Arthur is a work-at-home dad to two beautiful girls and a baby boy who has lots of experience keeping them entertained when needed.
Summer is here, and with it comes the tradition of family road trips. As a father of two who has seen his fair share of road trips, I know how frustrating bored kids are. To save myself and other families like me from hours of arguing and backseat kicking I put together a list of must-have items for kids on a road trip. May they serve you well!
It is a rule of road trips that you have to bring snacks, and that rule is especially important when you have kids in the back seat. These ravenous growth machines can't seem to go 20 minutes without something in their belly. A bonus is that if their mouth is full of food, they can't ask questions.
Make sure that the snacks you choose are readily accessible to kids because you don't want to be reaching in the back seat or fiddling with food packaging while driving. It is also a great idea to get a mini cooler, electric if possible, to keep beverages chilled on your journey.
2. Nap Items
If you are fortunate, your kids will nap during a significant portion of the trip. To facilitate nap time, make sure you bring everything you need for perfect sleeping conditions. The air conditioner can get a little cold, so bring some light blankets, any stuffed animals that your kids need to sleep, and of course, pillows. These items pull double duty because they can be brought into the hotel room for extra comfort.
Bonus Tip: Pack these items with an extra change of clothes in a backpack if you are making a one-night stop at a hotel during your road trip. This prevents you from having to dig out the suitcases for a single change of clothes.
3. Something to Watch
The next best thing to napping is watching an entire movie. When I was a kid taking road trips to the middle of nowhere in South Dakota, I did not have the luxury of a tablet. I did have an original Gameboy, but those things became useless as soon as it started to get dark. Nowadays kids have tablets, phones, portable DVD players, and laptops to keep them busy.
Unless you are lucky enough to have an unlimited data plan, it is smart to plan ahead. I will download a couple of movies from Netflix on each of my kid's Kindle Fires so they have options. On extra-long road trips, they have the option to trade tablets to watch each other's movies.
This one is a little for the kids but mostly for the adults. Having to listen to whatever they're watching in stereo while trying to listen to something else is aggravating. With no headphones, they also like to play dueling banjos with the volume of their tablets. I also enjoy listening to stand-up comedy on my road trips, and we all know that 99 percent of stand-up is not kid friendly.
To solve all of my problems, I bought my kids these things called cozy phones which are super cute headphones that wrap around their heads. It lets them listen to their tablets without heavy and cumbersome headphones that slip off, and it keeps them from listening to what is on the car radio.
5. Imaginative Items
I want to lump all of this together because it would get a little redundant to separate it all. Tablets and the like are great, but it is not good for kids to have so much screen time and even they will get bored with it after a while. Make sure that you pack enough other play items to keep them content. I like travel games, which you can find at almost any dollar store. While you are there, you can pick up coloring books and crayons that will keep most young kids busy for a while.
6. Over-the-Seat Organizer
With all of the stuff you are bringing along, you are going to want to keep it organized and easy for kids to reach. The last thing you want when you are doing 70 on the freeway is for them to be asking you for their tablets. There are a ton of inexpensive over-the-seat organizers out there that serve different needs. They pull double duty to keep things organized for the kids and keep the clutter down.
7. A Personal Care Kit
A lot of people will tell you to pack a first aid kit, but I think that is a little dramatic. Maybe it's because I keep a first aid kit in my car at all times, but packing a first aid kit for a road trip seems a little ridiculous; what is going to happen to you while you are sitting in a car that a first aid kit will help with? Instead, I would suggest a personal care kit for your trip. It is a good idea to keep a few bandages available just in case, but I would stress other items like sunscreen, tissues, and Dramamine over a readily available first aid kit.
8. Disposable Camera
I know that this technology seems outdated, but there are a few reasons to get a disposable camera for kids on a road trip. Of course, the primary purpose is to capture moments that they want to remember. You can do this with a phone or digital camera, but if you are like me, you don't trust your kids with those expensive items yet. It also puts them in control to take pictures that they want to remember from their perspective which will make those photos even more special to them. One more reason is that it is a history lesson; they learn how we all had to take pictures when we were young and the patience needed to wait until your film was developed to look at your pictures.
Hit the Road
Once you have everything, you need to keep your kids entertained on a road trip, you are ready to hit the road. If all goes well, you won't hear a peep from them until you reach your destination. Now it is time to go make family memories without the aggravation of, "are we there yet?"