We travel quite often, and at least half of the time, it is by car.
Let’s put it this way: I bought a spacious SUV even though I only have one child. I knew 6 years ago that we were done with cars – after renting a SUV for a road trip to North Carolina one year, I knew that my next vehicle would be an SUV and here we are, 6 years later and my Saturn Vue is still carrying us all over the US in comfort and style.
It seriously breaks my heart that Saturn went out of business, because when I give my daughter my Saturn Vue next year for her 16th birthday, I have absolutely no idea what I am going to buy for myself to replace it!
But I digress.
As we are getting ready to leave for North Carolina on Friday afternoon, I wanted to share some of my time-tested tips for planning stress free road trips during the summer and dare I say it…completely fun!
1. Bring a cooler full of snacks and drinks!
Instead of spending a ton at gas stations and filling your bellies on fast food garbage, get yourself a decent sized cooler and fill it halfway with ice. Stick your bottled waters, juice boxes – and in my husband’s case, sodas – in the ice to keep them nice and cold for at least a day.
I like to pack homemade cookies because we all know that kids crave sweets when they are in the car. Instead of buying those convenience store highly processed snack cakes and cookies, have some homemade deliciousness on hand!
I usually only have my daughter with us on our road trips, but we are bringing my 10 year old niece along this summer to North Carolina. I am packing easy to eat – and non-messy – fruits and veggies. So far on my list are carrot sticks with ranch dressing and an assortment of car-friendly fruits like grapes and apple slices.
To make your road trip budget stretch farther, you can also pack sandwiches like PB&J or ham and cheese!
2. Invest in a multi-switch car charger!
Between the iPhones, iPads, portable DVD players and laptops that we take with us whenever we travel, a multi-switch car charger was the best $15 we ever spent. If you have multiple children using electronic devices, this is something that you really can’t afford to travel without!
Make sure to buy one that has an electrical outlet, as we all know that laptops and portable DVD players don’t have those car lighter chargers!
3. Bring blankets and pillows!
We always travel to North Carolina by car, and it’s a very long drive…when you’re spending 14+ hours in the car one way, there is no way that your children aren’t going to want to sleep at some point. Having each child bring a blanket and a pillow – and one for the adults too – makes the long drive much more pleasant.
Just a note: even if the kids are napping, please don’t allow them to take off their seat belts. One of the most horrific accidents I’ve ever seen involved a mini van with four sleeping children in the back seats. They were struck by an oncoming car, and all four children were ejected from the mini van and died on the scene. The parents? They were wearing their seat belts and were perfectly fine physically.
No matter how uncomfortable your children complain to be, please, under no circumstances, should you allow them to take off their seat belts.
4. Prepare the entertainment!
While I love to read on road trips (because my husband is a control freak and doesn’t usually let me drive when his motorcycle is on the trailer attached to my SUV), I can only read so much because we often travel during the night to make the trip pass quicker for the kids. So I have to find alternative means of entertaining myself, like watching movies on my iPad and iPhone, writing blog posts, etc.
Now that I have an iPad with 3G, I make sure to order a month of service before we go on road trips. Not only does it give me internet connectivity so that I can entertain myself, but I can also let my daughter and whomever she brings along use it when they get bored.
And they get bored A LOT.
It is especially important to prepare your entertainment when traveling with kids. Books, puzzles, handheld gaming systems – these are all great ways to keep the kids occupied while in the car for long periods of time. If you are bringing a laptop or portable DVD player, make sure you bring enough movies and sets of headphones to keep all of your passengers happy for the duration of the trip!
Because really, playing I Spy gets old really fast.
5. Notify your credit cards that you are traveling.
There’s nothing worse than being at a gas station at 3 am in the middle of nowhere and having your credit card declined for fraudulent activity because they see an out of state charge.
Been there, done that. It’s not fun.
Before you head out this summer, call your credit and debit card companies and notify them that you are traveling, and tell them which states you expect to be in. They will flag your account with a note so that if they do see suspect activity, they will compare it to your note and not start declining your charges.
Also? Make sure to bring cash along with you, just in case. You never know when you are out there exploring the country – you’d be surprised at how many places do not accept credit cards!
I hope that you find these tips helpful. Do you have any tried and true road trip tips to share? I’d love to hear them!