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