Hitting the Highway: Tips for those Last-Minute Family Road Trips

Nothing says summer like a family road trip! We recently ventured north with our two kids (ages 4 and 1) to Pennsylvania to fulfill a dream of mine to see Sesame Place. Along the way, we stopped in western Pennsylvania, Hershey, Philadelphia and more. Here are some quick reminder tips to help your last-minute road trips go smoothly.

 

Activities for the Car Ride

Keeping the kids occupied in the car can be the biggest roadblock. We had a tablet loaded with games and movies, but we tried not to use it too much. Just in case though, we had a charger in the back and in the front seat ready to go. To prepare for our trip, I visited the dollar bins at Target and picked up flash cards, car bingo, art supplies, and other fun activities to reveal to them each hour of the trip. The new Disney craft kits from Michaels also kept our 4-year-old busy applying sticky rhinestones on princesses, or our 1-year-old creating a scene with Mickey & friends using felt. I also bought two new CDs (Trolls and Moana, both of which make for good driving music), and unveiled those during the trek out of Florida.

Car Organization

Keeping the car organized was important so I could easily find items to give to the kids. We made a potty station in the trunk for those just in case moments (we never had to pull over thank goodness)! I used bags that had characters on them so I could easily distinguish which bag was food/activities/supplies, or could tell the hubby, ‘please grab the Tinkerbell bag.’ I placed a collapsible bin between the kids so they could toss toys and books in there when they were done. A hanging organizer behind the driver seat held sunglasses and other random small accessories. A lap desk came in handy for our 4-year-old as she was able to do all her activities on that.

Our daughter coloring in her state map.

Learning Opportunities

Every time we crossed into a new state, I had our 4 year old color that state in on a map I had printed out beforehand.

As we made our way across Pennsylvania, I revealed a map to her I made with icons showing where we were headed since our big stops (Idlewild theme park and Sesame Place) were surprises. I also printed out Road Trip bucks, and whenever the kids did something good or listened well, they earned one to cash in for a souvenir etc.

Road trip map with icons I added of places we would see (Hershey Kiss, Elmo, Daniel Tiger at Idlewild Park).

Other Tips for Smooth Travels

  • Clear off your phone ahead of time so you have plenty of room for photos and videos.
  • Check what states allow radar detectors, cell phone use while driving, and where your Sunpass/E-pass may work.
  • Check ahead of time on operating hours of the places you’d like to visit. For example, a lot of the historical sites we visited have varying summer hours, or they recommend to get there early in the a.m. to claim tickets.
  • Bring a regular camera as sometimes phone cameras just cant capture the countryside whizzing by, or other fast-moving objects (i.e. your children playing).
  • The bathroom rule: if we stop the car, you must try to go, even if you don’t think you have to. With this mindset, we never had any urgent moments from our 4-year-old.
  • Things we wished we had brought with us: a collapsible step stool so our 4-year-old could use the hotel bathroom/sink without assistance, nightlight and clothespins to help keep hotel room curtains closed.

We will definitely do a road trip again next summer ~ what are your tips for keeping your sanity for road trips?

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