Friday, August 19, 2011

Road trip tips

Update:  The kids and I just got back from driving over 2400 mile road trip and it made me think about this post that I wrote last summer.  I think that I will add-"do not get rear-ended 18 hours away from home".  The car is ugly, but it still drives and we made it home safely.

If you haven't already, you can read about our "Mother of All Roadtrips" here.  I wouldn't go so far to say that everything was perfect, but here's some tips that helped (I'm sure now that school is starting and everyone is done traveling this will be really helpful):


I'm not sure what it says about our parenting skills, but I'm not beyond bribery-it's just how I roll.  At certain times during long car trips, I tell the kids that they can earn $1 for every hour that they don't complain.  If they whine or complain, their time starts over.  They can then use this money for souvenirs.  This works really well, I don't have to listen to whining and they do not beg for stuff at every gift shop and gas station we stop at. They are a little more choosey when spending their own money.  Each kid earned about $15 over the 2 weeks and it was a $45 well spent.

In addition to our favorites, I tried to buy fun new snacks that no one had ever tried before.  The international aisle at the grocery store is a gold mine for weird snacks. Let's face it, we eat on roadtrips to relieve boredom not hunger.  The weirder the  stuff and the funkier it tasted the more fun it was.  Before we left, I divided all the snacks up into brown grocery bags and labeled them 1-4 and sealed them shut.  Each morning, someone got to pick a bag.  It made it a little more fun. 

Most National Parks have the Junior Ranger program.  I LOVE THIS PROGRAM! We work on the booklets together and it helps us learn so much about the place we are visiting.  When the kids complete the booklet, they are sworn in and given a badge or patch (free everywhere but Zion's).

Penny Smasher:
My daughter started collecting these a few years ago.  They're fun, small and a pretty great memento for 0.51$  My boys always buy some junk that is lost or broken, before we ever get home, but my daughter keeps her pennies in a little folder and she'll hold on to them and remember the trip for years to come.

These are my best friends. Since you can return a movie to any location, regardless of where you rented it,  I let the kid's pick a few up and then we just return them a couple hours down the road.

We print out a blank map before we go.  Each time we see a license plate we color in that state on the map. I think we got 47 states this trip. Before our next trip, we may also print out maps of Mexico and Canada since we saw a lot of those too
We also keep track of animals.  This trip we saw:
24 deer
1 owl
4 Javelinas
6 elk
1 mule deer
11 road kill

Books on tape:
Before big trips, I always go to the library and get a few audio books. 

Somehow roadtrips are less boring, if you don't know where you are going.  The day before, I pack everyone's stuff up in laundry baskets.  Since overflowing laundry baskets are not a rare site around my house this does not raise suspicion.  After the kids go to bed, we pack up the car.  Early the next morning, we wake everyone up and tell them we are going on an adventure and they have to guess where.  Sometimes, I've even give them each little gifts to unwrap every hour or so as hints.  We've done this several times, but the most fun was when we surprised them with Disney World.
So there you have it.  How do you survive long trips?

Linking up here


  1. I seriously love all of these ideas! I mean it, thanks so much for sharing. We always do the license plate thing, but I just write them down...the map is a great idea...and I really love the weird snack idea and the pay them for not complaining (like I said, I love all your ideas and I will be using them!!)

  2. Seriously great ideas! I love the map idea... and the bribing kids idea, I might have to use candy though my kids don't quite get money yet! The Jr. Ranger program sounds fun, National parks are my favorite, it is my goal to visit all of them before I kick the bucket! Thanks for showing off!


  3. Ps, I showed this off today!

  4. These are all great ideas! I especially love your ideas for the snack bags, the states map/license plate game, and the Junior Ranger programs.

    Thank you so much for sharing your tips and good advice on "A Little Birdie Told Me..."!