending a lot of time trying to find their favorite shirt or stuffed animal. Plus it helps give them more room. For some reason it seems like kids take up a lot of room when they are traveling in a car. My daughter seems to need a lot more room than I do. Maybe, it’s a, Just me problem!
When traveling with kids on a long drive you need to do a little planning. You can’t just drive from point A to point B. You need to put a little more thought into it. Are you planning on just traveling the highway? Are you going to make any stops along the way and see some of those strange roadside attractions like the largest….. or biggest….? Are you driving through the night or waking up early?
You will also want to check and make sure there will be plenty of gas stations along the way. If you are traveling in the southwest you could hit long stretches of highway with no gas stations. It helps if you know this before hand. You might also want to know if you will have to pay any tolls.
E-zpass is used in a lot of states in the Northeast and along I-95. However, Florida has its own called SunPass but they also have a SunPass PRO with they say can be used from Maine to Florida and is good everywhere E-zpass is used. Don’t have either one. Don’t worry, some tolls now do pay by plate and will send you the bill. Others still collect cash. Knowing this before hand can really save you from getting a few headaches.
Another thing to think about is what major cities you will be traveling through. For me I travel by Baltimore, Washington, DC, Richmond, and Jacksonville, FL. When traveling with kids you will want to avoid these areas during rush hour. For me that means to leave around 2am so I can hit DC around 5.
Using Google Maps can help give you an idea of what traffic looks like around the major cities you will be passing. Of course, you have to look at it, at those times. But it will give you a pretty good idea of how much time could be added to your trip. About two hours was added to my trip. Since I work early I was about to put my info in starting at 3am. By 7:30 two hours were added to my trip from Philadelphia to Tampa Bay.
There’s two great tools to use when planning your trip also. They are GasBuddy and RoadTrippers. GasBuddy can help you get an idea of how much it will cost you for gas. Just put in your starting and ending destinations, Make and Model of you car and they will calculate your fuel stops and how much it would cost.
RoadTrippers is a great place to check out for ideas on where to stop along the way. Again you just put in your starting and ending points and you will see all kinds of places pop up. Some you might have known about. Others you will have probably never heard of.
When I was in my twenties, I would only stop for gas when I was traveling between Jacksonville, NC and Philly. As I’ve gotten older I need to stop a lot more often. With kids, you too should be stopping a lot more than you may want too. It’s a good idea to plan on making a quick stop every two to three hours. Also plan on taking a little bit of a longer break every five hours to really stretch the legs.
You can plan on going about 70 to 80 miles each hour if you are driving major highways. If you are driving more “back” roads it would be closer to 50 or 60 miles and possible much less. Using RoadTrippers can help you find interesting places to make those stops.
I like to stop at the Welcome Centers on I-95 for North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Each one for me is the perfect distance to make a quick stop. Get out stretch the legs, grab some info about local places, and use the restroom. You might just even found out some interesting facts about the state you are getting ready to travel through.
Stopping every two to three hours can really help make the trip go smoothly. You won’t need to take as many unscheduled bathroom breaks. Everyone can get out a little energy and recharge. I now look forward to my quick stops. Even if it is just getting some gas.
Play games/ watch a movie
Playing games together in the car can help the ride feel like it is going much faster. If it is only two of you (like it is for me), it can be a little tough but it is still doable. There are plenty of games you can play together like eye spy, road trip bingo, battleship, Kids Against Maturity, and so much more.
If you would rather your kids watch a movie or read a book that works too. You can also bring along the family Nintendo Switch. Anything you can find to help them occupy their time, will be a good thing for all of you.
Before we leave for a trip, I have my daughter download a few movies from Netflix on her tablet so she can watch them in the car. Between having her tablet and the two of us playing games together. Really helps that long drive not feel so bad.
Make goodie bags
One thing I like to do when we are taking a long trip is to make a couple goodie bags for my daughter. It might have a new toy, or book. Their favorite snack or drink. It could have fun facts about where they are headed or what they just drove by.
I found that it helps my daughter look forward to our next stop. I tell her that when we stop at …… she will get her next bag. This is also a great way to surprise them if they are not sure where they are going yet.
Traveling with kids is one of the greatest joys in life. Sure they can be a pain when sitting in the car all day. However, I have found that with proper planning, frequent stops, goodie bags, and games make the trip much more enjoyable for everyone.
I travel all over the place with just my daughter. It is just the two of us and never have any major issues. Of course, it does help that we have been doing this for the past 5 years now. But even when we just started and she was five we didn’t have any issues.
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