Several of my friends are taking road trips soon. It’s the season for traveling, especially for us military families. Most of us are headed home to visit family for the holidays or we’re taking advantage of vacation time. This time last year we were driving across the country (Vermont to California! And then back again!). The year before that, almost to the day, we had a 3-day road trip that took us almost across the entire country. And several other long-distance trips sprinkled around those trips. So, I can honestly say I know a thing about road trips. Or more exact: I know a thing about SURVIVING road trips.
It basically comes down to three things: snacks, activities for the kids and amazing audiobooks.
You must have a lot of snacks in individually separated bags. Huge bags, passed around, make for a huge mess. I especially recommend M&Ms. Offering a handful of M&Ms to a whiny child (or, let’s be honest, a whiny adult) will fix most problems. I’m not joking. Trail mix is also helpful. For lunch or dinner breaks, we try to find a local “hot spot” to try. We’ve had some of the best BBQ of our lives this way. Plus, you can’t eat Chick-fil-a for every meal. I usually read online reviews on Yelp to find a place or a simple Google search works too. These meal breaks give the trip some novelty and fun. It kind of makes me feel like Guy on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
Since we don’t have a DVD system in our cars, we keep the kids busy in other ways. Two activities that have kept our kids busy for several hours are the Scavenger Hunt for Kids: Travel Card Game and Ultimate Sticker Puzzles: License Plates Across the States. If you value your sanity, I highly recommend buying these things. I like to pack a little back pack of “new” things – books, colored pencils, pencils and sharpeners, dry erase markers and a wipe board – to give the kids when we head out on our trip. The novelty of new will buy you a lot of “happy kid” time. Dry erase boards are very handy for games and drawing pictures, while being very compact. Never bring crayons. They break, are lost behind and between seats too easily, melt, etc. It’s not worth it. Also, be sure to pack an extra set of batteries for any video games you might also be bringing with you. Or, if you’re ambitious, bring rechargeable batteries that you can recharge at the hotel overnight.
Our family has listened to some amazing audiobooks while we’ve been on road trips. It’s important to find a story that everyone enjoys listening to. Most of the audiobooks that we’ve listened to are from the library but a few of them I purchased. It isn’t wasted money because now that the trip is over the kids listen to them before bedtime. Here are the stories that we all loved:
Matilda by Roald Dahl – This funny, bizarre and sweet story is read by Kate Winslet. Right there you know you’re getting an Academy-worthy performance! My kids LOVE this audiobook. They’ve probably listened to it a 100 times. It also happens to be one of my favorite stories. I highly recommend it!
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley – This audiobook is brilliant. We loved the historical context, paired with honest characters and real-life situations. I’m so thankful there are stories like this available for kids to read (or in our case, listen to). In fact, kid and adult alike, we all walked away from this book with a better perspective on people, war and life. I will warn you though this audio book does deal with some darker themes but nothing scary. It is an inspiring story and you will find yourself loving the characters.
The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis – I’m biased toward Lewis since he is one of my favorite authors but my kids picked this one so I’m including it on the list. Almost everyone knows this story, but even if you’ve read the book or seen the movie, the audiobook is still very entertaining.
Sometimes you just need a little Taylor Swift…