I grew up in West Texas where every away game is a solid three-hour road trip through nothing but wide-open spaces. I played a lot of Mad Libs and M.A.S.H. in the backseat of my parents’ minivan (or the lesser-known, MASH IT, I = Igloo, T = Toilet).
Now, I get it. My kids are still little, so the only away game we usually can muster is the crosstown rivalry. Home games are hard enough as it is.
But every now and then, there will be a game we just can’t miss. Maybe a playoff game or a must-win game. And I get a wild hair and think maybe we can pull it off.
It hardly ever ends up well, but I’ve figured out a few tips and tricks along the way that have made the drives fairly smooth, dare I say even enjoyable. I won’t call my kids Road Warriors yet, especially after 10 PM, but they’ve certainly earned some stripes these last few years. I hope one or two of these are new to you!
PACK SNACKS IN INDIVIDUAL LUNCH BOXES FOR EACH CHILD
I used to just throw a bunch of snacks in the passenger seat by me and then hand them back when they wanted one. Now, I pack each child a lunch box with plenty of variety and make sure they know that’s all they get for the WHOLE trip, so don’t eat it all in the first 15 minutes (cough HAYES cough). This way, I’m not constantly digging through options to find that ONE THING they want and handing things back and forth. #safetyfirst
DOWNLOAD STORY PODCASTS TO YOUR PHONE
If you download a few stories to your phone before you leave, you can stream them through your car speakers. (You can also stream them without downloading them, but you’ll be using data.) Our favorites are Storynory, Stories Podcast, and Barefoot Books. Some we haven’t listened to (they seem to be for an older crowd than my three) but have heard good things about are Sherlock Holmes Adventures and The Thrilling Adventure Hour.
FOREGO THE PORTABLE DVD PLAYER FOR A TABLET
We are fairly strict about screen time but decided long ago that road trips and plane flights are not the places to give a crap. We invested in an iPad a few years ago and have probably recouped our money in the price of DVD purchases and rentals alone (my sister’s kids have a Kids’ Kindle Fire which is much more economical and they love it). For car rides, we bought an iPad holder that hooks onto the back of a headrest. The night before we head out, I download a few movies and TV shows for free from our Netflix or Prime accounts. They will be accessible without internet access for 48 hours once they start them.
KEEP A STASH OF ROAD TRIP TOYS AND BOOKS
My kids have about 10 toys they play with regularly. About 9 of those are baby dolls. So when I swipe a few toys from their toy buckets they are none the wiser. They also have a bajillion (give or take) books, so I have about 10 set aside in a box in my son’s closet. Before we leave for a trip, I will put all the recycled goodies into a small tub or backpack, then set it on the backseat floorboard or the console between the front two seats. It’s like Christmas! But free! Hallelujah!
CHECK OUT BOOKS ON TAPE/CDs FROM THE LIBRARY
Your local library should have a ton of awesome books on tape. This is a little different from the podcasts in that they are able to follow along with the actual book. I’ve never checked these out for road trips, only because I’m scared I’ll lose or ruin the book, but I have friends who are more responsible than me whose kids listen to them in the car. My kids, on the other hand, love music so I always check out CDs from the library with children’s songs (they have a TON) and since she-who-will-not-be-named stuck a few pennies in our CD player a few years ago, I have to download the songs to my computer and onto my phone. I have a whole playlist of kids’ songs now that my kids love.
BUY A NEW COLORING/ACTIVITY/DRAWING BOOK FOR EACH KID
They are typically around $1. I’ll grab one and put them in the front seat with a baggie of crayons/scissors/stickers for each child then hand them to them when they are buckled up. It’s amazing how long they will stay busy. Scissors will keep my kids entertained for days (or at least ten minutes) so I’ve just learned to deal with the teeny tiny scraps of paper that are covering the floorboard by the time we arrive.
GIVE THEM A MAP
Tired of your middle child asking “Are we almost there?” every 2.8 seconds? Just me? One of my best parenting decisions to date was to display our progress on the map on our dashboard. She understands that the red dot is us, the checkered flag is where we are going, and the red line is how we are getting there. Don’t have a map display on your dash? Pull up your progress on your phone. That way, they can track it without constantly asking. Plus, it’s educational! Win, win!
If y’all have any mom-hacks (or dad-hacks) that I missed, let me know! I’m always looking for new ways to keep them entertained.
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