This year my family road tripped for Thanksgiving.  Over 6 hours each way.  Two adults.  Two kids.  One puppy.  Not exactly one of my favorite things to do.
The Roller Coasters have been on all sorts of trips, and over the years I’ve discovered a few techniques to make road trips bearable, especially as my children get older.  Here are my…

Top 10 Must Haves When Trapped in a Car with Young Children


10)  Games
I’m not talking about board games where the pieces go flying all over the car at every sharp turn.  No, I’m talking about the creative interactive old-fashioned games.  Looking for license plates from every state.  I Spy.  20 Questions.  Even Rock, Paper, Scissors.   Somehow last weekend I forgot about the magic of car games.  But I’m sure a good game of I Spy would have greatly cut down on the whining. 
9) Reading Material
Mr. Roller Coaster typically does most of the driving on family road trips.  So I get a chance to catch up on all the magazines and books I’ve been neglecting.  My kids bring books too.  It’s one of the few quiet activities they’ll willingly engage in. 
8)  Comfortable Clothes (and backup outfits in easy reach)
My daughter is extremely picky about her clothes.  And when I say picky, I mean she throws screeching tantrums almost every morning because of her clothes.  So if I know we’ll be in the car, I make sure she’s wearing her favorite outfit.  The last thing I need is a wardrobe malfunction 100 miles into the trip.  And I need to have easy access to more clean comfortable clothes.  You never know when she’s going to fall in mud right before getting in the car or vomit all over herself.
7)  Music
I remember making the 10-hour drive home from college on breaks and blasting my music.  I spent the entire trip singing at the top of my lungs.  It kept me entertained and kept me awake.  I still love listening to music.  Unfortunately, Mr. Roller Coaster and I don’t always agree on music.  I guess that’s what headphones are for.
6)  iPhones with kid-friendly apps
When we bought our car, I told my husband I didn’t want DVD players installed.  I didn’t want to be that mom who needed television to make a 10 minute drive to the grocery store.  My parents never had tv in their cars, and my brother and I managed road trips just fine when we were kids.  That being said, I have no issues with my kids entertaining themselves with games on my iPhone.  And maybe in a dire emergency a Netflix movie.  Ok, so maybe I did let my kids watch tv in the car.  You gotta do what you gotta do.
5)  Baby Wipes
Someone will spill something.  Someone’s hands will get dirty.  Someone will pick her nose and have boogies stuck on her fingers.  Someone will vomit all over the backseat.  Nothing takes care of quick clean-ups like baby wipes.
4)  A Handful of Plastic Grocery Bags
What don’t I use these for?  Trash to toss at the next gas station.  Dog poop clean up.  Vomit.  Clothes covered in vomit (in case you’re wondering about the common vomit theme, yes, there has been a lot of vomit in my car).  I don’t go anywhere without plastic bags.
3) Toys (of the kids’ choosing)
I once made the mistake of packing bags for my kids with toys they could play with during the car ride.  Big mistake.  I either didn’t pack enough, I packed too much, I didn’t pack their favorite toy, I packed toys they didn’t like anymore, you name it, I got blamed for it.  Now I make the kids pack their own backpacks with toys and books.  Just make sure they pack enough toys.  One time Little C had this big backpack, and when I peeked in to see what she had chosen to bring, she had one lonely toy.  She wasn’t very happy.
2)  Food
Have you ever noticed that kids are hungry the second you hit the highway?  Why is that?  It doesn’t matter if they had a four-course meal before strapping their seatbelts.  They will want snacks.  And they will whine until they get them.
1)  Patience
And a whole lot of it.  Because you can only hear “What time is it?” and “How long have we been in the car?” and “I’m bored.” and of course the traditional “Are we there yet?” so many times before you feel like jumping out the window.  And when you run out of patience, that’s when the headphones and reading material come in handy. 
What things do you absolutely have to have with you when you’re on a road trip (with kids or without)?

6 Comments on Top 10 Must Haves When Trapped in a Car with Young Children

  1. I caved on the DVD player too – when I was a kid we played all those games – I miss them too! My son gets car sick like you would not believe – I always have paper towels in my car now too!

  2. VTech VReader… I can't imagine what our CA to CT PCS would have been like without it! Especially since it kept BOTH boys entertained. We also wouldn't have made it without the portable DVD player, which Hubby set up on the center console and plugged the audio feed into the stereo.

    Another item that came in handy was heavy-duty car interior foam cleaner. Lots of spills and messes and footprints on the back of the front seats sure necessitated that.

    I'm with you on comfy clothes, although I don't have many needs for myself. If the kids are happy, then WE are! 🙂

  3. I was the oldest sibling of 5 kids, and our crazy parents used to road trip with us all the time! Looking back, I can't imagine how that was fun for them, but it must have been. I remember lots and lots of car games and singing and silly conversations. And yes, vomit…

  4. This is definitely my top 10 list too. I always make sure I have all of these things on the list and plenty of activities for the kids to do. Since I have an iPad already I use that a lot to entertain them. I have the DISH Remote Access app through my employer and provider DISH Network. With the Sling Adapter hooked up to my receiver I can access all my subscription channels from anywhere I can get a Wi-Fi connection. The kids can watch live TV and our DVR recordings, which they love to do. They also love to play games on my iPad and read. I love it for when we travel and it keeps them quiet for hours.

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