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Tips for U.S. car travel with toddlers/young kids

Salt Lake City
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Tips for U.S. car travel with toddlers/young kids

I just promised a mom who had posted a question on the Utah (U.S.) forum about traveling with very young kids (2, 3, 5...I think) that if she came to this forum she'd be sure to find tips for making long days in a car with little kids less stressful.

So, I decided to double check. And look what I found...NOTHING!

Come on moms!. What did you do when you had little ones in a car for very very long days of travel? Let's give this anxous mom the best tips to reduce her stress. Her family wants her to go on a car trip in the southwest U.S. where the time between destinations is upwards of 6 hours.

What are your best travel tips and tricks?

Newbury Park...
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1. Re: Tips for U.S. car travel with toddlers/young kids

Honestly, we chose not to take long car trips our kids until they got older (we changed our summer vacation plans after realizing driving everyday would drive me crazy), but here are some tricks we use now (kids are 9 and 5 and a baby and we drive back and forth to AZ quite a bit):

1. DVD's. My kids do not get much t.v. so they are mesmerized by cartoons on our drive. I bought a bunch of bugs bunny, tom and jerry and pink panthers. They love them and it is easy to stop as the cartoons are short.

2. A clipboard with the following attached:

Car Bingo: I created car bingo sheets for each of my kids for each day that we are in the car.

Direction for them that they can cross off each step as we reach it.

Boxes with number descending from the total miles to 0 (usually count by 50's) that they cross off. This way they know how much longer without me having to keep telling them - they can also visually see how much longer. Also a happy time when we cross off more than are un-crossed.

A blank map of the US that we fill in as we see the license plate from that state.

Preprinted tic tac toe games

Hidden Pictures


Coloring sheets

Blank paper to color

3. Crayons, crayons and more crayons

4. Favorite stuffy & blanket

5. Snacks and drinks

6. I burn music CD if all their favorite sign alongs (that I will sing and dance along to too) Some new songs as well that used to be mommy's favorites when she was a girl that I teach them.

Hope this helps some.

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2. Re: Tips for U.S. car travel with toddlers/young kids

We also do silly songs & "dances" in the car.

To count down to where we're going, we use a paper chain-link. For each milestone we pass (or x amount of miles you cover), you remove a link until by the last link, you've arrived!

Oh, and stop....often. It does wonders for everyone physically and metnally. It's not good to sit that many hours without stretching and getting the circulation going. One year we stopped every 2 hours during a 12 hour drive. It was easy for the kids to count down to the next stop, too. At each stop, they got a treat. It could be a flower they pick at a rest area, a snow globe from a souvenier stand, or a bag of chips from the gas station.

We mostly fly with our youngest-a toddler-now, but we drove on several long trips when the older kids were younger. The baby doesn't tolerate the car ride as well as his 3 siblings did, so we opt to fly. (some of the flight deals I've gotten have been cheaper than gas and lodging for a long trip.)

Take a deep breathe, try to relax, and be flexible. Have fun!

Toronto, Canada
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3. Re: Tips for U.S. car travel with toddlers/young kids

Best travelling food that I have found--- Goldfish crackers. They are suitable for all ages and the crumbs wipe up easily.

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4. Re: Tips for U.S. car travel with toddlers/young kids

Give each child a disposable camera with a list of items they need to photograph during the trip. Examples are: a sibling or parent sleeping, a car with a license plate from another state, a marker showing you crossed a state line, an animal,etc. Have them mark off each item as they complete it. Tell them they will receive a small monetary award for each picture they take on the list and that there will be a grand prize (you choose the reward) once the pictures are developed at home. Then, have a friend or grandparents choose the best picture. Usually they are so occupied trying to win that they they don't realize the amount of time that goes by.

We also play the alphabet game where you must find a word that begins with "A" before you find one that begins with "B." As they find a word, you can reward them with either a treat such as an M&M, goldfish, cheerio, or pennies or nickles. The first one to complete the games gets a dime or quarter. My kids prefer money and like to play this game over and over. Usually they spend the money on souvenirs or save it for something they really want. Just use a ziploc bag with their names on it to keep their prizes since they don't take up much space.

We do keep a small ice chest with resealable bottle drinks and fruit. Resealable drinks are great for cutting down on spills.

Be sure to have lots of sanitary hand wipes available and paper towels. We also pack paper plates for use in the motel room when we order pizza in.

Having each child take a turn to choose a place to eat is great also.

Place the days of the week you will be traveling in a ziploc bag and have each person choose a day. Then you give them 3 choices. They must choose one of the 3 so you can control the amount spent.

Pack a jump rope and a frisbee for when you stop at a rest area. It helps if they burn up some of their pent up energy along the way.

I wish you the best of luck and hope you have a wonderful trip.

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5. Re: Tips for U.S. car travel with toddlers/young kids

Don't forget to make sure all kids are in age/weight appropriate car or booster seats. Each state has their own recommendations with some (NJ) has high as 8 years or 80 lbs. I would also recommend packing bathing suits right on top of luggage and make the hotel/motel pool the first stop after checking in. A bit of a splash around re-energizes them to continue with the sight seeing.

6. Re: Tips for U.S. car travel with toddlers/young kids

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