We all know a road trip with kids can sometimes take a good five years off our lives. Some of my most stressful parenting moments have involved interstates, screaming toddlers, and dropped loveys. However, after three months of quarantine, most of us are dreaming of some sort of getaway. Beaches are opening up and corona fears are going down. Adventure awaits!
So here are some of my best road-tripping-with-littles tips. For clarity and context, you should know that my husband and I have braved many, many miles of road travel with our triplet girls.
We love traveling and have always wanted to do so with kids. We’ve figured out a few tricks that may help you, too.
Tips for Saving Sanity and Money on a Road Trip with Kids
Bring a Car Potty
When I was younger, some family friends of ours would travel cross-country to visit family. I was SO GROSSED OUT when my mom mentioned they used a potty *in their car* instead of stopping. Ew. Never say never, folks. A sweet friend of mine gave me this, and we haven’t looked back. Can you imagine taking three toddlers in a public (or worse, gas station) bathroom? Managing them is impossible. After one traumatic experience involving one of my sweet girls on the ground “making snow angels,” I was all done. THAT, my friends, is nasty. A car potty? Not so much. I use scented mini trash bags as liners and keep a stash of ziplock bags around, too. The thing folds up and slides under the passenger seat. Boom. Don’t knock it ’til you try it.
Invest in Good Car Seats
I did hours of research before investing in three car seats. I needed to make sure they could be installed three in a row if need be, and I wanted them to be comfortable. Diono car seats are known for their safety and comfort. They have been one of my best purchases. It’s not hard to get your child in due to its low sides, and I never worry about their heads flopping around while sleeping.
Skip the Kids’ Meals
Packing meals ahead of time is ideal, but usually getting out the door is hard enough, so drive-thrus have to do. I’ve found that sometimes you can save money by ordering a larger quantity off the adult menu and splitting it up, versus buying individual kids’ meals. For example, at Zaxby’s I can get ten chicken fingers and a “basket” of fries (the largest option) for roughly $14.00. That feeds my three girls and me. Three kids’ meals and an adult meal would cost me roughly $18.00.
I keep a plastic container of essentials in between the two front seats. I have it stocked with baby wipes, extra clothes and underwear, hand sanitizer, a few bottled waters, and extra snacks. Sometimes a bag of animal crackers will buy you 30 minutes.
I know this is a very touchy subject, but hear me out. A family member accidentally got a parking stub stuck in my van’s DVD player, and to this day, it does not work. This happened before my girls were even home from the hospital, so they’ve never had the luxury of shows in the car. They love looking out the windows, singing, looking at books, and talking to each other and me. But for those moments when we’re all about to lose it, I love the Hoopla app. It uses your library card, and you can download and listen to ebooks for free. You can also purchase stories on CD or check them out from your local library before your trip. I honestly have never cared about getting my van’s DVD player fixed. We’ve done just fine without it, so why start now? So if you have a baby or your kids are really little, you may consider skipping screen time on the road and see how they do. It may serve your child well in the long run. But if you’re all about that movie-in-the-car life, no judgement passed your way. Do what works for you!