When I was two, we moved from Philadelphia to California. My dad flew cross country, and my mom decided to drive me and my sisters. I was a toddler, and my sisters were young kids, so this was quite the endeavor considering we had no cell phones, no Google, no navigation, etc. My mom somehow planned and mapped everything to a tea.
Fast forward 30+ years... we have everything at our fingertips. Somehow that go-getting travel gene runs in my blood, so our family’s motto is to “take the trip.” Plus, many are adopting a post covid “live life to the fullest attitude,” so there’s nothing wrong with making bucket list adventures your family’s 2022 resolution.
Here are some travel hacks for hitting the open road.
1. Use apps If you’re traveling to national parks, there’s a cool app called GyPSY Guide. The narrated driving tour app uses your location to automatically play entertaining and educational commentary about your location (like notable areas in Yellowstone, the Tetons, etc). It’s interesting for truly learning about the areas you’re exploring.
2. Go back to the basics When we were young, we didn’t have technology; instead, we occupied ourselves in the car with a notebook and crayons. As simple as it sounds, get word search books, mad libs, crosswords, etc for kids… it’s easy, affordable, and a stimulating way to keep long drives screen-free.
3. Create a car schedule I have three young boys and I’m admittedly not a fan of the iPad. I often drive 9+ hours at a time, so I try to create some sort of plan. For example, the first hour we listen to different genres of music, then they watch a DVD, the next hour is quiet time, coloring time, etc. And how about this… TALK! I love conversation starter cards for families. Check out Table Topics; they give families ideas/topics to discuss.
4. Prep a lap-desk For comfort in coloring, get a cheap lap desk making it easy for kids to write (or even eat) on the road. I put astickable white board on ours… kids love writing with erasable markers, and for littles, it’s a fun way to practice writing/spelling skills.
5. Bring select toys I’m very picky about the toys I bring on vacay. I’m all about versatile + compact entertainment that will occupy them for hours at a time. What I’m loving (all affordable): the Plus Plus travel pack, Stickers by Number and Kanoodle. I also suggest getting a travel journal for kids.
6. Get your kids travel blogging V-tech has a great Kidi Cam that doubles as a selfie stick and all-in-one editor. My older boys love creating their own movies, doing hotel tours of the properties we visit and snapping photos of their favorite activities. It’s a great way to encourage kids to document your family trips.
Reduce your carload by opting to rent along the way. Going to the beach? Instead of schlepping your chairs and umbrellas, most beach towns offer rentals, and many resorts offer such amenities for free.
Opt for laundry service. Can’t tell you how many loads we acquire along the way, and I discovered many online services that offer pick-up and next day delivery, even to hotels. Usually under $100 for 2-3 loads, it makes things a lot less stressful (and dirty!).
Plan ONE major activity per day. This way, you have one thing to check off your daily list while allowing room for flexibility. We often get caught up with schedules that vacations seem rushed… give your kids time to skip rocks, collect shells, etc. Savor the simple things.
Do your due diligence. Covid has changed the travel industry, and while we’re getting back to normal, things have changed. Spend time pre-planning.
Start early and start them young. I’ve been road tripping with my boys since they were babies. However, it’s important to instill in your kids a love for travel, exploration, and adventure… memories over monetary for the win.
When all else fails, find a playground. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a new place, googled a playground, and became mom of the year by discovering new play structures for my kids to burn energy.