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Road trip from Colorado to Michigan with kids

Colorado Springs, CO
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Road trip from Colorado to Michigan with kids

We are planning on driving from Colorado to Michigan and back in June to visit my husband's family. It will be my husband, our 3 kids (6 years old, almost 3 years old and 1 year old), and me in our Honda minivan. We plan on stopping in Omaha, NE and staying 2 nights there (visit the Henry Doorly zoo), then Chicago for 1 night (visit the Brookfield zoo in the AM before leaving IL), and then driving into Detroit. We'll stay in the Detroit area for 5 nights visiting friends and family. We will then start heading home taking a different route in order to see different things. We will stop in Indianapolis, IN for 1 night (visit the Indianapolis zoo in the PM the day we leave MI), then Kansas City, MO for 2 nights (visit the KC zoo), and then drive home. The whole trip will be 12 days. And yes, we are big zoo fanatics. ;)

Here is my question....what tips/advice do you have to keep the kids occupied (and us parents somewhat sane!) during the long stretches of driving? It is 8 hours to NE, 8 hours to IL, 4 1/2 hours to MI, 4 1/2 hours to IN, 8 hours to MO, and 8 hours to CO. We will probably stop along the way at parks/playgrounds to eat our lunches, so the kids can get out and run around. Would it be wise to invest in portable DVD players for the 2 older kids? I'm just trying to prepare ourselves as best we can in order to make the trip somewhat enjoyable. I know it will be tough because kids get antsy, but I'm looking for any advice to make it at least bearable for everyone.

We did a similar road trip to MI when my oldest was 14 months old, but she has always been a good traveler. I'm most concerned about the 3 year old as she has not been on many trips. She has been on one plane ride and partial road trip through the UP of Michigan when she was 11 months old. She did okay, but we stopped a lot during that trip. Also, the 1 year old hasn't been on any real road trips yet, so it is hard to say how he'll do. Anyway, please share your experiences and thoughts. I'm a bit nervous that I might lose my mind on this trip!! LOL

Uden, The...
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1. Re: Road trip from Colorado to Michigan with kids

You may try the Road Trips forum for your questions:

tripadvisor.com/ShowForum-g1-i12567-Road_Tri…

And for quirky roadsideattractions take a look at this:

www.roadsideamerica.com

Toronto, Canada
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for Family Travel, Honeymoons and Romance
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2. Re: Road trip from Colorado to Michigan with kids

Portable DVD players are a good idea IMO......they're great for keeping your children occupied during long stretches of driving.............also, bring along some snacks and wetwipes .........

The Road Trips forum here on TA is a great place for your question.........there are some forum regulars answering questions of your sort that have a great deal of experience when it comes to road travel......I think it's in your best interests to post there too...............have a safe and happy vacation :)

Edited: 20 March 2013, 11:09
Colorado Springs, CO
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3. Re: Road trip from Colorado to Michigan with kids

Thanks Tet and Eden for your replies. I appreciate it. I will also post in the Road Trip forum...thanks for the tip.

Iowa
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4. Re: Road trip from Colorado to Michigan with kids

Yes, buy the portable DVD players! We've done a big road trip with our three kids almost every year since the youngest was two, and the DVD players are a lifesaver. We would time it so we'd put in a long-ish movie, and then when it finished would stop for bathroom breaks.

We'd also buy some treats and candy that normally they don't get at home (such as Twinkies when you could still buy them;-), and dole those out every once in a while as a special treat. Non-chocolate items work best so they don't melt and make a big mess.

We'd often stop at a fast food joint with a play area for meals, and then let the kids play while dh and I quickly ate. Then, we'd let the kids eat their meals in the mini-van once we got going again. That way, they could play for the entire time we stopped, and eating their meal gave them something else to do while driving.

We also bring with other things to keep them busy, besides the movies. Coloring books, etc. We even brought with play-doh a time or two. When they were your kids's ages I'd buy a few cheap little toys and not let the kids know about them until we were driving; when they were really getting bored I'd pull out the new toys and let them open them and play with them.

You'll love the Omaha zoo! We've been there a few times and love it.

Colorado Springs, CO
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5. Re: Road trip from Colorado to Michigan with kids

Thanks for your ideas, kren! Very helpful! :) I kind of figured the DVD players are a must. So, do they typically come as 2 screens with one "player," and the kids have to watch the same movie? Or are they totally separate and can play different movies? I can research it, but I'm curious what is common. If they are connected somehow, I'm concerned about cords reaching because my oldest will be in the backseat with my middle and youngest in the 2nd row.

Good reminder about non-chocolate items as treats/candy. Chocolate is the worst inside a car! Good idea about the fast-food play areas and then letting them eat afterwards in the car. We tend to shy away from them only because they seem to be such germ factories, but we might have to make an exception for this trip. I suppose we could stop at a park/playground, let them play while hubby and I eat, and then have them eat in the car once we get moving again. Also a good idea about little surprise toys for them. Plus, the girls can play and trade with them for double fun.

The kids have a Tag reader, coloring books, but Play-doh is a possibility too. We also have an iPad and Kindle Fire, but of course we won't have internet for them. I suppose we could download games and such that can be played offline. Thanks for the ideas.

We've been to the Omaha zoo once back in 2008 when my oldest was just 14 months old, and we drove back to Michigan. (1 kid traveling is A LOT different than taking 3 kids LOL) I LOVE that zoo! I think is by far one of my very favorites. One of the top 10 zoos in the nation for sure, and we've been to a lot of zoos in our travels. Thanks again! If you think of anything else, please let me know.

Edited: 22 March 2013, 04:32
Iowa
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6. Re: Road trip from Colorado to Michigan with kids

Our DVD player comes as the two screens connected, so they do have to watch the same movie. We've had ours for years though, maybe the newer ones have where they can watch different movies?

Oh, yeah the two screens for three kids thing is a pain! Our kids used to/still do argue over who gets to sit in the seat with the screen in front of them. We have our twin daughters (who both sit in the back seat) switch off on who gets to sit in the seat with the player. Oftentimes they'll sit right next to each other (it's a bench seat) so both can see decent.

Colorado Springs, CO
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7. Re: Road trip from Colorado to Michigan with kids

I did a bit of research, and you can get DVD players that only play the same movie or ones that play different movies. So, we have options. Thankfully, at this point, only 2 of our kids will be watching the DVD players. I doubt the 1 year old will be that interested.

Washington
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8. Re: Road trip from Colorado to Michigan with kids

COfamily2004,

I grew up in a family of five, and we would regularly take long road trips, long before there were dvd players and other electronics. We all made it! We would drive from Wisconsin to Colorado every year to ski or Wisconsin to Florida for spring break. By the time I was a young teen, I had been in all lower 48 states and Canada. As an adult, I started road-tripping with my children the minute they were born. They are all marvelous travelers. A couple of tips:

1. Be thoughtful about your time/travel schedule - it is important to know what works for you and your kids. Your 1 year old and 3 year old will most likely fall asleep and nap. Even your 6 year old. Plan your driving schedules around their likely nap times, to give yourself some peace. I like to get up early, get a good breakfast, and then make time. Often the kids would fall right back asleep, and we could have plenty of miles in before lunch. Or, if you are a really early riser, my dad would get us up early, we'd hop in the car in our pajamas. still sleepy, my dad with a full coffee mug,the kids with a cup of cheerios, and he would drive until the first bathroom break and breakfast.

2. Because you are traveling to/through some cities, be aware of rush hours and construction. There is nothing worse than getting close to your destination and be stalled in a rush hour traffic snarl, with three restless kids. And during the summer months construction ramps up. I just drove from Chicago to Wisconsin yesterday, and ended up in a huge traffic backup due to construction on the tollway. And it was a Saturday in March. Argh, my bad! It didn't even occur to me to check the roads before we left. Fortunately we had our GPS, and figured out a work-around, but it still added at least a half-an-hour to our travel time.

3. Yes, fast food places are convenient, and certainly a treat for the kids (my kids loved them!), but truthfully, if you can pack a cooler, and have some sandwiches, fruit and more typical food from home, everyone does better, and it's far cheaper. There is nothing worse than an upset stomach from eating the wrong or atypical food. I would pack things for the trip that were maybe a surprise or I didn't normally buy. Or the individual single-serving cereal boxes were always a big treat. A picnic in a park or rest-stop to let the kids run and play, and get the wiggles out is much nicer than the fast-food bloat. Sometimes we would stop at a play-place just for the clean restrooms and a drink.

4. Do remember, even if the kids are sleeping, that it is important to have regular stops. I learned the hard way. I never wanted to wake a sleeping baby, and my oldest son was a marvelous traveler. On one trip he pretty much slept from the San Francisco to San Diego, and when we got there he had a horrible case of diaper rash. Argh! He was a miserable baby for a few days, and it was not a good way to start our vacation.

5. Regarding candy. Works wonders, of course! I like lollipops for their ease, and non-messiness. The dum-dum brand are tiny, but a little goes a long way. Red Vines are also good for a non-sticky but easy treat.

6. DVDs, of course can occupy kids for a long time, but do know that they will get video fatigue. It is important to have some non-video options. I like audio a lot - either just music or simple books on tape. It is a good developmental skill to teach kids to listen while looking out. Your 1 year old will also enjoy simple kids music, too. Do make sure, though that it is something the adults in the car can tolerate too. I always had a box of books in between the car seats.

7. I would have a treat bag, with little toys, games, books, movies, etc, that the kids knew about but did not know what was in it. Good to use as a reward when they are good or for a few more minutes of peace when they are restless. A simple pillow case works great.

8. Don't forget the favorite blankie, comfort toy or pillow. But also don't let them bring too much or all their favorites. That's an important travel skill that you are already teaching - bring just what you need.

Enjoy your trip!

9. Re: Road trip from Colorado to Michigan with kids

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