This summer our family is taking a much needed vacation. Though I am looking forward to a week in Colorado, I’m not looking forward to the six days of 5+ hour driving it will take to get us there and back.
My kids are generally pretty good travelers, but like most kids, they get cranky when sitting in a car too long with nothing to do and only junk food to eat. Quite frankly, that makes me cranky, too.
When we take long road trips, I like to formulate a two pronged plan to ensure our road trip goes as smoothly as possible.
Healthy Road Trip Snacks
Packing healthy snacks for a road trip can be a challenge. With limited space and limited refrigeration, I need to be smart about my food strategy. Add to that our family’s many dietary restrictions, and figuring out what to pack can be overwhelming.
Fortunately, now more than ever there are plenty of healthy snacking options available. Bananas and apples are staples for our road trips. This year I’ll also be packing along shelf stable snacks like trail mix, Pearls Olives to Go, Skinny Pop Popcorn, and raisins.
I’ll also pack a small cooler with cheese, salami, lunchmeat, and mini sandwiches for more substantial snacking.
Since Walmart stores are pretty easy to find across the country, we’ll be stopping regularly to restock our snack supply. And when we reach our destination? We’ll be doing a big food run at the Walmart down the street from our condo. Renting a condo or vacation home is a great way to make sure you are eating healthy on the road, because you can prepare your own food. It’s less expensive than eating out all the time, too.
Fun Family Road Trip Games
Since we’ll be logging more than fifteen hours on the road each direction, packing lightweight entertainment is also important.
My go-to activity for preschool aged kids is Crayola Color Wonder. The Stow-and-Go Studio pictured above is less than $10 at Walmart, and it holds the activity pad and all the pens, and it also provides a great drawing surface for the mobile artist. The best news? If Gracie colors on the seats of the van, the color doesn’t show up!
I store all of Gracie’s car entertainment in a basket near her carseat, so she can reach everything herself.
I’ll also be packing a crossword puzzle book, some mad-libs, and various trivia cards. All of these things are great for kicking off a great conversation, take up little room, and provide hours of fun. As you can see, our Would You Rather Cards are well loved.
Finally, we play traditional road trip games like the ABC game, slug bug, I Spy, and “See how many license plates you can find from different states.” Games you don’t have to pack are the best!
If All Else Fails…
I know at some point during our thirty hours of traveling I will be ready for the kids to quiet down. I’m not usually a fan of using electronics to pacify the kids, but on long car trips, all the rules go out the window.
A couple of years ago we purchased this RCA dual screen DVD player for a long trip, and it was well worth the money. Though we don’t turn it on for the entire trip, it’s great for lulling the smallest child to sleep and giving us a little peace and quiet for a few miles.
We’ll pack a few family friendly movies. My favorite travel tip is to look for Redbox kiosks along our travel route. You can find kiosks in many Walmart stores, and since you can return DVDs to any Redox location, you can pick up a movie at a kiosk in Oregon and return it to a kiosk in Utah. We look for a Walmart with a Redbox kiosk, and while I’m restocking our food supply, my husband and the kids pick out a couple of movies. Brilliant!
Finally, the older kids will load up their phones with audio books and music for those periods they need a little time to themselves. And my youngest will have her trusty LeapPad 2 by her side. We’ll keep a car charger, earbuds, and a couple of cheap power banks on hand to make sure our electronic devices stay charged until we reach our destination.
With a little planning and a lot of flexibility, it’s not that difficult to take a happy healthy road trip, even with three children in tow. And with several Walmarts available along our trip route and at our destination, I know we’ll be covered if we forget anything.
One Last Road Trip Tip
Make sure your car is in tip top condition before you hit the road. There is nothing, and I do mean nothing, worse than being stranded on the side of a desert highway with young children, no phone service, and a broken down car.
A few things to check:
- Tire pressure
- Battery health
- Wiper blades
- Fluid levels (oil, transmission, wiper fluid, etc)
- Headlights and tail lights
One thing I like to do is get an oil change at Walmart’s tire & lube center. For $31.88 you not only get your oil changed, but they will check everything I mentioned above, so you will know if your car is vacation ready.
And if you find a tire or battery that does need to be replaced? You can get it done right at Walmart for an affordable price!
A pre-trip car check is well worth the extra time and money before the trip. Don’t skip it.
Question: What is your best road trip tip?