There is so much to explore around Edmonton, from an hour long road trip to the thirteen hour one that we’re tackling soon. We’ve put in at least a hundred hours road tripping over the past year – adventure is out there, right? Along the way, we’ve learned a few tips and tricks to make the road trips easier – and more fun.
Road Trip with Kids: Survival Tips
Snacks for Long Road Trips
Snacks for long road trips live in an oversized rubbermaid container that we’ve got in the back of the car. This stops the request for treats and snacks that can easily add up to thirty bucks for a family of four or more at a gas station. Before we go, I buy fruit, non perishable snacks, nuts, juice boxes and fill it up. It’s a great way to reduce your budget for food when you’re at your destination too, having snacks means fewer stops for meals.
The Best $10 You’ll Ever Spend
Before you leave for a road trip, hit up the dollar store. Buy small crafts, coloring books and other things that are going to occupy the kids while you’re in the car. These are new toys that are cheap, and that are going to garner the attention of the kids while you’re in the car – causing you to hear fewer questions of whether you’re arrived at the destination.
Speaking of coloring and doing activities while you’re in the car, clipboards are one of the easiest way that you’re going to give the kids a surface to do it, without taking up too much space in the car.
Portion Your Own Snacks
Portioning your own snacks is going to help you to save money (and time) on the trip. I like to use small plastic snack containers, and refill them from the larger snack bin in the back when we stop. Pre-portioned snacks cost a fortune in convenience fees!
Get a Map
Print, or buy a map with checkpoints along the way for longer trips. Kids can use stickers to track how far they’ve travelled on the trip, and it gives them yet another thing to do when they’re in the car to stave off the boredom.
Say ‘Yes’ to Tech – Nintendo 3DS
We’ve got very tech-friendly children. The girls have been playing video games since they were old enough to hold a control, but it’s mostly been limited to the television where Olivia has taken to playing Minecraft, Mario Kart and Lego games. Raised in a house where they’ve got a gaming-enthusiast Dad, it was no surprise that Nintendo DS quickly became a native system to her.
We’ve been bringing along the Nintendo 3Ds for car trips, along with Mario Kart 7 and Zelda, two games that Olivia has enjoyed while we’re on the road.
What’s cool about this is the fact that Jamie and I can play along with Olivia, for games like Zelda where she needs a bit of help with the reading.
Tip: For younger kids (or people like me) who dislike the 3D effect, you can actually turn it down – and if you like it (like Jamie) you can toggle it right back up to full 3D effect. I really like that feature, because you actually use it to get the latest technology, even for younger children.
With an easy user interface that even Violet has figured out, the kids enjoy the games we’ve chosen so far. The quick charging time (and impressive battery life) make it easier for those road trips when you’re not just an outlet away from a full battery.
More than just games, the built-in software and apps allow the kids even more fun, and my favorite feature of all? It’s backwards compatible, so those old DS games you’ve got sitting around the house, or passed down from cousins, are going to work a-okay in the system (though they might not be as sharp as current games).
Our next purchase for some winter road trip fun? Lego Jurassic World. For parents new to gaming, or hardcore parents that stand outside stores in freezing weather awaiting a new game release – the Nintendo 3DS is a solid choice for road trips (and beyond).
If you’re planning on stopping along the way (like we are, a lot) you’re going to want to make sure that you have things like swimsuits, changes of clothes, and runners for hiking available at the back without having to unpack too many things from the vehicle.
Separate the Kids
If you’ve got the luxury of a third row, and two children, separate them. You’re going to thank me later when they’re not playing ‘I’m not touching you’ with their fingers in each other’s space.
Rest Stop Yoga/Run/Play
Lead the kids through a few yoga poses at Rest stops – it’s going to give you a great chance to stretch and the kids too. Find a place that the kids can run (like a playground) for the easiest road trips. Learn your children’s limits. Ours have about a 3 hour limit (as do I) so we try and plan at least one fun and fast stop at least every three hours. Think playgrounds, parks, a quick hike or something you see along the way.
Print a Road Trip Bingo Game
Print a fun bingo game. It’s simple enough for small children, and older children can still follow along. You can also find fun games at Chapters usually, with easy pull tabs for the BINGO game. The kids received theirs as a gift and it’s been an awesome addition to our road trip fun.
Skip the Markers
We recently bought a few coloring books for the drive to Kananaskis, three of which came with markers. The markers were great, in theory, but restrained in carseats, the kids continually dropped the markers, lost the covers, and I’m still finding rogue covers a week later. While we were shopping, I saw a coloring book that had the actual crayons attached with string to the book. You could easily do a DIY version of this – and it would save a lot of time searching for markers or crayons. At the very least, skip markers and go for crayons, without caps.
Surprise Journey Markers
If you hold the surprises (the Kinder Surprises) you hold the power. On our last road trip, I brought along a couple of three pack of Kinder Surprises. They gave the kids a little treat, and something to make and play with while we were driving. They didn’t get them until the half way point, and the first half of the journey was easy – they knew we had to reach a certain destination before I would hand them out.
They were delighted with the new Minion toys, and spent time shaking the egg trying to guess which one they had inside. The small toys were perfect for the car, and surprisingly, were still near by when we reached our destination.
What are some of your top road trip tips for parents?