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Have kids, still travel

By on December 7, 2007

photo by pilax
car trip
Whoever said getting there is half the fun hasn’t met my crew. “Fasten your seat belts, folks. It’s going to be a bumpy ride” is my motto whenever we drive long distance.

My husband is obsessed with our turn-by-turn navigational system, and someone obviously never informed him that the co-pilot controls the radio. The kids are barely buckled into their seats when they need to use the bathroom — again. They even fight over who can see more trees. I, of course, don’t do anything annoying while traveling long distances. Ha! We all know there should be passenger-side brakes.

We’ve learned a lot since our first family road trip. You’d think it was a no-brainer not to give the kids red beverages, cheese popcorn or markers, but some of our early family trips weren’t well planned. Road trips have more pros than cons. It’s usually less expensive than flying, and you get to see, experience and share a lot along the way, but it takes more planning than checking the tire pressure, topping off the car fluids, remembering extra pillows and packing a first-aid kit.

Here are some sanity savers.

FOOD PLANNING: Bring a good variety of snacks, such as fruit and raw veggies, and divide them into small, individual plastic baggies so they are easy to hand out. Pack plenty of drinks. Sippy cups or containers with no-spill caps are essential. This prevents big messes and encourages fewer stops for junk food. Don’t forget trash bags, baby wipes and paper towels, too.

If you’re staying at a hotel, find one that offers free breakfast. To keep costs to a minimum, shop for groceries instead of dining out or ordering room service. If you do stop for food and want to consider low-cost options, visit to see whether there are any restaurants that offer free food for kids.

LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS: Face it: You might need a vacation from your vacation. Don’t expect a road trip with kids to be a casual and relaxed journey. Understand it’s going to take longer and you’ll have to make more frequent stops. Numerous setbacks can happen, such as road construction, car issues, sick kids and heavy traffic, so go with the flow. Consider traveling at night so your children will sleep.

ENTERTAINMENT: Many parents use DVD and game systems to help relieve boredom. If you prefer to connect and share, an audio book might be a better alternative.

A trip to the dollar store is an inexpensive way to create activity kits. You’ll find assorted reading and puzzle books, or you can let your children choose. A small stash of dollar-store toy rewards can be offered for good behavior, as well.

Consider bringing outdoor toys, such as balls and Frisbees. Make frequent stops to let the kids unwind, run around and have some fun. We try not to travel longer than two hours at a time without stopping.

Another strategy that has helped us is creating travel traditions. During each pit stop, we find a rock to take with us for our home garden, and each child gets a disposable camera to take his or her own pictures during the trip. These are nice vacation keepsakes.

GAS UP: Lastly, check to locate the lowest places to fuel up. Enjoy your frugal adventure.

One Comment

  1. Debbie

    12/8/2007 at 11:25 am

    This is great, practical advice! Thanks so much.

    For longer stays, we love staying in a weekly apartment rental, or a hotel with a kitchenette. Having a space to prepare food for the kids saves money, and they’re happier not having to sit in a restaurant each night


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