As always, this is my true opinion or I wouldn’t share it. This post is sponsored by BabbleBoxx.com on behalf of Tree Top but my daughter is over the moon about it.
I’m a Texas girl and plan to always be one. I love this state and all that it offers but sometimes when you want to travel to a different city in Texas, it can be quite a long trip. That’s why early on we worked hard on perfecting the perfect way to travel in a car with kids.
Sometimes when people outside of Texas hears we’re going to Dallas to visit family, they think it means a 1-2 hour trip. But if you’re traveling from Houston to Dallas without any traffic mishaps, you’re looking at at least a 4 hour trip. Since our first child was born we’ve regulary drove the 5 and 1/2 hours from Houston to the outskirts of Fort Worth, where my in-laws live. We’ve also made an almost 8 hour trek to Paris, Texas to visit my dad. Thankfully now he’s moved closer and is only 4 hours away.
Traveling through Texas with kids is amazing and fun but it means that you will be trapped in the car for a very long time with kids who’s whole mission in life at that age is to move and be a little wild. Can I get an “amen”?
So 12 years into traveling with kids, here’s a few things that we’ve learned and perfected along the way:
1 – Drive often with your kids in the car and don’t be afraid of distances. Depending on where you live, some kids are not used to being in the car for longer than 30 minutes at a time. If you take a child who has seldom been on a car trip and plunk them in the car for 8 hours, it’s going to be a disaster. If you are the parent of a baby or toddler, don’t let them keep you from traveling now. Yes the first few times will be tough but you just need to jump in and do it. If you have a really long trip planned in 6 months, spend a few weekends before then taking day trips to help them get used to the car and explore your area! It’s a win-win situation.
Tip: Raising adventurous kids begins at birth. Don’t be afraid to travel with them.
2 – Investigate your route before you go. The worst thing that will happen is that you get on the road and you don’t know where you can safely stop if you have to stop quickly for a bathroom break or a sick kid. We’ve had several times of complete panic because we traveled with a kid who often got carsick. However knowing that we were approaching a town in less than 3-4 miles that had a place we could stop to clean the car always made that part of the trip easier. Google is a blessing for modern parents. Figure out your route and the look at it on Google maps. Pick out the major towns and smaller ones along the way.
Research the route to know if there’s any simple but free and fun activities along the way that make for automatic bathroom stops. Many times the old towns will have smaller town squares that are fun to investigate. You also might find roadside monuments that would be fun quirky stop. One of our favorite stops is the giant Sam Houston statue right outside of Huntsville, TX. It has clean bathrooms, giant checkers and connect 4 that you can plan and porch swings to just sit and chill for awhile.
Tip: Texas has amazing rest stops with playgrounds and very clean bathrooms. It’s our preferred stop to get out energy.
3 – Be prepared in the car. Chances are that you might have a sick child or a potty accident at some point. Put a bag in the trunk with a change of clothes, trash bags, plastic baggies (to seal up any soiled clothes), wipes for skin, cleaning wipes, and a towel (to cover wet car seats). If you’re traveling with younger kids it’s also a great idea to stash away some hidden treasures. Hide a few newer small toys in the glove box or some stickers and a blank notepad in the door where they can’t see them. Once they reach their limit, they have something new to distract them until you can get somewhere to stop and let them get out and move around.
Tip: Take extras of everything! It’s better to be safe than sorry.
4 – Travel with a snack bag. This is a little tip that will pay off in spades. Anytime we’ve left without a snack bag, even for much quicker trips, we’ve regretted it. An insulated bag full of water and some simple snacks will save you money and time from stopping because someone is hungry.
Kids that aren’t hungry are happier. It’s easier to travel with happier kids, right?
Personally my daughter loves Tree Top Applesauce Pouches. She devours these and then asks for more. (They are also an amazing snack to take when you go to the pool or hiking because they’re easy to carry, do not have to stay refrigerated before opening, a healthy choice, mess free and yummy!) We have to buy several boxes for one trip but it’s a simple snack that I don’t worry about because I know it’s good for her.
If you get stuck in traffic or are in the middle of nowhere, you don’t have to worry about food.
Fill a small insulated bag with snacks and let it be in reach of older kids. Just don’t forget to restock the snack bag before your return trip.
Tip: Small individual sizes keep kids from fighting over big bags of chips and also help with portion control. Break up a box of crackers into sandwich baggies and look at the individual snack options such as Tree Top Applesauce Pouches, available in 4 count or 12 count cartons.
5. Let each child take an activity bag – Think of it as a carry-on. The luggage is in the back of the car but a small bag full of activities – coloring books, small toys, books, small dry erase boards, and travel games per child will help keep them entertained and happy. If they get bored of the things in their bag suggest they swap out items with another sibling. Things they haven’t seen or played with in a few weeks will probably get the most traction and time so consider stashing a few activities away in advance and pull them out when it’s time to pack.
Electronic devices are great for travel but don’t rely on them.
Allowing kids to each take one small bag that they can put beside them will be a lifesaver. Plus when you go to get out of the car you can tell the kids to pick up their items and put them in their bag. It will save you from stepping over a pile of stuff climbing in or out of the car or kids fighting over who has to pick it up. If it came from your bag – put it back in your bag.
Tip: Make sure all markers and crayons are washable! It might be easier to hand them a pen from your purse but pen ink is hard to get out of fabric or leather. Prepare ahead of time with washable art supplies.
12 years after our first car trip that took us double the time to make, we’ve finally go it down. Now we can be in the car and going to visit the different attractions in Texas and neighboring states with our 12 yr old, 11 yr old and 7 yr old.
And I know what you’re thinking, “oh this is all lovely but it doesn’t look this great in real life”.
Well after you’ve been on the road for hours or days, things do look a little different so here’s a real life look at life with kids on the road, bunny ears included: