So, I’ll start by saying that we’re not road trip people. I don’t enjoy driving in general, and longer distance driving seems like torture.
In 2020, with pandemic realities being what they were, we embarked upon our first ever family road trip. We drove down to Rancho Palos Verdes, which is a coast town in Orange County. The drive down, through long straight stretches of Highway 5 and through LA traffic, felt like it took forever. But we made it, and once we got there, my family had an amazing time.
This year, with airlines/airport wonkiness, we again decided to take on the road trip challenge, except it was all the way to San Diego - about an 8 hour drive from where we live. I can’t say that it was fun, but it wasn't awful, either.
If you find your family in the same boat, er, car; here are some ideas to help make the road trip a little less bleh for everyone:
The tablet is your friend. We let the kids have up to an hour of screen time, followed by a 30 minute break. With the younger one we let him listen to music on his favorite channel while he’s on break, as long as his eyes get a break.
A quick word about Wifi. Our kids' tablets don't have internet access, so I set up my cell phone as a "wifi hot spot" and connect the kids' tablets to the hot spot. This is also very convenient when we want them to take a break - just turn the wifi off.
If your kids get car sick, this option might not work for you. In which case, highly recommend kids podcasts! We like these ones: Million Bazillion, Smash Boom Best, Julie's Library, Wow in the World, Story Pirates, Rebel Girls
Though normally we don’t eat much junk food, I buy the kids little treats on bathroom breaks. At one bathroom stop they got an order of waffle fries to share, and it kept them busy for at least 30 minutes (sharing, fighting over who gets what pieces, imagine that they are space ships, you get the idea).
Toys. My little one has toy cars that we bring in the car for him to do imaginary play with; the older one brings books to read.
Games like “I spy” or “lets see how many tomato trucks we’ll see on this trip” are fun to play with older kids.
For the millionth “when are we going to get there???” questions, get creative with the answers. Some examples: “When we see 100 semi trucks” “When you come up with every boy’s name you can think of”
Finally, individual headsets are KEY to success! We pack each kid their tablet, with their headset, and everything is labeled so they know which one is theirs.
For the grownups, podcasts like This American Life (or other story-telling podcasts) really help me get through the long, tedious drive.
I am a child of the 90s so 90s music really helps keep me energized.
We also enjoy looking up the maps of where we are, and any major landmarks that we’d like to come back to.
Finally - plan your meal breaks! I usually look up a spot that’s 2.5-3 hours from where we start, and plan for a lunch stop there (if we start in the morning); I also plan for an afternoon bathroom breaks.
If you’re also doing the drive between Northern & Southern California, here are a few favorite stopping points:
Harris Ranch - clean bathrooms, a couple of food options, huge gift shop
Bravo Farms - great food, plus a playground for littles
Casa de Fruta - abundant bathrooms, plenty to see, AND kid entertainment (train rides)
What are your favorite road trip trips/tricks? Share in the comment below!
Finally, need help planning a road trip? Let us help! firstname.lastname@example.org.
Games are great for long-distance drives
Packed up and ready to rock
Tablet + headset = winning
packed up the car and ready for the drive!
An order of waffle fries kept my kids busy for ~30 minutes
While stopping for gas, the boys shared a smoothie we got from a convenience store
A little nap time is good for everyone :-)